- McLibel -

consciousness-raising without action

Posted by: Gideon Hallett ( n/a, UK ) on November 13, 1997 at 13:41:26:

In Reply to: the height of self-serving hypocrisy posted by Lang Tran on November 13, 1997 at 10:05:13:

: It is a falsehood what you say, that Americans are unwilling to stand up for the rights of indigenous people 'half way around the world.' There are many, many Free Tibet movements here in the US that get an AWFUL, AWFUL lot of media coverage in the US, even HOLLYWOOD coverage (ever hear of Seven Years In Tibet?). btw, aren't the Tibetan people also 'indigenous people who are half-way around the world?'

How many of the Free Tibet movements have ever achieved anything?

I don't mean to denigrate their efforts, I stand behind them as well. But there's a difference between protesting and fundraising in a foreign country that is neutral to your cause (or at least not openly hostile) and actually trying to do something like direct action in your own country. Consider the peaceful anti-logging protests by Earth First! against the activities of loggers in the Pacific Northwest region.

It is fairly widely accepted that the FBI planted a bomb in Judi Bari's car, then arrested her for terrorism when it blew up, disabling her permanently. That's what happens to activists protesting against their own governments in their own countries.

Consciousness-raising is all well and good - it is _good_ that people know of the struggle. But consciousness-raising without action is just so much hot air. You might as well write letters to your senator...

When it comes down to blood, sweat, inconvenience and suffering, you find the number of supporters decrease rapidly. That's what I meant by people not being prepared to stand up for people half-way around the world. How many of the Free Tibet movement have ever been there?

(Note: I'm _not_ trying to put them down. Anything is better than nothing, and the situation in Tibet stinks as is.)

Yet when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, it is the Jane Goodalls, the Fernando Pieras, the McLibel defendants, who are prepared to suffer personal loss, who serve as the rallying point for the rest. Where are the successors to the Panchen or Dalai Lamas?

: I find it to be the height of self-serving hypocrisy when people are quick to stand up to human rights abuses when it is committed by non-white governments but fall almost dead silent when even far worse human rights abuses against Third World people are being committed right now by US Government and American Corporations.

Most of the Governments in the world are involved in atrocities somewhere. The UK and US Governments are aiding the Indonesians in their genocide in East Timor. The same goes for most major companies - the second anniversary of Ken Saro-Wiwa's death has just been and gone.

(Human rights is a problem in Tibet, but at least you don't see China starving the Tibetan people to death, do you?)

Yes, you do. Starving them, torturing them (with British and American-made torture implements), turfing them off their land and bringing in Chinese people to replace them. China is doing its utmost to eradicate the Tibetan people and culture, to the point of making Lhasa into a giant drug-and-pornography centre.

: land and resources, etc. But this message is not getting across to the average person. The only message people are getting is the animal rights issue. This is a failure of the anti-McD crowd to get this message across.

So do something about it, then. Any help gratefully received. As I'm sure you're aware, a lot of people read this site, so if you were to float the idea, you might get contacted by people interested in what you have to say. It can't do any harm, after all...

: This is why the average person can't help but chuckle under their breath when they see activists in front of a McD outlet, protesting the killing of LIVESTOCK in front of a RESTAURANT, because the average person doesn't see that there's more to it than just animal rights.

As I said, the ball's in your court.

: This being the case, I can't help but conclude that when you see such intense media coverage of China's treatment of natives in Tibet, but hear nothing about equally (and often far worse) dreadful human rights abuse of native Asians, Africans and Latins being committed by US right now, the Free Tibet movement in US is little more then propaganda against China, not genuine concern for human rights.

That's probably pretty much the case. The US is anti-Communist, but can't afford not to trade with China as they are a big nation. So they permit the reporting of atrocities committed by China and allow themselves to be pictured looking concerned, whilst never actually doing anything about it (as this would annoy China and damage trading relations). I doubt very much whether they care about it too deeply on a personal level. Of course, whenever the whistleblowers would damage America's trade, they are either suppressed or portrayed as un-American. They get brownie points for looking concerned, cash for trading and keep their jobs.

Of course, if you were to enquire about atrocities in US-sponsored countries (like the Phillipines or Indonesia or Nicaragua (formerly Iraq as well)) then the governments tend to fudge and duck the issue. As well as informing the FBI to keep an eye on you as a subversive.

: You say human rights is a far more difficult issue to attack because it isn't exclusive to McD. Well neither is animal abuse exclusive to McD. If McD is exploiting animals, so is every other fast food chain, Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell, etc.

True. But one of the original reasons for selecting McD's was that they were _the_ biggest. It's not just McD's - look at the Beyond McD's section of the Website. I think London Greenpeace did at one point do a "What's Wrong with Burger King" leaflet. The major reason that the McD's leaflet took off was that people disliked the cultural imperialism that McD's displayed and that McD's had the stupidity to try suing over it. And, of course, that they were the biggest fast food company.

: You could probably say most any meat-serving restaurant in the US is exploiting animals. So clearly, the reason that the anti-McD movement puts so little emphasis on the disgusting human rights abuses of native people is NOT because it is not exclusive to McD; because neither are animal rights abuse exclusive to McD.

Not so. McD's is a human rights abuser, no question. But they aren't _the_ biggest human rights abuser, whereas they are the biggest client of the slaughterhouses and battery farms.

But the biggest abuser of human rights? I don't know personally who they are, but I'm sure they would have the power to put you straight into prison on charges of "suspected terrorism", whichever country you live in. McD's were the choice of target due to their universality and their practices.

: So why are they putting so much emphasis on animal rights abuse and so little on McD's grave human rights abuses that are direct cause of tens of thousands of children to starve, and often die of starvation?

I think that part of it is that Joe Public would have to accept that their entire lifestyle was responsible for the starvation, as it is the overconsumption fostered by Western culture that fuels Third World debt and hunger. McD's are a symptom of that, not just a cause.

(Remember Buy Nothing Day is on the 29th of November).

Stopping any one company wouldn't change that. But stopping McD's would send an important message to the meat industry - that the days of easy money and mass-produced meat were over.

: I feel the right thing to do is to make a stronger effort to expose such evil exploitation of people, to get the public to make the connection between McD and death and starvation, and let them decide if they still want to keep on patronizing such evil corporations. If this exposure risks raising the collective guilt of the Amerian people, so be it. I think hurt feelings are nothing compared to the suffering of McD's victims in the Third World. Hurt feelings are a small price to pay to help end the practice of genocide, to end the robbing of people's land for profit (starvation is a form of genocide). I advocate that mcD and any other company like them change their fascist ways completely or go out of business for good, for the sake of humanity.

Fair enough. Any campaign, especially a campaign that doesn't involve formal organization, depends on the dedication of the people who are motivated to get off their backsides. So if you contact the US branch of the McLibel Support Campaign and ask what you can do, I'm sure they'll be happy to talk to you.


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