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Re: <eyebeam><blast> MAI '98

Along with many others, I'm sure, I don't have the time to actively wade
through the long and enthusiastic discussions that have been appearing
here since this list started up, it's a quick skim through to see if
something hits the eye. Well, returning from a week offline at the VRML
conference in Monterey (amazing how high-tech conferences provide no
facilities for the humble laptop-less punter), I noticed a few posts
about the MAI treaty (Multilateral Agreement on Investment),
particularly Stephen Linhart's proclamations in favour of economic
globalisation in order to save the world.

Well, excuse me, Stephen, but I think you've got things in a bit of a
twist! It sounds like you've got the right intentions, but putting your
faith in a treaty initiated by business and investment interests hardly
seems like the right answer.

To quote Stephen:
"Economic globalization (by NAFTA and GATT type agreements) has several
profound benefits.  Under the pre-globalization regime, power and money
cross borders but small scale economic forces do not.  This gives
multinational corporations a devastating advantage over everyone else.
Economic globalization is the only available route toward encircling the
multinationals.  So long as economies are closed, the multinationals can
go where unions and environmental law cannot reach and there is no
chance of controlling their false economies of exploitation and

Unfortunately MAI will only encourage multinationals to exploit
resources, people, and cultures around the world. Already NAFTA has
proven to be a tool for multinationals to force local authorities to
accept polluting practices both in Canada and in Mexico. MAI will give
investors/multinationals the right to buy, sell, and operate in any
signatory country, and any local or state laws would be overridden by
the corporation's "rights" to operate without restrictions. 
Stephen goes on:
"Economic globalization also plays important roles in deterring war,
protection minority cultures within nations, protecting the poorest, and
protecting the environment of poor countries."

Please give an example of where "economic globalization" HAS done any of
these things! 

>  The opposition seems to
> come from labor and environmental groups in rich countries who don't
> want to be lumped together with labor and environment in the rest of the
> world.  

?? It's precisely these types of groups who DO think on a global scale -
remember the slogan "Think Globally, Act Locally"? 

>It is conceivable (though I don't think it's true) that NAFTA
> has hurt US or Canadian environmental protection.  It clearly helps
> Mexican environmental protection. Surely Chernobyl has shown why we all
> need to be concerned with the weakest links in global environmental
> protection.

Chernobyl showed that we don't want nuclear power, full stop. Don't kid
yourself that these types of accident can't (and don't) happen in the
so-called developed West. Remember Three Mile Island? 

> For deterring war, encircling multinationals and protecting the global
> environment, I think this sort of economic globalization is critical.
> Protecting French culture is not a counter argument if you want to do it
> by preventing undesirable expression.  Protecting French culture is a
> noble and important goal, but it seems necessary to find a way to do it
> without regulation designed to control expression.

Unfortunately in today's already multinationally controlled media world,
forms of artistic expression that are not sure fire money makers need to
be subsidised and supported. Audiences need to be educated, informed,
that there is an alternative. "Titanic" is a huge box office hit -
apparently 25% of US teenage girls have seen it SEVEN times - does this
make it a good film?

Ok, to finish, let's all try to use the tools at our disposal for good
effect. Get the information out there! Artistic, political, personal.
Let the trickle up/down/out effect go to work - as was mentioned before,
a fresh water supply is much more important for most of humanity than a
fast Internet provider. 

Andy Best
Media Artist
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