Thoughts : International Development : The Motives of the “Anti-Globalization” Activists

Mr Lim Say Boon’s article “Privileged protesters don’t have a clue” (ST, Nov 18) is not only arrogant but mostly wrong too. The debate about the pros and cons of “globalization” is still very much ongoing and it would have been nice to see a more balanced article printed. Certainly both criticism and admiration should be showered upon the so called “Anti-globalization” movement and its participants – and here I’m speaking as one very much sympathetic to the causes of the movement. Yet what we got from him instead would have been better kept off the press for it does little to help us understand more about globalization and also about the growing protests and demonstrations around the world.

Much can be said in response to his article and Shareen Tan (“Not fair to tar all protesters with the same brush”, Nov 21) has done well in her reply. What I’d like to point out is my great disgust in the way he pretends to be able to judge the motives of those involved in the protest movement.

The way Mr. Lim portrays the protestors who fight against exploitation as somehow having an ulterior motive of seeking to lessen the loss of jobs is dishonest and ridiculous. Surely some among the thousands may adopt a selfish and archaic nationalistic agenda, just as a few among the movement resort to violent means. But to think that all such protestors care selfishly only for the people within their national borders or are somehow obsessed with protecting their jobs or those of their children is to totally misunderstand the movement as a whole and, more importantly, the mostly altruistic motives of the demonstrators.

One needs to note that it is the media (and not the protestors) who have nicknamed the movement as “anti-globalization.” Truth is, what we saw in Sydney was the globalization of protest and solidarity. Not everyone in the movement is against the globalization in general and the integration of the economies of the world. However, almost everyone there would be against the injustice, exploitation and oppression that have resulted when neo-liberal principles are adopted in a fundamentalistic way to govern the globalizing economy.

As one who participated in one of the rallies in Sydney against the World Trade Organization, I am greatly disturbed to read of Mr. Lim’s utter misreading of the motives of those at the demonstrations. I have personally seen the lives and actions of some of those intimately involved in organizing these rallies. When I asked one such student what her plans are after her studies, she gladly told me that she is thinking of helping out in a youth activist group on a full time basis. She’s certainly on track towards a rich and privileged lifestyle don’t you think Mr. Lim?

I am not defending everything that has been spoken in the name of the so-called “anti-globalization” movement. Certain criticisms of the movement by Mr. Lim are valid and needs to be debated. If these protestors sometimes come off as having a confused and conflicted agenda (which I agree with), then let’s debate the issues involved. But please Mr. Lim, don’t be too quick to jump off your seat in a condescending, sarcastic and arrogant manner and think you know what these people are about when you don’t. Rebellion against authority and not compassion for the oppressed? Your stint as Mr. Psycho-analyst needs to stop now.

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