Utne's Readers: Deepinder Mayell

World changer

| July / August 2004

In the summer of 2000, Deepinder Mayell saw the face of globalization up close. While visiting Indonesia, the Boston College sophomore shared tiny rooms with young garment workers in Jakarta (a 10-foot-by-10-foot 'apartment' might house five) and accompanied them to the gigantic factories where they sew clothing for American companies. He listened to their stories: how the $1 per day they earned for 10 to 12 hours of work barely covered their basic needs, leaving nothing for savings. Mayell was there on behalf of the Worker Rights Consortium, which pressures American colleges to be more conscious of how the apparel bearing their logos is made.

It was an eye-opening trip, but Mayell was already a committed activist. Born to a Sikh American family on Long Island, he grew up hearing stories of relatives and friends embroiled in the Sikh struggle for autonomy in India -- a struggle punctuated by brutal acts like the killing of innocent people at prayer during the Indian army's assault on the Golden Temple at Amritsar in 1984. 'Stories like these,' he says, 'opened my eyes to the simple fact that governments do not always do what is best for their citizens.'

Armed with this paradigm-shifting awareness, Mayell, 23, threw himself into work for social justice. He demonstrated against the notorious School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, as a freshman, then joined a World Bank protest in Washington, D.C. The Indonesia trip came next, and in the summer of 2001 he interned with a well-established activist group, Boston Mobilization. Within two years, Mayell had cofounded a free magazine for Boston Mobe (Spark), and eventually became director of the group, working against the Iraq war before its opening shots. 'I think in certain ways the whole world is still recovering from the shock of that war,' he says.

Mayell's way of recovering is to move to the next level of education and commitment -- he's applied to law school as part of his plan to develop a new model of global justice, 'a model of healthy trade and mutually beneficial sustainable growth for the world,' as he puts it. It may sound utopian, but with a dreamer and doer like Mayell pushing it forward, it could turn real sooner than anyone thinks.

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