by David La Chapelle
7 Dec 1999
The protests in Seattle were inevitable. The logic of power
WTO was using determined the outcome in the streets. More importantly,
the events in Seattle have opened fault lines in a world view which has
been seriously out of touch with the realities of environmental
destruction, wealth inequality, labor conditions and quality of life
upon the planet. The failure of the WTO to agree on a protocol is really
symptomatic of a failure of philosophical understanding and the result
of an adherence to a version of reality which is sadly disconnected from
how the universe organizes itself.
In essence the protesters were mobilized by the presumptive
power of an
organization which has no elected representation reaching across
national boundaries and imposing actions which effect the health and
well being of global citizens everywhere. In the name of free trade
local laws were to be "harmonized" with global trade agreements.
In effect this meant that local environmental, labor and health concerns
could be overridden in the service of agreements that were brokered
specifically to increase the economic well being of large business
concerns. The net result of this process is something called harmonized
destruction. Local conditions are to be harmonized with the
infrastructure of economic expansion and global free trade. In doing so
there can be destruction of local conditions.
A disturbing example of this process occurred when an
Petroleum company sued the Canadian government for instituting a ban on
a gasoline additive with known health risks. Because of a stipulation in
the NAFTA trade agreement corporations are now allowed to sue
governments if their profits are hurt by actions of those countries. The
result of the suit was that the Canadian government lifted the ban on
additive and paid money to the American company. A clear reduction of
the quality of life in Canada was imposed without any input from the
people which may be harmed by the decision. Free trade is not always
It stands to reason that we should be suspicious of anything
There is always an energy which must be expended in order to maintain
the balance of the world. Free, in our modern media driven market place,
almost always means that someone else, somewhere, is paying the price.
When local conditions are "harmonized" with overarching networks which
do not have a direct and immediate relationship to the consequences of
their actions, then we can expect difficulties to arise.
The arrogance of the World Trade Organization in overstepping
feedback mechanisms from the populations they were influencing was a
major contributor to the numbers, intensity and effectiveness of the
Seattle protests. All natural ecosystems maintain homeostasis based on
feedback. When feedback is interrupted then imbalance occurs. The lack
of access to a body which was creating policies that were compromising
health, labor and the environment launched a pattern of reaction which
was nearly inescapable. The presumption of power on the part of the WTO
meant that it was wed to protest from the beginning. Protests had to
appear because feedback had been curtailed. And as history has amply
demonstrated, abuses of power are always remedied by the dialectics of
It is useful to consider that the womb of the WTO was formed
out of the
ashes of World War II. World War II began, for the United States, as a
trade dispute with Japan. The clashes on the streets of Seattle have a
long ancestry of violent attempts to resolve trade differences. The
logic of exclusionary control by one group, country, corporation or
religion has been proven so inept by the repeated failures of such
attempts throughout history that one has to wonder about humanity's
capacity to learn from its mistakes.
The failure of the WTO meetings was seeded by the parochial
incapacity to witness and see the effects of actions taken. Such
blindness is sadly legion in human endeavors. The philosophy which
justifies such blindness was called dramatically to task by the tens of
thousands of protesters in Seattle.
What is truly exciting about the events in Seattle, despite
overreaction of both police and demonstrators, is that the voices of
diversity, which are essential in any health ecosystem, were loud enough
to help inform the conversation.
As a helpful hint for any further considerations of WTO conversations
would like to suggest that delegates to future meetings be asked to take
a long walk away form city lights, cell phones, computers, power lunches
and brokered deals and stare into the night sky.
For there is a revolution of understanding brewing in the heavens
may open the fault lines in a paradigm which does not consider life
connected, sacred and worthy of reverence and respect.
Recently experimental evidence from several independent observers
verified that the universe is apparently filled with an unknown form of
energy which is pushing against the gravitational attraction of stars,
planets and cosmic dust. The first indication that this might be
occurring came last year when several supernovas were caught speeding.
The fact that they were moving too quickly was the first clue that all
was not as it seems in the heavens.
Einstein was one of the first to become concerned about why
universe was not imploding due to gravitational attraction. He created a
mathematical fudge, a fiction of sorts, called the cosmological constant
to balance his equations. Without the cosmological constant the force
of gravitation would have been too large to explain the conditions of
the universe. He grumbled in his later years that it was one of his
It turns out the cosmological constant, a mathematical slight
which helped maintain the shape of the universe, was not a mistake made
but a preview of the truth.
The recent experiments have tracked ripples in the cosmic background
radiation which have provided scientists with enough data to predict
more about the overall geometry of the universe. This is like looking
into the echo of the beginning of the universe and seeing the shape of
the cosmos in the mirror of vibration. The emerging shape can only be
explained if some energy is pushing against the tendency of the matter
to gravitate towards a center.
