It is March 2010 and the Doha Round of world trade talks has not been completed yet.
Read below a short story (fiction) that I wrote back in July 2003. It was partly inspired by a true story, unrelated to free trade, and partly by the then lack of progress in free trade (a few weeks later, in September 2003, "Cancun" demonstrated this lack of progress).
"The Gatekeepers" (a short story)
Andreas likes to walk. Usually at night. Many times had he thought of giving up his walks. He did not appreciate worrying about his safety.
"But why should I surrender my right to walk", he had thought. They were like local tyrants of times past. Protecting their territory. That is how they looked.
Could he avoid them? No, they were everywhere.
In every neighbourhood, in, almost, every street. As if they had marked and divided their territory. Guarding it for themselves or somebody else, their "bosses".
He walked for fun. But it was also a necessity.
For some time he tried different territories. They were everywhere. He tried different times of the day, but they were almost always there. After all, it was at night that it was most convenient for him to take his walks.
A few weeks ago, he was in the north suburbs. At least two or three of them were there, when he got out of the car. He could see two of them, sitting, watching over, and he could hear one more. First, he stayed near the 24/7 bistro. Other people were there. He felt somewhat safe.
Then one of them approached him. Friend or foe?
He decided to make the first move. He got sick and tired of being on the defensive. "Hi, how are you" he said, hiding his concern as well as he could. For one or two seconds his heart beat quickly. A pause.
Then he saw the signs. At first he was not sure. He never had a dog. He had heard that when a dog shakes his tail, then he is friendly. It turns out that it was true.
He decided to proceed with this tactic. He concentrated in this area. He got to know them well, and so did they. Every time he enters their territory, they can smell him. They know him.
They have accepted him. They have given him a de facto pass.
Little by little, he has expanded into one or two other territories. Each time making sure that these "gatekeepers" get to know him and accept him. They bark at strangers, especially cars. It is still hard for him to understand the pattern of their behaviour, assuming they have one.
But, in any case, he is now accepted in the club. The same goes for the owner of the 24 hours store. They all know him now. He is now part of the community. He is not an intruder, a raider.
He is not the only one. Others seem to have done the same.
He now enjoys his walks in 2 or 3 different places, making sure that his rotations are frequent enough so that they do not forget his smell.
Dogs too, it appears, have a fear for the unknown. Once you have been around for long enough, you are de facto part of the scenery.
He now has started to think in "us" vs. "them" terms too.
Strangers are not welcome. Unless they manage to break the ice. To become part of the scenery too.
"Why don't you explore, walk into new territories" asked a friend.
"I would like to. I like change. I am actually starting to get a bit tired of the same places over and over again. But I am comfortable with the places I hang out now. I am not willing to go through the trouble of going through all those "blending" motions again in new places", he replied.
July 2003. All rights reserved.