They call it "Bovemania.''
the past year, French sheep farmer and cheesemaker Jose Bove has
become one of the most popular figures in France -- a Robin Hood
with a radical message of opposition to the corporate globalization
that seeks to impose a new world economic order on every corner
of the planet.
this week, Bove will make his way to Madison.
Bove drew international headlines a little more than a year ago,
when he led the symbolic dismantling of a McDonald's restaurant
that was being constructed near the tiny village where he tends
the sheep and produces his feisty cheeses.
fast food company survived the assault -- although the new French
outlet did suffer $100,000 in damage at the hands of Bove and his
diligent dismantlers. French authorities did arrest Bove and his
followers for vandalism, but their attempts to prosecute proved
fruitless -- tens of thousands of anti-corporate activists protested
outside the courthouse where he was being tried, and the authorities
eventually reduced the charges.
Sept. 13, Bove will be sentenced and it is expected that he will
get, at most, a firm slap on the wrist.
will Bove beat the rap? Because his arrest made him an iconic figure
in the struggle to create a more humane and sustainable global economy.
His challenge to a prominent symbol of international corporate globalization
-- and the crushing sameness in food products, clothing and media
culture that it imposes -- struck a nerve in France. Within months
of his arrest for the McDonald's attack, France's conservative president
and socialist prime minister were stumbling over one another to
be the loudest in their praise of Bove.
when the radical sheep farmer showed up last fall in Seattle to
protest against the World Trade Organization, he was accorded hero
status in the streets. His attempt to give away French cheese outside
a McDonald's just blocks from where the ministers of global finance
and trade were meeting drew thousands of trade unionists, environmentalists
and farmers like Wisconsin's John Kinsman -- Bove's friend and comrade
in the struggle to defend family farms around the world against
the onslaught of corporate agribusiness.
wildly enthusiastic response he gained in Seattle did not surprise
Bove. "McDonald's, really, has become the symbol for the whole world
of globalization,'' the farmer says, explaining that the eerie sameness
of the fast food giant's menus, color schemes and restaurant designs
reminds people all over the world that their local tastes and values
are being dismissed in a headlong rush to enhance a corporate bottom
only interest is profit,'' Bove says of McDonald's. "What's happening
for the people all over the world? They don't care about them.''
week, Bove and Kinsman will be spreading the word in Wisconsin,
at a UW conference on food policy Friday, and across from Saturday's
Farmers' Market downtown at the annual Food for Thought Festival.
And if he does not get the "rock-star'' response that explodes wherever
he shows up in France, Bove has no doubt he will find allies in
not just that Wisconsin is a traditional farm state -- and a cheesemaking
state, at that.
thinks Americans are ripe for his message of resistance to overarching
economic powers. After all, the French farmer says, this is the
country that got started with a Boston Tea Party that involved the
destruction of some property.
was a response to economic policies that were undemocratic,'' Bove
says of that long-ago tea party. "This is how you Americans inspired
us, just as, perhaps, now we will inspire you.''