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Thom Yorke

on globalisation and political activism



I think we need to change our economic relationship with the rest of the world from master/slave to something similar to democracy, which is what we're supposed to be living under.


I think it's very much the West's fault. I think if this is all a legacy of the Cold War. Putting in place brutal and corrupt regimes to try and maintain a convert hold over large areas of the Third World.  I think everyone should be worried because people are dying because of it.


It's affected me very much, it's affected me very deeply because I think I spent the first few years of being in Radiohead not aware of outside issues like these.  I had tunnel vision but as we travelled a lot it became very obvious that the wonderful West was not the wonderful West we thought it was... the trip to Mexico and Thailand made that bloody obvious.  My personal experience was in some way feeling that everyone was trying to be western but it was obvious that the country's were only doing this because culturally they had been destroyed and they were at the West's mercy.

The thing is there needs to be a re-evaluation of the way that we deal with these countries. The IMF has gone into a lot of these countries and set up cheap labour, cheap resources, cheap everything in the guise of the free market when actually its slavery by another name.  I think that's what I'm saying about changing our relationship with those countries so they can claim their own resources they can have proper assistance in building their countries not just a bunch of crooked loan sharks.


I don't think any major issue like this is out of our hands the point about it being that if enough concern is raised our wonderful G8 will panic and that's what this is about.  I don't think that we are a generation of little morals and ethics I think we were sold that a few years ago just like we were sold Pepsi max.


What can be done is to make the system transparent and accountable.  We carry on lending money to Mubotu in Zaire long after we knew he was siphoning it off we've inherited a very corrupt system and we need to change it. Hopefully with all the people reading this, they'll look back in 20 years and see how archaic and barbaric their system was this is the new slavery under a very clever name and we should all know about it.




I'm a champagne socialist, apparently. Someone called me that last night. I got into a massive row with this guy.

It's interesting that it [political activism, particularly against the global economy] has really taken off in America, and I think it's because of people like Chomsky. There's a lot of people who've read Chomsky now and people of his ilk and his e-magazine in America and in Europe. There's a bit of a tradition of it, but there hasn't really been anything coherent since Vietnam. And now there is. And it's nothing to do with left and right now, it's to do with stuff that's come out since the Cold War, certain things dawning on people over a long time. The Berlin Wall fell more than 10 years ago, and yeah, I think resistance is quite a good way of putting it.  If nothing happened at all, if so called anarchists just sat home and smoked dope and did fuck all, then we would all just bow down to a global economy and willingly watch millions of people die for no fucking good reason.

People like to talk about it and think about it and the reality of what happens on the ground is usually very different. The protests themselves are pretty nasty affairs. I went on the Mayday on in London, and there were so-called undercover guys walking around in bulletproof jackets and long lens cameras with two bodyguards, armed, walking through the crowd taking photos of "troublemakers", basically everybody in the square digging up the turf -- anybody and everybody. And when the McDonalds got smashed up and all that stuff, it's like 20,000 people there and they've got nowhere to vent their anger at all. What are they going to do, just go home? No, I don't think so. The difference between that and the way it's mediated I think there's a certain section of people on the net who just like to think about it and talk about it.  And then you have the media who are like, "Omigod, there's going to be a riot and hundred of thousands of people" and they're not basing it on anything.  But the people who are going to be there are using it as a really important resource.  I don't know. Personally, I was really happy to get involved in Jubilee 2000, the Drop The Debt thing, because it is a mainstream ... a mainstream, acceptable face of resistance against the antics of the IMF and the World Bank. 


But equally, I am interested in the unacceptable face of it in terms of the media coverage, the disruptive elements, the anarchists, because I don't really care what methods are used to make the IMF and World Bank so incredibly unpopular that they dismantle it.  I don't really care how it happens, as long as it happens. That's the point. The way the Seattle thing was covered and the actual reality of what was happening on the ground are very far apart, but people will dismiss any legitimate protests by the small section of people who come to cause trouble. If you think 50,000 people turned up to Seattle and all wanted a scrap, then you're a fucking idiot.  If the WTO think they can just dismiss it that way, they are so out to lunch. But the IMF is so incredibly unpopular in the US, even in the Senate, they are a carbuncle on the side of US politics. But for the US they are incredible useful because they can take the blame for US-led policies that are crippling the poorest countries and meaning we can take their resources cheaply, milk them of all they're worth, insist that their populations stay starving and have no health care -- and use the IMF and World Bank as scapegoats. That's what I think.



Thom Yorke is the lead singer of Radiohead.  The above is taken from two separate interviews on Yahoo! Chat and in The Guardian, 2000.