Fences and Windows

Fences and Windows by Naomi Klein Read Free Book Online

Book: Fences and Windows by Naomi Klein Read Free Book Online
Authors: Naomi Klein
We’ve been to the lectures. We’ve studied the octopus-like charts in
The Nation
that show Rupert Murdoch owns everything. And guess what? We’re not just going to feel bad about it. We are going to do something about it.”
    Has anti-corporate activism brought corporate America to its knees? No. But it is not insignificant either. Just ask Nike. Or Microsoft. Or Shell Oil. Or Monsanto. Or Occidental Petroleum. Or the Gap. Ask Philip Morris. They’ll tell you. Orrather they will have their newly appointed vice-president of corporate responsibility tell you.
    We live in an era of the high commodity fetish, to borrow a phrase from Karl Marx. Soft drink and computer brands play the roles of deities in our culture. They are creating our most powerful iconography, they are the ones building our most utopian monuments, they are the ones articulating our experience back to us: not religions, not intellectuals, not poets, not politicians. They are all on the Nike payroll now.
    In response, we are in the midst of the first stages of an organized political campaign to de-fetishize commodities, to say, no, that sneaker is
not
, in fact, a symbol of rebellion and transcendence. It’s a piece of rubber and leather and somebody stitched the two together and I’ll tell you how and how much she got paid for it and how many union organizers had to be fired to keep the price down. Commodity de-fetishization is about saying that that Mac computer has nothing to do with Martin Luther King Jr. but does have to do with an industry bent on building information cartels.
    It is about recognizing that every piece of our high-gloss consumer culture comes from somewhere. It is about following the webs of contracted factories, shell-game subsidiaries and outsourced labour to find out where all the pieces are manufactured, under what conditions, which lobby groups wrote the rules of the game and which politicians were bought off along the way. In other words, it’s about X-raying commodity culture, deconstructing the icons of the age of shopping and building real global connections—amongworkers, students, environmentalists—in the process. We are witnessing a new wave of investigative, name-naming activism: part Black Panther, part Black Bloc, part situationist, part slapstick, part Marxist, part marketing.
    And we are seeing it all over L.A. this week. On Sunday, there was a protest at the Loews Hotel, the site of a bitter labour dispute between low-wage workers and management. The strikers chose this week for their rally because they wanted to draw attention to the fact that the CEO of Loews is a major contributor to Al Gore’s campaign. They wanted to make two points: that the economic boom is being built on the back of low-wage workers, and that our politicians are looking the other way because they are kept men and women. Later that day there was a rally at the Gap. This rally also had two purposes. The first was to draw attention to the way the company has funded all those funky khakis commercials—by getting cut-rate deals on their production from sweatshop factories; the second was to draw the connection between campaign donations and corporate lobbying. “What is Gap Chairman Donald Fisher’s favorite hobby?” the flyers asked. “Buying politicians,” they answered, noting the company’s generous donation to both George Bush and Bill Bradley. On Monday, the target was Gore’s personal holdings in Occidental Petroleum, an oil company embroiled in a human rights dispute in Colombia where it plans to drill on U’wa land, despite the tribespeople’s threat to commit mass suicide if their land is desecrated. [The company has since withdrawn from the project.]
    I believe this convention will be remembered as the onewhere the marriage of money and politics was definitively dragged out of the shadows—here at the Shadow Convention, and on the street with Billionaires for Bush (or Gore) who are symbolically gagging themselves with

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