Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The Battle for the Story of Seattle: A Call to Social Movements to Reclaim Our History
"Until the lions have their own historians, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter." —African Proverb
A major motion picture called "Battle in Seattle" is being released now in cities across the country. The movie is a docu-drama – a fictional story based on real events — that features extensive archival footage. It may shape what most people in the US and around the world think happened for decades to come—unless we speak up. We call for social movements to take action: to reclaim our history, our stories, and our future.
The story of popular resistance to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in 1999 is a story of how people power can change the world. It is a dangerous example for the global elite, and a powerful one for movements.
For eight years, the US corporate media, global elites, and their police have been twisting and marginalizing the truth, in order to invent their own story of Seattle 1999 and the stories of social movements' resistance and victories. These lies and revisions of history have been used in an attempt to criminalize and repress our protests, movements, and mobilizations.
The movie will be released on the eighth anniversary of the 1999 Seattle anti-WTO uprising and shutdown. It was written by a well-meaning actor-director, but is unlikely to reflect the motives, experience, or thinking of the movements behind the shutdown of the WTO. The potential is high and the possibilities are infinite to interrupt this narrative and claim the history that we helped create.
"The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."
It's time that we in the social movements tell our own stories, reclaim our own histories, and publicly fight damaging myths of our movements past and present. We must intervene in the public understanding of what happened, what is happening, and what it all means. Stories are how we understand the world and thus shape the future—they are part of our fight against corporate power, empire, war, and social and environmental injustice and for the alternatives that will make a better world.
The real story of Seattle 1999 is of tens of thousands of people rising up, taking direct action, and changing history; standing up to corporations and governments and winning; joining with movements around the world in our common struggle against the WTO.
"When it's truly alive, memory doesn't contemplate history, it invites us to make it."
—Eduardo Galeano, Upside Down: a primer for the looking-glass world
Let's link the 1999 resistance to the WTO in Seattle and globally with building support for today's 2007 resistance that is continuing the fight for global justice on many fronts; against war and occupation for environmental and climate justice; for workers, immigrants, women, and farmers rights, etc. We call for commemorations, public events, performances, media, interventions, interruptions, educational events, performances, screenings, gatherings, and celebrations.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
The Hollywood movie "Battle in Seattle" is opening in select theaters around the country. This article in Yes! Magazine is very helpful in understanding the film's context, achievements and flaws. It was written by David Solnit, an organizer who was a key player in forming the Direct Action Network that shut down the World Trade Organization meetings in 1999.
Also of note are the film's official webpage and realbattleinseattle.org, a people's history project David and others have been working on, and the WTO History Project I worked on a few years ago at the UW.