“have a coke and a smile and shut the f*** up.”

Okay I feel guilty now. Picked up some Coke on the way home this week after having not really had any in a long time. This morning, I found a story linked off my union’s unofficial webpage. I know Coca-Cola isn’t the nicest employer around but I had no idea they are being accused of hiring military guys to keep their workers in line through such time-tested negotiation tactics as murder. The Guardian article says:

“The suit alleged that the bottling companies “contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilised extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders”, and that Coca-Cola was indirectly responsible for this.”

For its part Coca-Cola reps are calling the allegations a publicity stunt.

Over the years I’ve tried to figure out what my politics are. I consider myself a middle of the road person (by my own standards) and don’t ever take to the streets in protest. And yes, I shop at some places I’m not supposed to shop. Yet, sometimes, when I tune in to what’s going on around me, I start to get distressed. I see what looks like an unstoppable trend trend towards foot-to-the-floor capitalism dressed up like “democracy.”

Hell, even Bruce Cockburn caught on to this in the 1980’s:

“Padded with power here they come
International loan sharks backed by the guns
Of market hungry military profiteers
Whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared
With the blood of the poor

“Who rob life of its quality
Who render rage a necessity
By turning countries into labour camps
Modern slavers in drag as champions of freedom”

“Call it Democracy”

Next week the World Trade Organisation is holding a “Mini-Ministerial” and well-organised plans are afoot to disrupt it. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, the WTO needs to be reminded at every turn that they don’t have the world’s blessing to trample the rights of workers and the environment in the name of free-markets. On the other hand, I don’t think change will happen through violence (yeah sometimes the cops go way too far in maintaining crowd control, but you know some guys in these crowds, any crowd, is just spoiling for a fight). And I don’t think street theatre helps change anyone’s mind either. As The Daily Show’s Mo Rocca put it during a satirical news segment where he explained why the WTO capitulated to the protestor’s demands:

“John, the puppetry was relentless.”

Still, I’m glad they’re there protesting. But when it starts to turn ugly (and I think it will, when their stated goal is to “shut it down,” they aren’t planning to do it through the use of papier mache), they don’t represent my views anymore. The don’t represent anyone but themselves. They need to reach the opinions of people can affect change. When the person with the two kids and mortgage start to think there’s something wrong, then you’re starting something.

But back to Coca-Cola, CokeWatch has a letter you can sign to the CEO of Coca-Cola.

Will it change anything? I really have no idea.


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