rn: Why We Are Here (poem & post-Seattle context)


Jan Slakov

Dear Renaissance Network,

So, I am back from a really good trip (to Quebec and Ontario with chances to
revisit or meet for the first time friends and relatives whose presence I

AS with many events that break us out of our routines, especially if we get
time to think (and read!) a bit, I'm feeling some sense of renewed vision.

One of the books I encountered is _Let the Mountains Talk, Let the Rivers
Run_ by former executive director of the Sierra Club, David Brower. He's
nearly 90 years old and his insight, wit and commitment make the prospect of
reaching that age a happy one.

In the afterword to his book, David writes about what Seattle '99 means for
him. Here is an excerpt, along with the poem by Robert Arthur Lewis, "Why We
Are Here".

"...In Seattle, Ralph Nader,s chief trade expert Lori Wallach put it best:
'the unstoppable force called economic globalization just hit the unmovable
object called grassroots democracy'.

        Grassroots democracy had just recieved a shot in the arm the
previous March, at the always impressive Land, Air, and Water Conference in
Eugene, Oregon, when a few locked-out members of the United Steelworkers of
America (USWA) and some enviros got a meeting going in the bar that I will
always remember. We shared our regret over what corporate raider Charles
Hurwitz was doing to our redwoods, working people and our economies, if not
his own. We declared an alliance and soon cemented it in Eureka, California.
I was delighted to be invited to co-chair the coalition with USWA's David
Foster, who later described our mission so beautifully that it must be
repeated as often as possible: 

        'If you will promise to make sustainable jobs
        a product of environmental protection,
        we will promise to make environmental protection
        our most important job.'

To which I added, feebly by comparison: 

        We promise that the Alliance will be the conscience
        for corporations, investors, and politicians who have lost theirs.
        They want to keep us tied up in a jobs-versus-the-environment contest.
        The real imperative is to create a world where we all have jobs-for-

Jan again: I gather that in Washington, somehow the labor part of the
alliance was missing. And too many people are neglecting their opportunity
to vote for a presidential candidate of truly high calibre, Ralph Nader. I'm
not sure why; I'm not sure how to work to rememdy this, but maybe getting
this message out to you can help.

Here is the poem, Why We Are Here, which author Robert Arthur Lewis was
distributing in Seattle, on the occasion of the World Trade Organization
Ministerial Summit in 1999:

Why We Are Here

Because the world we imagined, the one
we had always counted on
is disappearing.
Because the sun has become cancerous
and the planet is getting hotter.
Because shildren are starving in the shadows 
of yachts and economic summits.
Because there are already too many planes in the sky.

This is the manufactured world
you have come here to codify and expedite.
We have come to tell you
there is something else we want to buy.

What we want, money no longer recognizes
like the vitality of nature, the integrity of work.
We don't want cheaper wood, we want living trees.
We don't want engineered fruit, we want to see and smell the
food growing
in our own neighborhoods.

We are here because a voice inside us, 
a memory in our blood, tells us
you are not just a trade body, you are the blind tip
of a dark wave that has forgotten its source.
We are here to defend and honor
what is real, natural, human and basic
against the rising tide of greed.

We are here by the insistence of spirit and the authority of
If you doubt for one minute the power of truth
or the primacy of nature
try not breathing for that length of time.

Now you know the pressure of our desire.
We are not here to tinker with your laws.
We are here to change you from the inside out.
This is not a political protest.
It is an uprising of the soul.

        -- Robert Arthur Lewis

Creo que el mundo es bello, 
que la poesía es como el pan, 
de todos. 

(I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone)

Roque Dalton

Jan Slakov, Box 35, Weymouth, NS, Canada B0W 3T0  (902) 837-4980
 CDR (Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance) home page ->


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