G-20 protests effective in long run

Before the G-20 summit this past week in Pittsburgh, President Barack Obama made clear that any affinity he might have had previously for mass protests was now gone. In an interview with the Toledo Blade, he regarded anticipated protests in Pittsburgh to be aimed at ìabstractions” such as global capitalism that were separate from ìconcrete, local, immediate issues that have an impact on peopleís lives.”

This was a disappointing statement on the part of the president, not just to those in opposition of capitalism, but to those millions more who see wider, structural causes to the local problems they witness every day. It makes it strange to hear White House rhetoric blaming the recession on a capitalism that is a bit too unregulated ó a true argument made by most of the world ó and pointing at the suffering working-class as proof to the failings of previous administrations and policies. But how could abstract capitalism possibly cause so many concrete, local troubles?

Opposition to capitalism was one among many themes brought to Pittsburgh by protest groups from across the country, including a dozen students from The College of Wooster. The peaceful ìPeopleís March” that we participated in on Friday afternoon was made up of a coalition of activists, ranging from anarchists to environmentalists to anti-war demonstrators.

Many, including our president, deride this kind of umbrella action as being too unfocused to make any point or affect any kind of change. On one hand they are right ó the G-20 delegates would never stop taking pictures with each other, look outside and turn their countries into beautiful socialist democracies. Nor do some of the protesters make any great point. I feel like protests too heavy on gimmicks (of which there were many examples) lose much of the legitimacy of the argument to which they were bringing attention. But the G-20 protests were more than that.

The thousands of marchers last week showed solidarity with each other in a display of unhappiness with the inequalities and oppression inherent in the current world order. In this sense, the march was a display of global citizenship ó that paragon of our modern liberal arts education ó in which people pleaded with their leaders to be more conscientious in their economic dealings with each other and the rest of the world.

Though coming from radically different backgrounds and holding signs supporting a range of topics, the marchers united as one voice for responsibility; responsibility to truly promote equality; responsibility to prevent occupation of foreign countries; responsibility to stop the disgusting exploitation of workers and environments across the globe.

But dissatisfaction with current world trends does not need to derive from the observation of outside countries. It can also be observed locally, at people forced to work multiple minimum wage jobs in order to support a family or at rivers and lakes injected with toxins. Both small, local issues and grand, international issues are components of the same global trends ceaselessly widening inequality and deteriorating our planet.

The protests at major conferences such as the G-8, G-20 and WTO will not effect immediate change. Rather, this is a long distance race in which the people stand to win or lose. Obama might be correct that local issues have a more noticeable, immediate impact on peopleís lives, scorning those who take a more global, abstract approach. However, it might so happen that the local situation is intrinsically tied to global trends, and that the local protester and global one are actually talking about two sides of the same coin.

Daniel Buckler is a contributor to the Voice. He can be reached for comment at DBuckler10@wooster.edu.