The Velveeta revolution

Gil Scott-Heron was right: The revolution was never televised.

The revolution did not consist of sensational murders or tawdry sex scandals or tumbling effigies. The revolution contained none of the narrative spectacle that keeps 24-hour infotainment stations alive.

In fact, it wasn’t until thousands took to the streets of Seattle that many Americans realized the revolution had already taken place.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) had replaced the United Nations as the center of a New World Order run not by America but by the global corporations who provide our marching orders. What once required brute force now can be rendered more effectively through hidden powers of persuasion: global economic incentives that look as enticing as that shiny new credit card—until you get to the fine print.

From Nestle’s campaign against mother’s milk to Dubya’s new battle with Europeans to force-feed them Frankenfood, the revolution has been carried out not in the streets but behind closed doors, not by the disenfranchised but by a privileged few.

And now they’re coming to visit.

Next week, Sacramento will host the Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology, the first WTO-related summit on North American soil since the notorious Seattle Ministerial Conference four years ago.

Much has occurred in the intervening years: Regime changes, first at home and then abroad, have been cheered on by media proponents who make Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will seem fair and impartial. Meanwhile, John Ashcroft is working to ensure that no one will check out the wrong book from the local library.

But one thing hasn’t changed: The revolution is still being kept behind closed doors—next week, right here in River City. And the rest of us will go about our business, ignoring a vague longing that’s never satisfied by our latest purchases.

It’s their world now. The rest of us are just trying to live in it. But, as Ron Curran’s cover story suggests, some folks never got that memo.