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Perhaps you can hear it from where you?re sitting now: that low, distant rumble, growing clearer and closer as you focus on it. Perhaps you can see the storm clouds on the horizon. Out there, change is coming.
This is not empty rhetoric. All over the world, there is a revolution brewing. It?s not a revolution in the sense that the twentieth century has taught us to understand the word: not a massing of red flags this time, not a determination to seize the state, not a gathering of Peoples? Parties with blueprints for a new Utopia. This is something that is harder to explain at first sight, but no less significant.
It?s clear why it is happening: the world is more unequal than at any time in history. A planet in which 20 percent of us are rolling in 86 percent of the wealth, while the very systems of life itself come under increasing strain from mass over-consumption, is not a civilization built to last. The uprising against it began years ago, and it?s gathering in speed.
What used to be called, inaccurately, the ?anti-globalization? movement has become a worldwide web of people and groupings dedicated to reclaiming the power that the cult of the market has stolen from them.
They see how the stealing of that power has affected their communities, and as they do so, they see what their causes, their battles and their problems have in common with those elsewhere in the world. They have become a movement ? the first genuine global movement of its kind ? and they are still growing. Two hundred thousand of them gathered at the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India, this year, and they represent the tip of a political iceberg that is tens of millions strong.
Who are they? They are Mexican Zapatistas, still battling after a decade to reclaim their community rights from the corporate stitch-up of nafta. They are the South African poor in the townships fighting water privatization. They are landless people all over Latin America, struggling to redefine their position in a corporate farming world. They are local activists in the US, using the law to drive corporations out of their small towns. They are farmers in India, resisting corporate patents and the market-driven food industry. They are tribal people in New Guinea, resisting the corporate enclosure of their land for mining and oil drilling. They are young Europeans trying to rethink resistance to capitalism in the shadow of communism?s spectacular failure.
What is new, and gives cause for hope, is the widespread awareness that old answers will no longer do. Few people involved in this new wave of resistance are very interested in seizing the state. They see where that has taken us in the past, and they also see that globalization has undercut the ability of governments to run their own national economies. In almost every country on Earth, political parties of left, right or center now pledge themselves to the gods of the market. What this new wave of revolutionaries wants is the chance to create its own spaces, free of the rule of the market. If the state can?t deliver that, other ways must be found.
In other words, this is a power struggle. We can talk about nafta, about the wto, about corporations ? but at the heart of it all is an age-old human battle over resources, power and the public mind. Money is currently winning that battle. Societies everywhere are becoming markets first and communities second. We become consumers above all, and only then are we given permission to be human.
This movement seeks to make us people first, to drive the market back into its cage. It can be seen, perhaps, as a battle for the public over the private mind. Who wins it ? movement or market ? will determine our future. It could be our last, best chance to avoid the McWorld that so many of us can see around the corner.
The movement exists on every continent, but it has no global manifesto because it seeks, in the words of Subcomandante Marcos, ?a world with many worlds in it.? Both communism and neoliberalism gave us universal blueprints for prosperity and both failed us. This time, we can?t afford to be fooled by ?Big Ideas? that are built around theory and not reality. We can?t afford it because, as the global economy spreads into every nook and cranny of a previously unmarketed world, resistance spreads too.
Perhaps you think that this resistance, and the determination to build a new world based on new values which flows in its wake, is something that just happens to other people, somewhere else in the world. Think again. Wherever you live, it?s coming your way, and it?s coming fast. There has never been anything quite like this before, and as long as the global economy continues to move in its current direction, spreading poverty, inequality, exclusion and environmental destruction in its wake, this rebellion can only grow. Keep your eyes on the horizon, and get ready.
Paul Kingsnorth is the author of One No, Many Yeses: a journey to the heart of the global resistance movement (Free Press).
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