Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reply to Harry Glasbeek's incendiary G8/G20 exegesis

In reply to: "G8/G20 Toronto: Observations, Questions, Opinions" by Harry Glasbeek

Professor Glasbeek, I'll dare to make comment on what is obviously the writing of a great intellect, much practiced in rhetoric. 

I suggest that you have driven your argument to a conclusion that will never gain the support of the majority of Canadians, short of a revolution. Perhaps you think that would be a good thing? 

You make a shrill claim to have identified Evil in shadowy corporate masters behind the political scene, your writing is full of both righteous rage and sinister implication. To the extent your exegesis is adopted as Gospel by those calling for a Public Inquiry, the chances that one will be called will be reduced. Bad things happened at the G20. I decry them, and am giving my all to see them redressed. There is absolutely no reason to pitch this as a battle with global Evil-Doers. 

A smart cynic, equally well-trained as you in the art of rhetoric, might well draft a nearly identical argument to support a claim that the sad outcomes of protesting events of the G20 in Toronto were driven in fact driven by crafty anti-capitalist, anti-state ideologists like yourself, concluding they did so order to provide excuse/ justification, and fuel, for an ‘ominous’ anarchistic movement. Oh, not another Evil-Doers group for the Far Right to raise a rallying cry against. 

To get support for a war, first we have to demonize a group of people – make them barely human, heap the sins of the world upon them. You’ve taken a step in that direction, Professor Glassbeek.

I see no need to invoke evil-doer Bogeymen to explain what went wrong at the G20. The Bogeyman is a myth. As a child, I and my friends imagined some of the older town drunks were Bogeymen. We didn’t know them, and I suppose we had to find someone to project our idea of the Evil That Lurks at The Heart of Man onto, beyond the comic villains we read about. Now I have some old drunks for friends. I don’t believe in the Bogeyman anymore. 

Here is an alternate explanation (a pure guess) of why things happened the way they did. 

Police and Security services have Bogeymen too, only theirs are Bader Meinhoff / Al Qaeida – and like organizations. In the lead up to the G20, they settled their G20 security fears upon a group of Canadian granola-eating, anti-capitalist, self-identified anarchists. They’re not hard to find. On a recent sunny Sunday in the local park, I ran into the very group that has been connected with the “Black Bloc” at my local Non-Violence Festival. They had a table of books about anarchy out, and a few pamphlets. I have some friends who are their friends. They are young, very sincere, idealists who want to solve the world’s problems and make a better world.

Some of this group’s members spout rhetoric (easily found on the web) which is reminiscent of groups in other times and places that have become violent, and had started planning to make a scene at the July 2010 G20 years before it arrived. They became the ‘enemy’, and police secretly prepared for battle. I suspect the organization of G20 security was left almost entirely to police, many of whom I believe are culturally predisposed to view young idealists like these as dangerous forces working against our established civil society. Like you pointed out, it’s not un-similar to the time when police forces were entirely white: visible minority groups were profiled. It happens still, I know. This time however, there was a “rabble” profile: all protesters were shaded with a Dangerous Anarchist tint. Girded for battle, officers and their commanders thought they dare not differentiate – the sea of increasingly agitated people on the other side of their lines all looked like troublemakers to them.

Their mindset, developed over many months watching and worrying about the small unsophisticated, (misguidedly) idealistic group of “Black Bloc” anarchists, the mental gulf widened and widened leading up to the G20. By the time it arrived, fears and expectations of a violent clash were at a height. Police prepared for ‘war’, and got a budget big enough to battle an armed force of thousands. They told their political masters that they had evidence of armed anarchists secretly preparing to blow things up; likely did have some factual evidence to support this. In this mindset, here was no way they were able connect with the many and various non-violent non-anarchist grandmothers, fathers, daughters and sons who showed up with their hundred different messages, confident they would be peacefully let to protest. There was a mindset gulf as wide as an ocean between them and protesters.

Yes, it was a sad two days for democracy in Canada. I will, however, have none of your corporate bosses+political ‘rulers’ conspiracy thinking. NOR will I have the lame excuses from unthinking pols or citizens who overlook the disregard for civil rights and legal due process that took place in Toronto, as police fought citizens, thinking all potentially in league with a few skinny young anti-corporate anarchist-idealists who chose the excitement of the ‘violence tactic’ to battle their Bogeyman. 

Our Common Law and our Constitution may not be perfect, but I believe is the best system of rules for a civil society there is anywhere. It always will need defending; it will always need improving. I am defending it by calling for a Public Inquiry into what occurred at the G20, which especially must examine the unlawful search and seizures, the unlawful detentions, the conditions of detention, the physical assaults by some police officers, and the like. 

I expect those responsible for breaking our laws at the G20, whether they be police or vandals, or those that directed either with intent to cause others perform illegal actions, to be fairly tried, and if found guilty, punished according to our laws.

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