Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Initial US Social Forum foray

I drove up to Detroit today to meet up with Greg (Leffel) and Steve (Pavey) to begin our journey with the approximately 15 thousand people who've come to attend the US Social Forum. I had a smooth journey overall. It was actually kind of nice to spend time alone in the car. It was the first road trip of decent length that I've taken in a while. I guess if you're going to take a road trip (in a car) in America then Detroit is a pretty good destination.

I got to the hotel at 5:45 and walked over to Cobo Hall to join Greg, Steve and a new friend Craig at the opening ceremony. We took in about twenty minutes of the ceremony and then went to the commons area where we ran into Jai Sen whom we'd previously met at the World Forum in Belem, Brazil back in 2008. Jai Sen is an Indian scholar/activist who has become one of the primary archivists and networkers of the wider movement. We had a brief but good visit with him and enjoyed getting an update about his current work.

We went to dinner in the "Greektown" area and rode the elevated train that cuts through the downtown Detroit area. We were joking about the fact that the train was kind of like a model railroad because it just runs in a simple loop around the downtown and doesn't really get you anywhere that you can't get on foot or bike relatively quickly-not really public transport. It was apparently spearheaded by GM and is kind of a gift from the company to the city....a gift, noted Steve, that does little to challenge the hegemony of the car! Anyhow, just an observation...

Perhaps the most intriguing exchange of the day for me came when I was riding in a cab from the airport rental drop to the downtown. My cab driver was from Jordan but has lived in the US for about 20 years. He really wanted to know about the forum so I did my best to give him a brief explanation about how the forum was created to help create an alternative space to the World Economic Forum and its perceived economic reductionsim; a space where all participants, and their unique cultural and social considerations, could have a voice and the conversation is not dominated by the prevailing interests of the G8/G20. Anyhow, my guide was skeptical about the forum. Perhaps I did not do a good job of representing it. But I had to be amused when he said (paraphrase) "It is good for a small number of smart people to make decisions for all the rest....This is a good thing....as long they're thinking about all the people." Is that what we refer to as a "divine monarchy?"

Anyhow, miss my family and friends back home but glad to be here.....a good opportunity to listen, reflect, observe, be challenged and meet some new friends as well as spend some quality time with older ones.

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