9/15/2003

 

Global Birth

 

To finish the series on Iraq stories not well covered by the press, I offer a positive story: the world-wide protests against the war. Since they were well covered you might wonder how this fits the topic. And if you thought the war was a good idea you might not agree that the protests were a positive development. But there is an aspect of these protests that should be taken as positive for all of us, and which was little covered.

 

Let me recap a little about the protests. First of all, they occurred in every part of the world. Even countries that would seem little affected by war on Iraq had demonstrations: Australia, South Africa, Thailand, Ireland, Canada, Japan, Bangladesh, Mexico, Ukraine, Brazil, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico among others.

 

Secondly it wasn't a one-time thing. Washington D. C. alone saw hundreds of thousands protesting in October, and again in January, and again in February. Other countries also saw repeated large protests.

 

Thirdly, the sheer number of participants was huge. The British paper The Guardian estimated that the mid-February protest alone involved as many as 30 million people around the world. Some cities saw the largest gatherings in their history. The largest group of that 30 million was between 1 and 3 million in Rome. Can you imagine millions of people gathered in the streets in one place? They were hardly alone. Other cities had: London 1.5 million; Melbourne, 150,000; Sydney, 100,000; Madrid and Barcelona 500,000 each, same in Berlin, same in New York; Paris 100,000, same in Los Angeles; 60,000 in Oslo; 50,000 in Brussels and 35,000 in Stockholm in bitter cold; 80,000 in Dublin; 20,000 in Montreal; 5000 in Cape Town and Tokyo. Palestinians and Israelis marched together, Greeks and Turks marched together. In the U.S. it wasn't just the biggest coastal cities, the heartland got involved too. In Montpelier they had 3000 in 12-degree weather. In Venice, Florida, a group of several hundred mostly elderly joined in. And of course there were many towns around the world that had smaller protests, including Prescott.

 

Taking these protests as one extended event, what was little noted was the historical uniqueness of it. Think about it. When in your memory, or in history, have millions of people all over the world been focused on one cause, spoken with one voice, and with enough passion to take to the streets and make that voice heard? Whether you agree with them or not, this was an historic event.

 

The Vietnam war protests around the world didnít match these numbers, and the celebrations at the end of WWII werenít as wide spread and in most places didnít match these numbers. This was truly a first for humanity.

 

We have only had near instant communication over most of the globe for a few years. In that time the world has had no occasion to be in agreement on any one issue and feel impassioned about it. This was it. A sort of global birth event.

 

Many people over the ages have hoped humanity would see itself more as one. Thomas Paine said, "The world is my country, all mankind my brethren...". Astrology buffs and optimists of the 60s looked forward to a new age of enlightenment. Well, I don't know if we're any more enlightened. And humans are too prone to their divisions, their countries and wonderful, diverse cultures for those differences to be dissolving. But this event does mark a point that humanity has not seen before.

 

You witnessed it. Yet it may have passed right under your nose unnoticed. Take a look back a few months at what happened ó we passed a mile-post. Some may disagree with the specifics of what the participants were asking for, but you can't disagree with the overall goal ó peace. We, humanity, brought ourselves to this particular marker in our history by a noisy, rambunctious, restless clamoring for peace. That's a good thing to know.

 

Tom Cantlonís column appears every other Monday. www.tomcantlon.com