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Her Own November 3 Picket Line

November 2004

Since last week’s election, we’ve been wrestling to find the words to share our perspective on the outcome in a way that would add something to the hundreds of “Morning After” bulletins that have filled our inbox. As we neared exhaustion from the wrestling, we stumbled upon a speech given on November 3 (the Morning After) by Indian writer Arundhati Roy in acceptance of the Sydney Peace Prize. She doesn’t mention the U.S. election, but her words have special significance for us as we face the challenges of building our own movements for change in this Week Before.

Arundhati begins by noting that last year’s recipient, Hanan Ashrawi, was picketed during her speech. Ms. Roy demands her own picket, even if it must be thrown together on short notice.

She also has some challenging words for those who would use the concept of human rights to avert public attention from questions of justice. If the truth hurts, let’s change it.

In a way that very few contemporary writers can, Roy ends with a “good news, bad news” scenario that focuses not on the U.S. election, but on the difficult choices facing those of us who really want to climb out of the crevasse in which we find ourselves:

“The good news is that the advance party began the climb some time ago. They’re already half way up. Thousands of activists across the world have been hard at work preparing footholds and securing the ropes to make it easier for the rest of us. There isn’t only one path up. There are hundreds of ways of doing it. There are hundreds of battles being fought around the world that need your skills, your minds, your resources. No battle is irrelevant. No victory is too small.

The bad news is that colorful demonstrations, weekend marches and annual trips to the World Social Forum are not enough. There have to be targeted acts of real civil disobedience with real consequences. Maybe we can’t flip a switch and conjure up a revolution. But there are several things we could do. For example, you could make a list of those corporations who have profited from the invasion of Iraq and have offices here in Australia. You could name them, boycott them, occupy their offices and force them out of business. If it can happen in Bolivia, it can happen in India. It can happen in Australia. Why not?”

Take a moment to read Arundhati Roy’s global perspective on November 3. It may not answer your questions about the election, but it will place the choices that face us in a global perspective…where they belong.

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