Protestors, Capitalism, McDonalds and Sundays


“After Seattle” was an interesting piece that drew attention to the presence of protesting in our world today. Juliette Beck dropped her job in the private sector to pursue creating change in the world by helping aid protesting organizations like the WTO and IMF. I admire that she decided to bail on a job that provide steady pay for something that was less prestigious but obviously more fulfilling to her. I am personally not greatly familiar with the World Trade Organization, the IMF or World Bank, but this piece did a very solid job of vilifying them in different ways. One example that stood out to me was the oil project in Chad. The World Bank funded an oil pipeline from Chad to Cameroon, but the countries themselves were barely benefited and the winners ended up being the big oil companies involved in the deal. Another interesting point made in this article was the opinion that these organizations that have a clear goal of doing good, actually end up harming the countries they are intending to help. This article clearly has an opinion that is anchored heavily on one end of the spectrum but the argument certainly makes sense. It’s an interesting point that often times weak economies that are thrust into the global economy don’t end up stronger, but rather become more “dependent and vulnerable”. Full details weren’t provided behind this opinion but I would theoretically agree that the large economies likely dictate these small countries as soon as they join the party.

 

When you think of protesting, one typically thinks of the turmoil of the 1960’s and the counter culture movement of that time. It was pretty eye opening to read an article about such aggressive and goal oriented protest happening in contemporary times. Of course I knew protests were still a part of free American culture, but it was somewhat new to see such dedication and fervor by Beck and her constituents. What really stuck out to me was their commitment despite the physical danger the group was putting themselves in. In preparation for the protests they trained members of their group how to handle tear gas, gas masks, arrests hand cuffs and other frightening items. It likely takes a very committed attitude to a cause to withstand such tangible physical threats. I also thought the part about college students was interesting. Although college graduates will likely not be on the losing end of the bargains created by large organizations, the author found that college students were very involved in these sort of protests and ideas. Perhaps we are seeing a new era of young activism with “millennials”.

 

Finally, I found a very solid connection between this piece and the discussion my sociology class had today in class. In our class we were talking about the works of Mark and Engels, specifically their thoughts on the perils of capitalism. We also talked about how McDonalds is a great example of how capitalism can create a monster. As our capitalist society has evolved further, we have become more and more driven by money and seek less human interaction. As the article puts it we are potentially heading toward a, “toxic money maddened future”. Although this is a dark view of capitalism, it certainly leads me to think more critically on how profitability has come to trump our country’s more traditional goals such as family Sundays in which malls were closed. Now we see more store openings on family holidays that seem to fuel the corporate profit machine.

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4 thoughts on “Protestors, Capitalism, McDonalds and Sundays

  1. I also found it interesting that the A16 group took so much time to prepare the protesters for dealing with tear gas, interacting with police, and teaching non-violence. I never realized this occurred, but it makes a lot of sense. When the leaders of a movement attempt to teach the protesters how to react, it can lead to the goal of the protest to be achieved. If they can keep non-violence throughout the protest then it won’t allow the media to portray the protest in a bad light and it can further their goals. I also would be intrigued to know about how the civil rights movement was able to achieve widespread non-violence even though they were being oppressed and discriminated against. Of course, there were radical groups during the civil rights movement, but that isn’t talked about as much in the history books.

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  2. Great title, Spencer! I definitely agree that society has become more and more driven by money and values human interaction less and less. Starbucks kind of seems to be trying to add that human interaction aspect back into their drive-throughs – there is now a webcam that allows you to see the person taking your order inside the store while you’re ordering from your car (which I personally think is really creepy)! Organizations definitely seem to have good intentions (or is that just what they’re willing to tell us?), but if their actions and the results of their actions don’t match up with their “intentions”, I’m not really sure if I believe them.

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  3. Marx and Engels. 🙂 As in Uncle Karl Marx.

    It is interesting that workers fought for limited working days in the 1800 and 1900s so as to protect themselves from total exploitation and then 100 years later, people want their McDs and Wal-Mart (think Black Friday sales) open so they can enjoy the convenience of consumerism 24/365.

    It’s fun to see you link up with the sociology class. One difference Castells offers is that the various networks of the network society are never perfectly aligned. hence, there is not one singular capitalist future, but constant network switching between sources of power and counter power. For example, the fight over natural gas is one kind of elites versus another.

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  4. “This article clearly has an opinion that is anchored heavily on one end of the spectrum but the argument certainly makes sense. ”

    I actually had the impression that the author was being pretty objective and balanced in his evaluation, and at times pushed and challenged Beck on her ideas. They didn’t every outright support the methodology, but rather just reported facts that were inconvenient for the WTO, IMF and World Bank. Granted, they may have not included all of the good these organizations have done, but that isn’t far learning in and of itself.

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