Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mesoamerica Resiste and the Transpacific Partnership

Over a span of 9 years, folks gathered stories, understood connections, created metaphors, drew images, and then... ta-da! We've got a poster. (simple, easy, just like that! right? uhh. sure...)

Recently, I've been working with a bunch of really smart bees to figure out how to story tell and share the newest graphic: Mesoamerica Resiste (including having the narrative done, if ya haven't had a chance to read it yet it's on the left sidebar of our site). Today, a group of folks have gotten together to build shared analysis and do some planning, which since I'm at home, I admittedly feel jealous of. But also totally stoked and excited that we're doing that. And I'm ready to spend some time doing story sharing over here in Ohio.

As a story teller, this is some of the most exciting and interesting stuff I getta do-- find ways to make sure the stories we share are impactful, meaningful, and ideally- inspire action or movement from folks we're connecting with. Though I don't think we can claim much credit with the timing of MR! being released, it does align in a moment when the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement similar to others like NAFTA, is at a pivotal moment in our country. A moment in which it's possible to stop it.

 The issues addressed with the MR! graphic and the TPP have similarities that are both powerful and devastating. We can look to previous trade agreements and other neoliberal policies to see how history repeats itself. This time, if the TPP passes, it will be bigger and badder than ever before-- as it encompasses 40% of the global economy, making it the largest trade agreement--- ever.

{for more on the TPP, here's a good article to check out--- though I havta say, it's not the 'americans' receive the short end of the stick- it's that people do. We all do.}

On my most recent tour, Kyle and I built upon what we'd (the royal we, not just kyle and i) already developed to incorporate more information and build our stories and analysis to share what we know about the TPP.  After being back here in Ohio, I got to do a workshop with some students from across the country who are doing organizing work against the TPP with United Students for Fair Trade. We delved into a lot of the images on the front of the graphic to explore connection to the TPP, as well as jumped into the center hear stories of resistance.

Through doing this, I not only got to hear some perspective of those I was with, but also had a chance to hear more direct feedback--- and gained a sense of what stuck out to folks and seemed to engage folks the most. These two stories really came to top and look at two different perspectives on why agreements like the TPP are not for or by the people.

On the left side of the poster, there's a double helix highlighting the story of farmer bee. There are many steps that farmer bee takes- from communal farming to displacement that leads to working in a sweatshop in a Free Trade Zone or being forced to emigrate to another country.

In the first few scene, we see farmer bee working and living in a hive- a communal land holding. When the Mexican constitution was enacted after the revolution, it protected communal land and prevented it from being parceled out.

However, as NAFTA pushed forward, the constitution was changed in order to align with free trade policies. Suddenly, those land holding could be broken.

and they were. Here, farmer bee goes to get a loan and a deed, in order to farm her own little plot of land. 

Luckily, she knows a lot about the land and growing food, so she has a really productive season.

However, when she takes her produce to market-- she realized she simply can't compete with global corn prices. The truck from the United States is dumping highly subsidized and industrialized corn into the market scales.

Farmer bee simply can't make a living given global trade. And at the end of the season, she's breaking open her little piggy bank. Despite scrapping it together the best she can, she doesn't have enough to pay back her private loans, and is forced to sell her land-- and emigrate out of the place she's from.

Under the TPP, more communities will loose their autonomy to decide what will best govern their people. NAFTA undermined the hard fought agreement for communal land, and if free trade expands, so will the consequences.

Settled into the front and center of the graphic- there sits a table. It's a celebration-- of 500 years of colonialism-- as industry representatives try to take the biggest piece of the cake as they can. (The cake is shaped like Mesoamerica). While these folks have been pulling the strings of free trade for a long time, under the TPP it's gotten even more extreme. The agreement has over 600 official corporate 'trade advisors,' meanwhile folks in political positions (congress, for example) and folks like you and i- are barred from seeing it. We can't see it, and they get to draft it.

Wait? Who's this agreement for again?

Fortunately, Wikileaks has struck again and has been releasing the very long and complicated documents. Even more fortunate, other folks are reading it and summarizing it for us. So far, we know that despite preventing SOPA from passing last year, it's included within the TPP. One of the most harsh previsions I've seen so far- also falls under the umbrella of 'intellectual property.'

One of the industries sitting around the table above is the pharmaceutical industry (frog mask, dna vessel). Under the TPP, generic medicines will be under threat, as corporations will have more freedom to attach governmental patent regulations that allow for generic medicine to exist. Tons of people rely on the life saving access to cheap (ish) generic medicine. Even AARP (which, ya know, is always standing in line with the radical left on issues- right?) has come out to say the TPP is bad news.

{a photo of kyle- sharing the stories from MR!- in Baltimore at 2640}

Ok- that's some rough news. It's terrifying. It's heartbreaking. It's awful--- but it's real and it's happening AND it can be stopped. I'm really glad to be able to use this fancy drawing to talk about things like this- and real glad to be able to take action.

The first step in this fight, is to prevent the Fast Track legislation from moving forward-- and preventing Obama (who loves free trade and the TPP) from being able to unilaterally pass trade agreements.

Expose the TPP has a whole slew of ideas on how to put in wrench in this whole charade. Everything from hosting a teach in, calling your rep, bird dogging, and pulling together a rally.