Reaping the truth

I was peering through a glass display case when I heard the chant: “Think before you shop.” Already wondering if I could afford the purchase, it gave me pause.

It’s an interesting concept, making customers actually think before shelling out their hard-earned money on frivolous items. That Downtown Plaza certainly must be on the cutting edge of marketing with this one.

But when I looked out the jewelry-store window last Saturday, it was a flashback to the agriculture-conference protests of a couple months ago. Those familiar protest signs with corn ears were marching by, carried by the earnest protesters with the straw hats and sandals.

Right behind, the private security guards followed the mini-march with their squawking radios, trying to herd the demonstrators through the mall, which was where they wanted to go. Handing out fliers decrying the World Trade Organization (WTO) to startled mall customers, the protesters were accomplishing their mission.

Now, maybe their efforts didn’t stop consumers on that day (after all, anniversaries must be recognized), but I get the feeling that this huge, complicated issue is finally gaining some traction.

The WTO is trying to manipulate the world’s markets in favor of huge multinational corporations, and their adversaries claim it is undemocratic (representatives are not elected), unfair to developing nations and their farmers and harmful to the environment.

And tragically, in Cancún, the actions of the WTO and the controversy led to the death of a Korean farmer who committed suicide as a form of protest (see “Bringing down the WTO barricades”).

Activists always claim the lack of attention to this issue is the media’s fault, but I believe it is hard to grasp in the United States, where food is plentiful and where subsidies reign. But the walkout of the G21 countries and the resulting coverage may have tipped the issue in the smaller countries’ favor. The world is now aware of what the WTO is about, and the haves are having to face the majority.