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By: Dalton Camp, political commentator for Toronto's "The Star"

The Summit of the Americas is, presumably, about trade, the expansion of it, and is an item in the agenda of the plan to make the world safe for corporatism. The other conference could be said to be convened in the interest of making a world safe for people

Those who have power fear democracy, as they will always do. The American Constitution is the knotted thing it is because the property owners and slave owners feared the uncouth sentiments of a majority opinion that might put too fine a point on notions of freedom. The Canadian Senate is a monument to the cautions of the founding fathers of a nation that a House of Commons elected by a popular franchise could not be entirely trusted to respect private property and privilege and entrenched interest.

The trouble with democracy, it has been argued over the centuries, is that it cannot be trusted to accept the reasoned, dispassionate judgments formed by superior minds with larger interests. Betters would always know best. John Locke observed, "The greater part cannot know and therefore must believe.''

On the eve of the Summit of the Americas, at Quebec, there is also to be the alternative Peoples' Summit. The Summit of the Americas is, presumably, about trade, the expansion of it, and is an item in the agenda of the plan to make the world safe for corporatism. The other conference could be said to be convened in the interest of making a world safe for people. The police, summoned by the anxious sponsors of the corporatist interests, will ensure there will be no unseemly interruption to the exchange of protocols, or during the drone of compliance, or in the ceremonial signings of the pre-packaged communiques. It will bear some resemblance, in style and spontaneity, to those old Warsaw Pact reunions during the Cold War years.

Alex Carey, the late Australian lecturer in industrial relations and psychology, wrote of the 20th century that it "has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.''

The two summits at Quebec are extensions of these developments. But while democracy has continued to grow, it is being overwhelmed, if not subjugated, by corporate power. Democracy's singular triumph in the last century was its civic triumph in rejecting American policy in Vietnam. It was a massive defeat for the sponsors of Cold War mythology -- the "domino" theory, the insidious, everlasting threat of "a world of communism," the treachery of "Liberals" and the mass criminality of trade union leaders.

How remarkable that a society regularly, systematically, relentlessly deceived, lied to, betrayed, and misinformed, could somehow emerge in such strength and union to stop a war of futility fostered by so many who knew better. We need to remember that the lessons from this debacle that befell private power and propaganda were not lost upon the brooding, sullen and defeated pro-war factions.

The public will prevailed in the issue of Vietnam in part because the media, in its several parts, reported the war, and the peace struggle, as they saw fit. Demonstrations against the war were fairly reported. Today, the concentration of media ownership, the corporate ownership of vast media holdings, no longer assure such a dynamic. It is fashionable, in the financial press, to mock today's protestors as ignorant, dull-witted, provincial -- and so on. One distinguished journalist asked angrily, "Who elected them?" It is a marvellous question; indeed, a seminal one.

Well, to risk a brief answer: most of the elected at the Summit of the Americas were elected by the same people, they enjoy the same corporate sponsors, their election purchased by the same money bringing the same all-embracing endorsements, holding the same distinguished credentials: anti-Communist, anti-Castro, anti-union, anti-environment, anti-liberal. Democracy is their thing. This explains the contempt for people on the street. Badly dressed, poorly coiffed, ill-spoken. They would inspire Locke: "Day-labourers and tradesmen, the spinsters and dairymaids" all those who cannot know but must only believe.

As preliminary to these solemn mock deliberations in Quebec, the United States announced it would not sign the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions. This action reduced the Montreal summit on the subject to farce. The Globe and Mail, its knickers in knots, was hard-pressed to find a place to bury the story within its pages. The front page was largely taken up with a report on the television habits of mice (I'm guessing.) But a desperately pleading editorial said, perhaps, President George W. Bush was only kidding. If not, it said, Canada can't sign on to Kyoto either. But Kyoto is only about people.

Dalton Camp is a political commentator.
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