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Time to listen to the protestors

SEATTLE, Washington, Melb-ourne ... during the past 18 months, at major meetings of groups such as the WTO, IMF and G-8, these and many other cities have seen hundreds of thousands of people protesting against the globalised economy and the institutions that represent it.

Despite attempts to portray these protests as rage-driven affairs among uninformed plebs, they have largely been peaceful, well-organised demonstrations by people both knowledgeable about the issues, and compassionate to the suffering of human commun-ities and ecosystems.

At the recent World Economic Forum protests at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, peaceful protestors were charged by waves of riot police without any warning.

There is a major gap between WEF delegates and WTO officials who speak the language of transnational corporate growth, and the majority of the world’s people who feel that their rights are being sold and traded by people unaccountable to their needs and the environment.

These mass demonstrations can be dismissed as uninformed, “emotional” outbursts by people who don’t know what they are talking about, who don’t realise that life has “never been so good”.

Or they can be seen as feedback that the economic experiment upon which man (and it is mostly men) has conducted with our precious planet is not working.

People would not need to demonstrate if they felt that they were listened to.

If writing letters to politicians and signing petitions were enough to generate public debate, people would not choose to risk injury and trauma at a mass demonstration.

It takes courage to realise that the path that one has followed is the wrong one.

The economic system is financially benefiting a minority, but is overall causing great suffering.

It is time to listen, not to further bury our heads in the clouds of narrow econometric models and “trickle-down” effects.

n Rodney Vlais is a social analyst involved with several non-profit organis-ations.

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