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Before I close, I would like to stress again the importance of fostering alternative forms of education and communication, which are the key to popular mobilization for change.

I am sure everyone here is aware of the so-called "Battle in Seattle," at the end of 1999. This massive multi-sectoral protest against the World Trade Organization was a major breakthrough in terms of social awakening about the harmful human and environmental effects of globalization. Over 10,000 people from more than 60 countries participated. And as the wave of awareness spreads, Seattle has been followed by similar protests against the World Bank and IMF in Washington D.C., Sidney and Prague.

All of these protests represent an outpouring of participatory democracy within a political power structure where the electoral process has been trivialized by big money. Far from being mindless rabble rousing, as claimed by the mass media, these protests have been strategically planned, with a well-organized educational focus. There have been public lectures, discussion groups, and participatory theater, all with well-documented sociopolitical analysis. In short, these massive rallies have had a strong component of popular education for change.

Also, the protests have helped bring together for the common good different groups that have often been antagonistic. At Seattle, this was symbolized by the rallying cry, "Teamsters and Turtles," representing the newly united front comprising both labor unions and environmentalists.

Before the "Battle in Seattle," few people had ever heard of the World Trade Organization. But now, around the world, awareness is growing about the socially regressive and ecologically distressing aspects of globalization. Such proliferation of critical information and collective analysis is a strong first step in organized action for change.

In terms of alternatives for sharing information, we must not forget the Internet. Like fire or water, the Net can be both friend and enemy. On the one hand, it has expedited the global reach of transnational corporations. On the other hand, it has become an invaluable tool for the building of worldwide coalitions of activists and progressive movements.

One of the most exciting uses of the Web in grassroots struggles has been in the Zapatista uprising, in southern Mexico. On the day that NAFTA officially began (January 1 1994), the marginalized tribal people in the state of Chiapas declared their revolt. It was a protest against the betrayal of Mexico's land reform program and the government's sellout to the international market system. Although the mini-revolution consisted of only a handful of hungry Indian peasants, they broadcasted their demands for human rights and equal opportunities so effectively through the Internet, that progressives around the world responded vigorously.

Had it not been for this international solidarity, the Mexican army would have brutally squashed the Zapatistas from the start. But as it turned out, the international outcry was so great that the Mexican government had to capitulate to at least some of the Zapatistas' demands, by reinstituting part of the agrarian reform policies it had annulled in preparation for NAFTA.

The Zapatista uprising with its international solidarity has had a far-reaching ripple effect, which continues to this day. This year (2000) in Mexico's presidential election, the people at last threw out the corrupt, elitist political party (the PRI) that had ruled the country for 7 decades. This end to one-party rule can in large part be explained by the political education spearheaded by the Zapatistas, through the Internet and alternative press.

We must remember, however, that the Internet still is accessible only to the more affluent 0.5 percent of the world's population. If the poor majority are to take part in building a healthier world, we must be very creative in looking for ways to share information with them and to meet them on their terms.


The overarching goal of the People's Health Assembly is, quite literally, to change the world. Our vision is to help create a world that is a fairer, heathier place for all people.

Albert Einstein, who realized all things are relative, also shared this vision. He said:

"Not until the creation and maintenance of decent conditions of life for all people are recog-nized and accepted as a common obligation of all people and all countries -- not until then shall we, with a certain degree of justification, be able to speak of mankind as civilized."

I would like to add one last, rather personal thought. It is about what keeps me going when I get discouraged.

I like all of you here, I assume am committed to struggle against injustices at the macro level. But the globalized power structure is so huge, and seems so impervious, that sometimes it gets me down. I feel a bit like Don Quixote fighting the windmill!

What lifts me back up is my personal involvement at the micro-level. When I am not grappling with the global Colossus, I am still active in the community-based program in Mexico, where disabled villagers help to enable handicapped children and their families. My greatest satisfaction comes when, with my companions, I am able to make a small but significant difference in the life of a child or family. While this is certainly not a transformation on the global scale, it is none the less uplifting. And somehow I think it contributes to the larger change.

There are many ways, large and small, that each of us can help make the world a better place. Each time one of us reaches out to a friend or stranger in need, each time we comfort someone who is sorrowing, each time we embrace a lonely child with love, or nurture someone who hungers for understanding, each time we defend the dignity and rights of an outcast whether innocent or guilty whom the righteous throw stones at, each time we give of ourselves with open arms and with joy, we add a grain of sand to the building of civilization to which our budding humanity ... and all humanity ... aspire.

For me, it is being personally involved at the village level it is seeing how the lives of caring people whom I have grown to love are afflicted by social injustice on a global scale that tells me that I must not lose heart in the struggle for a healthier world order.


In sum, I would suggest that all of us try to keep a balance in our quest for change at the macro and micro levels. It is the mini-transformations that happen on a personal level, in solidarity with friends, that will guide our efforts to transform the world. It is our local involvement that keeps our global activism on target.

I am confident that the day will come when the world's people will become one grand and diverse community, gladly sharing our human and material resources with one another, for the good of all. I see the ongoing activities of the People's Health Assembly as the standard bearer and catalyst in this transformative process.

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