Getting grounded

The role of the WSF is to help us ask the right questions when we return home.

Lots of interesting and diverse stimuli yesterday…

I sat in on one of the large WSF-organized plenary sessions. Samir Amin was talking about the Bamako declaration. (15 pages – who has time to read it? My movement starts with an executive summary…) He said that this year marked the 50th anniversary of Bandung when Africa, Asia and Latin America worked together in liberation movements. He said that he is seeing the same thing again, but that while we may face similar challenges, the conditions are different so we need to change our tactics. On an intellectual level I understand it, but, my problem is that on a day to day basis I am not sure what – if anything – I should be doing differently. If anyone has any ideas I’d be delighted to hear them.

Hugo Chavez is speaking today and everyone is abuzz. Not me. There is something disturbing about the cult of personality surrounding Chavez. It borders on the relegious. He’s on T-shirts, chants, posters, and more. My friend Catherine was telling me how she went to a local hair salon and was talking to a Cubana and a Venezuelan. Both were definitely not part of the elite, and both were distinctly anti-Chavez. They were scared. While recognizing some of the economic advances they were worried about the cost to the society in terms of their personal freedom. I think I would be scared too.

Francoise David talked about some of the challenges we are facing in Quebec.

1. Our issues are compartmentalized – students don’t support labour, labour doesn’t support enviro movements, etc.

2. We don’t reach certain layers – rural people, young professionals, the poor

3. Faced with our current media environment we have to find words and images that connect with people without diluting our message.

I encourage anyone who wants to know more to look into Option Citoyenne.

The vasy majority of talk I have heard is how we are in big trouble. Massive environmental and social crises are looming and there is very little – if any – time left to do anything. This may be true, but, and maybe my head is buried in the sand, but it doesn’t do me much good to hear it. I much rather listen to Francoise David – yes – talk about issues we are facing, but also what we need to do about them, the progress we have made, and most importantly, how that progress was made. A trade unionist from Uruguay was talking about changes in Latin America over the last 30 years – from dictatorships to the cradle of the World Social Forum. He’s right, and we need to hear about it.

When I get back to Montreal I am going to start asking more questions about positive change.