Enjoying your Sunday? Are you comfortably surrounded by lots of fat newspapers full of ephemeral toothless chatter like this column? Are you skimming through lovely pictures of things to buy, to cook, to wear, places to visit? Maybe you're contemplating ordering a plastic radio in the shape of a fish for the shower, or musing on the very important issue of whether Andrew and Fergie might get married again. No doubt if you have a few tabloids staining the carpet there will be more than a few column inches on the disgraceful spectacle of the anarchists' May Day demonstration but, happily, this will be tiny indeed in comparison to the space allowed for some London actor to tell you how important it is to ensure your olive oil only comes from a specific region of Italy.
What was worth discussing about the riots anyway? Were the police too hard, too soft? Did Ken Livingstone condone or decry the action? Should the cenotaph have been boarded up? Mmm. Important questions indeed. What is not being discussed however, are the other questions. Oh nothing important really, just little things, like how come the World Bank, after having attended the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, is spending $13 billion on unregulated fossil fuel projects in the developing countries? That's right. While you and I are naively recycling our Irn Bru bottles, the World Bank is knowingly funding projects all over the world to belch out greenhouse gases into the fragile atmosphere, helping destroy the health and welfare of populations who, under the shackles of dictators, are powerless to protest, and generally sniffing around like filthy criminals for the last few remaining places on earth they can rape and plunder for profit.
Yes, well, still not as bad as putting a bit of grass on Winston's head, eh? The London protest was pathetic, no question. As usual the point was obscured by a handful of bored numbskulls looking for trouble, and facilitating the unforgivable desecration of a war monument was a gift to the hostile media that couldn't have been more gratefully received if had been wrapped up with a silk ribbon. But if anyone takes the time to listen to the voices of the intelligent part of a demonstration that has been generated worldwide, then the truth emerges that we're all in rather serious trouble here.
While we sit in our little country fuming over nutty bus company owners and intellectually challenged churchmen, while we worry about hospital waiting lists and public transport, all over the developing world big corporations and banks are busy condoning, encouraging and initiating the most unspeakable and deliberate evil, in exchange for Lear Jets, diamond-dripping lizard-fleshed wives and Swiss bank accounts. It's not a wet hippy sensibility to wake up to the fact that this process will affect us all. We've all been thoroughly instructed on the causes and effects of global warming and, given that our modern media has also taught us to pay very little attention to anything for more than a day or two, no doubt many of us believed that somehow it was all being sorted out. Oh, all that eco warrior nonsense, all those grubby mohair-jumpered tinkers up trees. How tedious.
But if the World Bank, the IMF and the World Trade Organisation continue on their current unforgivable and unaccountable practices of profit-reaping destruction, we'll be as royally stuffed in Saltcoats as they will be in China. There's no point in imagining that the humans in charge of these organisations feel as vulnerable as we do, or that their love for their children would prompt them into thinking about the future beyond their death. It's not true. I have, as I'm sure most people who've worked in the media for any length of time have, the questionable privilege of knowing a handful of seriously rich people socially, and by seriously rich I mean people who are worth over £50 million. Pleasant as they may be, it's true that whatever the character of the person, and however they came about the money, the super rich simply do not think the same way as the rest of us. Observing them, it's clear that whatever their intentions may be, it becomes impossible for them to contemplate things that would ever be outside their control. Everything can be fixed. Everything can be evaded, escaped from, changed, sorted. Even those who started from humble beginnings remember their early poverty with a sentimental nostalgia that rewrites the struggle as merely a stepping stone to their divine right to power and wealth.
Given that the leaders of the corporations that run the world have personal wealth that would make £50 million look like pocket money, one starts to realise why there are no truly sane or responsible individuals at the helm of this unstoppable ship. Global warming, super storms, floods, famine, unbreathable air, undrinkable water, poverty-driven wars? Don't worry. Can't get you on Mustique but the jet will fly you somewhere safe. The children have trust funds. It'll buy them some oxygen.
I wish this were a ridiculous and childish oversimplification, but it's just one of the ugly truths at the root of the nightmare. Whatever the strength of your character, you cannot remain truly in touch with reality when you become wealthy enough to buy anything. Don't take my word for it. Just look closer to home at our very own Soapy Souter. The case rests.
People who think differently from almost everyone else in the world, who are anonymous and unaccountable, who have an unstoppable lust to increase personal wealth to levels that reach obscenity, are in charge of our planet's future. They are the new Czars and no conventional revolution can stop a force that is so scattered and diaphanous.
What can we do? Peaceful protest is respectable and admirable, even given its propensity to be soiled by violent infiltrators. But the monster that is globalisation is too big, too powerful, too deeply grafted to the economic roots of every country in the world to be challenged by a bunch of indignant citizens with carnival masks and placards.
Is it too much to expect us to listen more carefully to those shouting about the reality of what corporate government is doing? Even if we do, we would be misguided if we followed their lead. Anarchy is not the way ahead. If you're waiting for the final-line answer of what I believe we should do instead, then I'm sorry. I have absolutely no bloody idea what to do at all , and when I look at my children that impotence shames as well as terrifies me.
Copyright 2000 Sunday Herald