Pavlov's sheep at the WTO...
A Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie story by Greg Swann
"Eat the rich!" the Class Clown shouted at the fringes of the
protest. "Eat the rich today! Cook 'em up hot with Brazilian
charcoal on a Chinese hibachi!"
These were jokes, if you have to be told. He was in Seattle, a
humorless place on its best day. And this was its worst day, the
opening day of the World Trade Organization talks. The city was
infested with Concerned Protesters, the most stolidly humorless
species ever identified.
I met the Class Clown a few years ago at a massacre outside a
high school. He's taller now, and thinner, and his clothes are
even baggier. He's unpierced, amazingly enough, at least so far
as I could see.
"Make noise, not sense!" he chanted. "Make noise, not sense! If
you have nothing to say, say it LOUD!"
I caught his eye from across the mob and nodded to him. He
recognized me and winked, continuing to chant. Some of the
protesters around him took up the chant--"Make noise, not sense!
Make noise, not sense!"--and marched off to infect others.
I threaded my way over to him and he laughed out loud. "Like
shooting fish in a barrel," he said.
"I, uh... I think I might have foreseen better things for you..."
"Relax. I'm at Stanford. I'm just up here to goof on these
I smiled. "Your compassion is und[i]minished."
"A while ago I went up to this gaggle of girls, very serious,
very militant. I stumbled up to them, coughing and wheezing, and
said, 'The teargas! cough-cough It's made... choke-choke In
Korea!' Man, I thought they were going to wet their pants!" He
laughed hard from the throat.
"I mean," he went on, "what a prize herd of sheep! They stand
here in shoes made by shoeless Malaysians, wearing goose-down
coats assembled in the frigid climes of Honduras, slurping down
overpriced espresso from Africa, and they proceed to lecture the
world on world trade. And _they_ are the alternative. You can
[buy] everything in the world super-cheap, or you can submit yourself
to the dictatorship of the stooges. Some choice!"
"Stooges?" I asked. Wind 'em up, turn 'em loose. That's my
contribution to the global economy.
"Stooges," the Class Clown replied. "These morons don't know why
they're here. 'Make noise, not sense!'--it's not a joke, it's a
strategy. They're sheep bleating what they've been taught to
bleat--environment, poverty, globalcorporatefascistgreed. What
are they _actually_ protesting? Only a _very_ few of them know,
and they're not talking. But it's obvious as soon as you think
about it. They're not protesting global trade, they're protesting
the _result_ of global trade: The global shortage of communists."
I must have winced, because he said. "No. Wait. Just think. What
is the greatest enemy communism has ever known? Ronald Reagan?
The Star Wars missile shield? Televised interviews with political
prisoners? Massacres at Red Square and Tianamen Square? None of
that. The greatest enemy of communism, the thing that is killing
it dead forever, goes under dozens of names, but it is known to
Americans by four little symbols: '401k'."
He laughed again. "Stockholders of the world, unite!" he shouted.
"You have nothing to lose but your investments!" To me he said,
"It's not just the stockholders, of course, although practically
everyone in a America is a stockholder now. But even the poor
have it knocked. Five years ago, you could walk into a K-Mart,
lay down a hundred dollars and walk out with a 10-speed mountain
bike. Today it's a 21-speed bike with top-quality Japanese brakes
and gears--and the price is eighty dollars. Not just a better
bike, a _much_ better bike, for twenty dollars less.
"And it's the same for the shoeless Malaysians. Their children
have to work beside them, boo hoo, but those are children who
would have died in infancy without the wealth provided by the
shoe factory. Everyone in the world is richer, and, for once in
the history of the world, almost everyone in the world knows why.
Gotta do something to stem this global communist shortage." He
gestured at the milling protesters. "Voila!"
"Still, it's funny. Can you imagine being dumb enough to protest
trade in a city _crawling_ with stock-option millionaires? How do
you get a Seattle Yuppie to work as hard as a Malaysian? You say,
'pre-IPO'." He laughed and I joined him.
"You want to see this?" the Class Clown asked. "I'll show you how
it's done. 'Better clothing, cheaper shoes, global trade is bad
for you!' Like that. 'Safer cars, cleaner food, global trade is
bad for you!'"
The protesters nearby picked up on the refrain and shouted it
back to him with enthusiasm.
He called: "Precious metals, priceless jewels!"
And they responded: "Global trade is bad for you!"
"Faster computers, stickier glue!"
"Global trade is bad for you!"
"More for me, more for you!"
"Global trade is bad for you!"
The Class Clown winked at me very broadly and called out: "Two
legs bad, four legs good!"
And his sheep very proudly bleated: "Global trade is bad for
I left him there. He was having his own fun, and, besides, I
wanted to watch people protest global trade by looting Japanese
http://www.primenet.com/~gswann (last updated 12/1/99)
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