There is something out in the darkness of space which is putting
into the cosmos. There is even a provisional name for this energy:
Various theories are now being developed as to what this quintessence
might be. Some say it is the force of quantum fluctuations of empty
space, which turns out to not be entirely empty. The void may not be a
void at all, it may be a seething, dynamic, energy-filled domain.
The implications of quintessence are considerable. The energetics
the cosmos, up until now, were understood in terms of the radiant out
put of gravitational processes. The nuclear fusion of stars produced all
the elements of our world and the light which sustains it. With the
intrusion of quintessence we are faced with a new, non-specific energy
which seems to pervade the cosmos.
For as long as the stars were the center of the energy balance
universe it has been easy to ascribe identity to discrete objects: our
sun, our moon, our earth and by extension our homes, our villages and
ourselves. The concentration of energy in specific patterns maintained
the structure of our world. And those patterns were recognizable as
Now it turns out there may a physical energy which operates
what our intuitions of metaphysical energy are like. Quintessence is not
located in any particular area, it seems to be a product of space
itself. The matrix of the cosmos carries its own energy of unfolding.
What does the World Trade Organization have to do with Quintessence?
understand the connection it is helpful to contemplate a cleric who
launched a revolution through his search for an orderly universe. When
Copernicus began to formulate a cosmology which was no longer
geocentric he was motivated because the existing explanations were not
elegant enough. It offended him that God's kingdom should be dressed in
clumsy math. His search for beauty led him to try to construct a more
harmonious system. In his search for harmony he set in motion a change
in a whole culture's understanding of the cosmos. As the earth was
stripped of its centrality to the universe, a whole change in political
power away from kings and emperors was begun. Rather than saying one
caused the other, a more useful way of holding the shift is to say that
both arose at the same time, they were in the same climate of culture
together. What is true is that the change in cosmology accompanied a
radical change in how power was held. One of the origins of the
Declaration of Independence was to be found in this shift.
Quintessence has the potential to be a player in the unfolding
another paradigm shift. This paradigm views the cosmos as a self
organizing process which thrives on a degree of chaos and uncertainty
and is reciprocally linked through harmonic feedback and resonance.
Patterns of change all oscillate within nested domains which help
maintain the health of the whole organism and are energized from the web
of their connections to the whole. The Gaia principle is one such
example of this process. Our bodies are another example.
Quintessence changes the map of cosmic energy. And in changing
it opens the door way for changes here on earth. For if there is a
nonspecific energy which is a natural condition of existence and if this
energy erupts spontaneously even in the vacuum of space, what does
this mean for our political and social institutions?
The WTO assumes that maximum growth of the business sector
automatically good for humanity. There is no doubt that business is an
essential attribute of our human endeavors, but to leverage its power
over the feedback of other values and communities is at the least
arrogant and at the most lethal. Cancer presumes the same prerogative of
growth. Inherent in the philosophical window which Quintessence opens
is an understanding of life as being empowered by a nonspecific energy
which sustains the unfolding of the cosmos. This has huge implications.
In the light of this statement, business decisions which maximize
throughput and economic activity over the health and well-being of local
communities and human beings are not in harmony with how the cosmos
functions. The good of the whole is predicated on the concentration of
power in the networks of a few. This runs counter to the implicit
message of Quintessence. When the center of power moved from the earth
with Copernicus's search for beauty, European culture underwent a
massive transition from hierarchical control to an extraordinary
experiment in democratic power sharing. When the modeling of energetics
inherent in Quintessence makes its way into social and political systems
there well may be a similar revolution.
The presence of Quintessence upsets the tidy package of Newtonian-based
causation. If there is energy streaming into the system in ways we do
not understand, which support the emergence of the universe, then what
does this have to say about power based on maximizing the flow of money
over other values? It suggests that there is an emergent energy of
creation which cannot ever be collected into stars, planets or other
specific bodies. The field of the cosmos is the bed of energy. This is
the emerging metaphor which systems like the WTO have completely missed.
In the interest of a specific, fractionalized, component of
energy equation decisions are being made which threaten the health and
integrity of the entire web of creation. And imbedded in the web is the
sustaining power of the cosmos. This has always been a lovely idea to
contemplate but he introduction of Quintessence forces us to consider
that this may actually be structural reality of the universe.
The trade ministers of the world, the corporations of the planet
the power structures of our modern world must honor this web of
creation. Their refusal to do so weds them automatically to the kind of
protests that were on the streets of Seattle because life seeks to
When the corporations of the world pause, look up at the space
the stars and reflect on the emergence of the spontaneous energy of the
cosmos they will have possibly begun the process of a true
harmonization. The field of life as it unfolds is the energy we seek.
Life is sacred and feedback is essential to the balance of
Any activity which seeks to limit relationship to the web of life is
doomed to correction.
Changing the decision making of organizations such as the WTO
they respect the inherent energy of life as it unfolds will do much to
undo the cancerous concentrations of power and control which threaten to
destabilize our ecology, our communities and our lives.