Thursday, August 29, 2013

On a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing

My children listened with me to this speech as I was preparing dinner. They were captivated by Roy's quiet but strong voice. I told them Ms. Roy would be quoted in the Mother Earth book. My daughter came to me, took my face in her hands and said, "You should write this all down and put it all in your book."  

I ended this talk in tears - or rather quiet sobs. Here are some excerpts. I hope people will take a moment and watch the entire video. 

"What the free market undermines is not national sovereignty, but democracy. As the disparity between the rich and poor grows, the hidden fist has its work cut out for it. Multinational corporations on the prowl for 'sweetheart deals' that yield enormous profits cannot push through those deals and administer those projects in developing countries without the active connivance of state machinery -- the police, the courts, sometimes even the army. Today corporate globalisation needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, preferably authoritarian governments in poorer countries, to push through unpopular reforms and quell the mutinies. It needs a press that pretends to be free. It needs courts that pretend to dispense justice. It needs nuclear bombs, standing armies, sterner immigration laws, and watchful coastal patrols to make sure that it's only money, goods, patents and services that are globalised -- not the free movement of people, not a respect for human rights, not international treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons, or greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, or God forbid, justice. It's as though even a gesture towards international accountability would wreck the whole enterprise.

Meanwhile, down at the mall there's a mid-season sale. Everything's discounted -- oceans, rivers, oil, gene pools, fig wasps, flowers, childhoods, aluminum factories, phone companies, wisdom, wilderness, civil rights, ecosystems, air -- all 4,600 million years of evolution. It's packed, sealed, tagged, valued and available off the rack. (No returns). As for justice -- I'm told it's on offer too. You can get the best that money can buy.

Fortunately power has a shelf life. When the time comes, maybe this mighty empire will, like others before it, overreach itself and implode from within. It looks as though structural cracks have already appeared. As the War Against Terror casts its net wider and wider, America's corporate heart is hemorrhaging. For all the endless empty chatter about democracy, today the world is run by three of the most secretive institutions in the world: The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organisation, all three of which, in turn, are dominated by the US. Their decisions are made in secret. The people who head them are appointed behind closed doors. Nobody really knows anything about them, their politics, their beliefs, their intentions. Nobody elected them. Nobody said they could make decisions on our behalf. A world run by a handful of greedy bankers and CEOs who nobody elected can't possibly last.

The time has come, the walrus said. Perhaps things will get worse and then better. Perhaps there's a small God up in heaven readying herself for us. Another world is not only possible, she's on her way. Maybe many of us won't be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing." 

~Arundhati Roy

Full Transcript

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