Monday, March 14, 2005

The Wrong Kind Of Freedom

People in the streets. A head of state under fire. Demands issued for populist autonomy and greater democratization. Wealthy elites erecting more walls to protect their privilege.

Sounds like something the swivelchair commandos would bang their keys over, yes?

Uh, no.

The above is happening in Bolivia, a country we're not hearing too much about. Why? Hard to say. Perhaps because it doesn't reinforce the current script where Bush is leading the world to a New Democratic Dawn. Indeed, Bolivia's indigenous population, along with its labor movement, are demanding a tax hike on corporations that are exploiting the country's natural gas reserves. Not the kind of thing that warms Halliburton's fans, or those who believe that Real Freedom means allowing foreign multinationals to override local concerns in order to export a country's natural resources for private profit.

Those Bolivian elites who benefit from such an arrangement are now demanding that they be even further isolated from the grubby masses. How can they enjoy their privilege and inordinate wealth with all those poor people clogging the streets?

Clearly, the Bolivian protesters and activists are not aware that street actions and demonstrations only count as "democratic" so long as we Americans say so -- like, for instance, in Lebanon. If you won't accommodate the needs of the Right People, then you aren't "free."

Another thing -- Real Freedom comes from above, not below. It comes from powerful foreign states and energy companies who must be allowed to do whatever they want to the country of their choice. If that means leveling cities and killing untold thousands of civilians, well, hey -- that's the price that must be paid. We didn't say it would be easy. As Rumsfeld once put it, freedom's "messy."

Someone better tell all this to the Achuar, Shuar and Kichwa peoples of Ecuador. Looks like they're drawing the wrong lessons as well.