An excerpt of this piece appears as part of The Nation‘s memorial coverage in the wake of the passing of Jerry Mander.
When tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of Seattle and Washington and Prague in the 1990s to protest the human suffering wrought by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), some asked “who are the leaders?” Who inspired this youth-charged global justice movement that targeted the shadowy rules and institutions of the global economy?
One of the great intellectual and strategic leaders of this movement, Jerry Mander, died this week. A former advertising genius for the environmental movement (check out his 70 Ads to Save the World), Jerry thought and acted big. After citizen movements lost epic battles that created the corporate-driven North American Free Trade Agreement and the WTO in the early 1990s, Jerry started to convene 40-50 of those who had led the campaigns against these new unjust rules and institutions.
His charge to us: don’t give up because you lost the first round. Educate movements and the public to fight back. He created the International Forum on Globalization, and reached back to an educational mainstay of the movements against the Vietnam War: the teach-in. He challenged us to stage massive teach-ins that would lead into massive protests on the streets in the cities where the World Bank, IMF, and WTO were gathering government and corporate leaders. None of the 40-50 of us who became the core of the International Forum on Globalization thought this would work. But Jerry convinced us to try, and he marshalled the resources to make a dozen of them happen, from Cancun to New York’s historic Riverside Church.
Along the way, he goaded us to lay out our critique, which led to The Case Against the Global Economy (co-edited with Edward Goldsmith). He created the spaces for us to lay our alternative proposals, and 23 of us spent three years creating the ideas in Alternatives to Economic Globalization. This work placed “corporate-driven globalization” on the map of movement and public consciousness as an enemy to be replaced.
Jerry’s genius was best on display in 1999 in Seattle where 60,000-70,000 “Teamsters and turtles” and faith leaders and farmers and students gathered and marched, and then conspired with leaders from the Caribbean and Africa to stop the WTO in its tracks. Thousands joined Jerry’s three-day teach-in at the glorious Seattle opera hall in the lead up to the protests. Later, as tear gas blanketed the city, over a thousand more joined a debate (again planned by Jerry) between leaders of the citizen opposition and the corporate protectors of the system.
That week, we got a glimpse of the power that citizen movements linked to sympathetic government officials can wield.
Along the way, Jerry made major contributions to a systemic understanding of technology (his best-selling book was Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television), of capitalism (The Capitalism Papers: Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System), and of the genocide of Native cultures (Paradigm Wars, and In the Absence of the Sacred).
Today, we celebrate the boldness and genius and convening power of a dogged paradigm warrior: Jerry Mander.