Last Sunday in Toronto, my friend Cinders McLeod, a mother of two teenage children joined a few thousand others in a peaceful protest outside the G20 summit meeting. Inexplicably the State Police turned on the crowd who were doing little more than standing around talking and chanting. In the face of Police aggression, like many others, she understandably decided to go home. As she and her children were making their way along a side street away from the violence, she was shot in the back with a rubber bullet.
You can read her full account here
Toronto is not alone. The official media tells us that most of the violence was propagated by Anarchists (the “Black Bloc”), not only this year in Toronto, but also last year at the G20 in London, 2006 in Melbourne as well as in other host cities in other years. Whilst it may be true that Anarchism is a flawed political philosophy – in my view any Political Organisation that is violently opposed to political/social organisation per se is at best hypocritical and at worst dangerously stupid – that said, Anarchism is a conventional philosophy and in a free society should be accorded due respect. However, it is a common perception, often promoted by the media, that people who are attracted to the credo of Anarchism are not generally interested in persuading others through honest debate; their weapons of choice appear to be fists and rocks. But, were these antagonists really Anarchists or were they “run of the mill” criminals?If the antagonists were indeed Anarchists, it would be easier to understand the attraction some people have for their particular brand of raging against the State machine. Our governments rarely, if ever, take any notice whatsoever of the ordinary person in the street so when all else has failed and the dam holding back a tide of anger and frustration finally bursts, violence is often all that remains. It is a very human reaction. Equally, it is to some degree understandable, given the perceived mind-set (the disingenuous War against Terror etc.), that the State should marshal whatever forces it can to crush them, “for the good of the country”.
What is impossible to understand is that political leaders believe it is right to sweep up all dissenters – including and mostly people with the legitimate democratic right to protest – into the same bag with organised violent aggressors. The politicians’ spin-doctors will be thanking whatever petty god they worship that the violence of the few has distracted attention away from the legitimate concerns of the many. No doubt, when millions of tax dollars have been spent on a review, the report will conclude that the actions of State Forces were justified on the basis, once again, that it was “for the good of the country”, or words to that effect. To some in positions of power, it is inconvenient that the country comprises of individual people.
The G20 is a meeting attended by leaders from the 19 most powerful nations on the planet along with representation from the European Union. It is an unprecedented global (almost) event and almost the only occasion where these politicians gather en masse, in one place at one time. It can be no surprise to the host country that their citizens would take the opportunity to voice their opinions on the world stage.
The principals on which the G20 was formed are sound: the world is contracting and as such, interaction between countries, especially amongst the most prosperous, has become more vigorous and therefore requires careful management. Of course, there must be discussions around how IMF, the World Bank and other global institutions can be used to help poorer nations build stable and sustainable economies, that is their job. However, what is increasingly revealed by these summit meetings is that our politicians have an overwhelming preoccupation with preserving the wealth of the few at the expense of everyone else.
On a basic level, despite pervasive political rhetoric, the gap between rich and poor is increasing, massively. This means in plain English, that a growing number of people, even those living in rich countries, face a daily struggle to put food on the table to feed their children. This, in spite of a significant increase in the average hours worked by the lowest paid!
While our primped, preened and exhaustively briefed leaders were posing, all smiles, for the cameras – glad-handing, back slapping, weasel wording and avoiding those direct questions – we, the people, lost interest whereas the Commentariat went into overdrive. They are, after all, the unacknowledged servants of the political class. We are not interested in what off the shoulder haute couture the first ladies are wearing this season, or whether Sarkozy is indeed shorter than Bilbo Baggins. We don’t care.
What we do care about and what would really grab our attention are (amongst others): an honest commitment to distribute wealth fairly amongst every one according to their need; a debate (and action) concerning meaningful employment, available to everyone according to ability, that pays a wage sufficient to allow every man, woman and child a healthy, interesting and anxiety free life. We want our leaders to be real, honest, understanding, intelligent and above all sympathetic to the needs of the people they represent and the world as a whole. We want them to believe that the world can be a better place and have the guts to commit themselves. These are the messages that the majority of people who turned out peacefully, on Sunday the 27th June 2010, wanted to get across. It is not a message to incite violence or hatred whether from Anarchists, criminal “rent-a-rioters” or State controlled Police.