No Time for Delinquency
May 23, 2002
by Dennis T. Avery
In case you missed the anti-globalization demonstrations in Washington, D.C., recently, let me recap the key events.
Nobody really paid much attention to the announced protest targets, the World Bank and big corporations, or to the once-looming threat of genetically engineered crops. The biggest event of the protest weekend was a demonstration by several thousand young people—in support of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and its suicide bombers. One of the pro-Palestinian demonstrators held a sign that read, “Stop using God as an excuse for genocide.”
He was apparently too young to understand the irony—that the Israeli Jews were driven out of Europe by real genocide. Six million Jews were slaughtered in Hitler’s death camps, with the tacit approval of many European citizens. Now the PLO is blowing up Israeli women and children in a sworn effort to destroy their country of last refuge.
“What the United States felt and saw on September 11, Israel has felt and is feeling on a daily basis,” said a Jewish bystander.
Monday morning, 2,000 of the young protestors started an unauthorized rush-hour march on the Capitol building, to protest U.S. policy toward Colombia. Personally, I have never been able to figure out who’s on which side in Colombia, but I lived next door to some nice people who had fled its multi-sided violence 30 years ago.
It’s unclear whether the Monday marchers were pro-Colombian or pro-drug, but halfway to their goal they were surrounded in a small park by phalanxes of police and unable to move until after the rush hour was over.
Two years ago in Seattle, the anti-globalization demonstrations were massive, and aimed against genetically engineered crops and world trade—both causes dear to my heart. The eco-protestors were flaunting plywood trees and Monarch butterfly costumes. Never mind that the biggest threat to the world’s trees is low-yield farming; Mexico says it’s losing nearly 3 million acres of forest per year to the low-yield corn plantings of its peasant farmers. Never mind that field tests show Monarch butterflies are safer in a biotech field than in conventional corn fields sprayed with pesticides.
In Seattle the big numbers of demonstrators were paid union members, who’d rented big trucks with signs that said, “World Trade Has Exported A Million U.S. Jobs.” At the time, U.S. unemployment was at its lowest point in history. If we’d kept another million jobs in America, we’d have had to invite in another 1 million immigrants to take them.
Seattle also featured the eco-shock troops, the black-masked anarchists. They roamed through the downtown, breaking huge plate glass windows, overturning kiosks, and strewing newspaper vending machines. The movement’s fascination for reporters has always been the potential for headline-grabbing violence. Since September 11, the demonstrations have been carefully non-violent—and poorly attended.
You can’t really blame the youthful protestors for being short-sighted and foolish. What do typical First World kids know about the harsh realities of ancient religious prejudices, really corrupt governments, and grinding poverty?
Today’s young street demonstrators are trying to recreate the “glory days” of the Vietnam protests, when everybody said the kids knew more than their elders. In reality, the kids were trying to avoid getting shot in a foreign war, which is a pretty normal if self-centered reaction. America lost some 50,000 young people in the fighting—but after we pulled out, more than 1 million people were killed by the Communists in their “liberation” of the region. The kids don’t understand, looking at the hollow shell of communism today, how close it came to taking over the world.
There are still serious questions facing human society that will have to be resolved by the adults and the legitimate institutions. One of these questions is whether we will allow people to kill masses of other people because of their religion. Another is whether we’ll let the activists kill off biotech crops for the whole planet because the First World has plenty of food, leaving the malnourished kids of the Third World to feed themselves by harvesting monkeys and clearing the forests. A third is how we can advance the trade liberalization that has brought more people out of poverty in more countries than anything else in history.
Before September 11, we’d fallen into the comfortable belief that America no longer faced any serious challenges. The protesters’ street theater was amusing. Since September 11, the street theater is no longer so funny. It’s time for the adults to get back to work.
This article was originally published by the Knight Ridder Tribune on April 23, 2002, and is reprinted with permission.
Dennis T. Avery is based in Churchville, VA, and is director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues.