Letters to the editor

The global impact of the D.C. protests Plus: Are Benetton death penalty ads art? Should organs be for sale?

By Salon Staff
Published April 20, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

World Bank and IMF: Good, evil or irrelevant?



I'm an American newspaper reporter in Belarus working on a couple of stories. Belarus is the only country in the region to turn down IMF and World Bank aid, and dictator Alexander Lukashenko would probably be glad to stand beside the protesters in D.C.
It's no fun in Belarus. More than 44 percent live below an official minimum subsistence level. Protesters get beat up, arrested and expelled from school and occasionally disappear.

From out here in Eastern Europe, the World Bank and IMF sure look like the good guys. They're pushing to develop a private sector, to create a middle class capable of resisting the regime.
The alternatives aren't grass-roots, locally targeted social movements. They're rulers who vary along a spectrum from authoritarian to corrupt.

-- Ben Smith

Although many things that the World Bank and IMF have done in the past are wonderful, they are now out of date and we must now sympathize with the demonstrators in their efforts to modernize the lending process and seriously consider erasing much of the debt that is owed by third world countries. We must start over in the 21st century in our efforts to bring the third world up to the standards of the rest of the world without this incredible burden we have placed on them that does not allow these countries to feed or educate their people. May the United States lead in this movement!

-- Wendy Marsh

Cops 1, protesters 0

I'm happy to see someone in the media got at least part of the story right. The cops in D.C. were flat-out brutal -- I personally saw people who lay prone on the ground beaten with billy clubs, protesters were stepped on by horses, and I saw other numerous and random beatings initiated by the cops with no provocation and seemingly no point. Once, at 15th and Pennsylvania, on Sunday afternoon, the cops swept through the street, beating, gassing, and running over protesters, and then returned to their original position behind the barricades. No IMF or Bank delegates came or went, no ground was lost or gained. There was just a terrible, 15-minute melee. Maybe the cops just got bored.

The problem I have with your article is the emphasis on hippies. Sure, at Monday's rally there was a lot of drum beating and dancing and other hippie cavorting, but to be fair we had been sitting in puddles of freezing water for hours. People needed something to make themselves warm. In my weekend in D.C. I saw a wide range of activists, covering all the lifestyle bases, from hippie to punk to nerd to jock. I found this mix actually quite inspiring.

And while the cops may have won the P.R. round, we got two important victories: America has been introduced to the IMF and World Bank in the form of a riot cop, and thousands of young people have seen what modern American police and global corporations think of their right to exercise free speech, and have become that much more radicalized. We'll see what happens this summer at the political conventions. Philadelphia, here I come!

-- Devin Faraci

Bottom line: A bunch of white, overprivileged, narcissistic kids protested without any firsthand experience with the subject at hand and without any tangible demands, costing a predominately African-American city $5 million to keep the peace. That's $5 million that has to come from a city budget that is already spread too thin -- want to take a guess where city officials will make up the difference?

-- Ryan Donmoyer

Three cheers for the brave new activism

In an otherwise interesting and informative article, Bill McKibben misses an important truth about consumerism and its relation to that quintessentially global thing, the environment. The rich can choose not to consume, whereas the poor are forced not to. And while material satisfaction is far from the only value human beings hold, it is extremely important. So important, in fact, that only the citizens of the West, those who have "cheap and easy everything" attack it.

Imagining a conflict between the greenback and green mountains is a terrible oversimplification. We only became rich by irreversibly altering our natural environment and destroying much of its beauty, and it is naive to expect the world's poor to enrich themselves without doing that. The only way to preserve the poor parts of the world in a pre-industrial state is by preventing poor countries from developing modern, industrialized economies and all the material benefits they bring: longer, healthier and more comfortable lives, far-lower infant mortality and the elimination of death by starvation.

The cost of preserving foreign wilderness is foreign poverty, and the people living in those countries should decide which they want. It is not for the West to intervene in their affairs.

-- Garvan Walshe

The colorful dissenter of Benetton


Toscani is a classic artist. He has the protection of a wealthy patron, and is allowed to use his art to enrage and/or pique the public mind as long as the patron gets what he wants (in this case, brand recognition.) Toscani's comparison of his relation with Benetton to that of Michelangelo and the pope is an apt one.

As long as Toscani is given carte blanche to make his images, it is his artistic duty to push the imagery ever outward, to constantly test and, if necessary, push back the boundaries of the public consciousness. To do less would be dishonest and unworthy of the label "artist." If the images are politically incorrect and iconoclastic, well, most true art is.

-- Jeff Rice

What a shame that an opportunity to do good is wasted by the infantile Toscani.

The death penalty is not wrong because the killers are worthy of sympathy. The death penalty is wrong because of what it makes us become. It is wrong because of our complementary values of peace and justice.

Thank you, Toscani, for completely alienating the crucially decisive American moderates on this issue. They were coming around to support us based on the morality of our position, but that is made far more difficult because of your misguided and profit-motivated ad campaign. Because of your preening arrogance you will have left this world a lesser place.

-- John McDonough

Live from death row


In response to Toscani's reference to the Sixth Commandment: I'd just like to point out that the actual translation of the Hebrew is "You shall not murder," not "You shall not kill," an important distinction, as it does not forbid killing of an enemy or punishment by death. In fact, there are many instances in the Torah where the death penalty is specifically called for. Toscani's lame rationalization for his ad campaign tells me his biblical education probably comes from Cecile B. DeMille movies!

-- Josh Levy

Who wins, who dies?

McGuire did an acceptable job of critiquing two flawed, centralized approaches to distributing a fixed quantity of resources, but did not touch on the only proposal that could increase the quantity of life-saving donations: legalizing the right of people to be compensated for their donations. Currently federal law prohibits would-be donors and would-be recipients from reaching mutually acceptable terms, and results in thousands of people needlessly dying to preserve the "purity" of a system "untainted" by the stink of money. The time has come to discard the trappings of class warfare and to start saving lives.

--Travis J.I. Corcoran

The article perceives only two alternatives: decisions must be made by the government, or by the medical establishment (which makes fantastic amounts of money from transplants, and is quarreling more about who gets the loot than about the best patient care).
Perhaps David McGuire should shed his paternalistic, statist, hegemonic assumptions and consider letting the donor have a say in who gets her/his organs.

--James V. DeLong

Fools for love


I would like to thank Melanie Rehak for her article on poetry. As an aspiring poet myself, I especially appreciated the following line:

"No one ever admits to loving cummings -- no poet wants to be caught appreciating hopelessly sentimental poetry that was in a Woody Allen movie -- and yet we've all loved it."

I had no idea that cummings' fascinating, passionate poetry was something that "no poet" would want to "be caught" loving. I'll be sure therefore to hide my enjoyment and admiration of his work. But since I'm a reckless teenager in love, maybe I'll luck out and grow out of this sentimental phase, and start liking more mature poets.

-- Claire Vannette

Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------