Sunday, January 30, 2005


wsf 5: things i like about the forum

Well, it really does have a big mass of worldwide humanity. This was driven home just a moment ago when I poked my head into a tent in which soothing classical-ish music was playing. Inside the participants were doing what appeared to be a trust/healing type exercise. They had broken into pairs and one of the pair closed their eyes while the other, with an arm around the waist, slowly led the first around the tent. And it was suddenly beautiful: slanting afternoon sun, cheesy music, and pairs of people of all colors and sizes, old and young, men and women, doing a waltz infinitely slow. And I was really happy to be here, speaking with people from all over the world in whatever language works best, good people with their hearts in the right places. The diversity here makes a Benneton ad look like a convocation of the KKK. It's not token -- it's deep. This sounds trite, but this appears to be is a happy, peaceful, world community, at least for a week.

I'm also happy that, as an American, I haven't met with any personal animosity. Sure everyone hates the United States, but they don't hate me, even when I speak up in some small way in favor of the US, which I feel compelled to do from time to time. The Minas Gerias kids have a running joke that I'm a "spy of Bush," but it's all in good fun. When confronted with an American, and even an American who speaks against some of the anti-American notions going around, have continued to be friendly, respectful, and eager to engage in conversation. In fact, the only person who has been genuinely hostile toward me because of my nationality since I've been in Brazil was a Chilean trumpet player I met in Salvador. Everyone else, and everyone here, has been great.

Lastly, I was bitching to a Canadian about all the rhetoric of "dialogue" and "exchange of views" while actual dissenting views (such as my own) seem nowhere in sight. And he made the point that that's not really what they mean or what they want. He said I should imagine it's like the Republican National Convention, but for the worldwide far left. When they saw they want to promote the exchange of ideas, they mean between places and cultures, but within the ideology. This conference is not to debate issues, but to feel solidarity across world-wide gaps. Participants want to share experiences, ideas, find common ground, and feel part of a truly global movement. Though I have serious reservations about the conscensus here, I do now feel I understand the place a little better, and I do enjoy this sense of intercontinental solidarity. Went to a talk on forest rights and heard speakers talking about similar struggles in India, Indonesia, and here in the Amazon. It's somehow wonderful to see two people from native populations at opposite ends of the globe talk about their experiences and get up and shake hands.

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