This small action was part of larger efforts that are building throughout April toward a massive protest at the April 20-22 Summit of the Americas, the meeting in Quebec City where 34 heads of state will ratify the treaty process. A Pagan cluster has been formed for Quebec that will plan an action around the issues of water. And a very witchy women's action is also in the works.
The FTAA threatens what we hold sacred: the earth, the air, the water, the environment, and the community. Negotiated in secret, with the public prevented from seeing the document while corporations are allowed to buy access, it undermines our most basic democratic institutions. It would allow corporations to sue governments in corporate courts for loss of potential profits if governments pass "non-tariff barriers to trade," which can include environmental laws, worker-safety laws, or health regulations. Under NAFTA, we've already seen a U.S. corporation sue the government of Canada for banning an additive to gasoline that causes brain damage in children. And we've seen a Canadian corporation sue the government of California for $1.2 billion for banning another unsafe additive to gasoline. The FTAA would also open up services such as education, health care, prisons, mail delivery, museums, parks, public transportation, utilities, and water delivery to privatization, removing public accountability and control. And it would throw open the natural resources of the hemisphere to unbridled exploitation.
How do Pagans organize? Organizing an action is much like organizing a ritual: To begin with, you must know your intention. I take time for meditation and discernment in all my political work, and the questions I ask myself about a political action are very much the same as I ask about ritual. What is our purpose? Education? Drawing public attention to an issue? Actually interfering with a destructive act or process? What is my personal intention? Is this action necessary? What part am I called to play? What allies do I need: living friends, relatives, supporters, Goddesses, Gods, ancestors? Who wants to come to this action? What symbols present themselves? What magical image can we focus on?
Just as in ritual, or in crafting a spell, intention suggests images, and images suggest symbols to use and things to do and ways to focus energy.
The Women's Action planned for Quebec is one example. It began at a women's potluck, when we were drumming and humming a wordless chant (which bridged the French/English dilemma). We began seeing images of webs. Globalization can be seen as a negative web of corporate control. The authorities are erecting a fence nine feet high around Quebec City to deter protestors--another sort of web or trap. We imagined transforming the negative global web into a positive web of connections and caring that can link us across the earth. So the idea was born of a nonviolent action to transform the fence with yarn, ribbons, weavings, and artwork. The women's action will lead off the weekend's protests on Thursday, April 19, at 5 p.m. in Quebec City, somewhere on the perimeter fence.
Water is one of the key issues around the FTAA, which would further corporate control and privatization of increasingly scarce water supplies. Many of us participating in this action also began to see images of water in our meditations. In crafting a spell, we must know what we want, not just what we don't want. As we were exploring ideas for a mixed women's and men's Pagan action in Quebec City, we came across the Cochabamba Water Declaration. Issued by a group of activists in Bolivia who took their water supply back after a private corporation raised water rates by 40%, the declaration provided a vision of an alternative.
"For the right to life, for the respect of nature and the uses and traditions of our ancestors and our peoples, for all time the following shall be declared as inviolable rights with regard to the uses of water given us by the earth:
1) Water belongs to the earth and all species and is sacred to life, therefore, the world's water must be conserved, reclaimed and protected for all future generations and its natural patterns respected.
2) Water is a fundamental human right and a public trust to be guarded by all levels of government, therefore, it should not be commodified, privatized or traded for commercial purposes. These rights must be enshrined at all levels of government. In particular, an international treaty must ensure these principles are noncontrovertible.
3) Water is best protected by local communities and citizens who must be respected as equal partners with governments in the protection and regulation of water. Peoples of the earth are the only vehicle to promote earth democracy and save water."
Our water action will be to create a Living River. Dressed in blue, carrying blue flags and banners, we intend to flow over, around, or through the barriers to present this declaration to the heads of state and let them know what they should be discussing instead of the FTAA, We'll flood the streets of Quebec City with ritual, moving rivulets of processions, and if the heads of state won't hear us, the people will.
Magical actions need practical and magical support. We don't yet know what level of police repression we may face in Quebec, and we ask all people of good will to hold us in your thoughts and prayers throughout the weekend of actions. And please, educate yourself about these issues and take action yourself. Write to your elected representatives and get involved in activities in your area.