Short, sharp, shocks
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Date: December 2002


Fences and Windows

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‘In the hurry-flurry to and from classroom or work, we must have the courage to ask ourselves: what values govern this global age? Do we agree with these values? And if not, what can we do?’

Fences and Windows
Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Globalisation Debate
Naomi Klein
Flamingo paperback

Review: Christopher Nield

Naomi Klein, author of ‘No Logo’ is back with ‘Fences and Windows’ – a collection of street-level snapshots that chronicle the birth of anti-globalisation, from riots in Seattle to the campaign against unfair trade.

One snapshot: a woman left with tubes hanging from an open wound in her stomach - her operation aborted due to a shortage of medical supplies. For Klein, this pitiful scene in Buenos Aires all too graphically illustrates the death of the free market dream. Not only in Argentina but other countries, from France to the Philippines.

In the nineties, Argentina flung open its economy to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As advised, it sold off many of its services, from trains to phones. It spent a third of its budget paying off external debt. It hoped for prosperity. What it got was poverty that degrades millions of men, women and children every single day.

Enclosures
But the attack on democracy doesn’t end there. Klein describes the fences that now enclose, and threaten, our basic human freedoms. In the name of ‘globalisation’ the world is being taken away from us. Water is privatised. Ideas, genes, seeds patented. Trade Related Property Rights (TRIPS) deny knowledge and technology to the world’s poor.

In the hurry-flurry to and from classroom or work, we must have the courage to ask ourselves: what values govern this global age? Do we agree with these values? And if not, what can we do?

Dramatic postcards
There are many windows of possibility. Klein recalls her first experience of organised protest against corporate corruption as ‘a blast of fresh air, oxygen rushing to the brain.’ Amid near anarchy, thousands of Argentine people have set about forming a citizen’s congress to demand justice from the politicians. And in this country, Christian Aid has launched its Trade for Life campaign to make trade fair for all.

Caged factories in Indonesia. Police violence in Italy. Inhuman detention of Afghan and Iraqi refugees in the Australian desert. Klein’s dramatic postcards from across the world remind us that globalisation is not a benign, natural process of nation embracing nation. It is financial fundamentalism imposed by the west, for the west. It takes power away from local communities to central government - and then hands it over to corporations through privatisation. Where’s the accountability?

So-called ‘anti-globalisation’, on the other hand, is true internationalism. It’s not about a bunch of bored students smashing up McDonalds. A profoundly positive movement for global unity, it believes that democracy is worth defending. Do you?

Wake up call
Too many books on globalisation put you to sleep. ‘Fences and Windows,’ however, delivers a series of short, sharp, shocks. This is our world, so wake up. Read this book and do something about it.

Interview with Naomi Klein