Monday, 28 June 2010

A Book Report and Some Thoughts About the G8 and G20 Nonsense

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

My friend Erma sent me this book recently.  It is wonderful.  Beautifully written.  A fine story. And an important one.  I won't spoil it for you by telling all, but it deals with women, global ugliness, relationships, courage and cowardice,  and does so in an interesting way.  I couldn't put this book down.

If I had to mention one thing that sets this writer right up there with the best, and it is hard to choose just one, I would mention his care with dialogue.  He captures so many ways that English is spoken ... by the Queen, by a Jamaican refugee, by Nigerians, and by a four year old who thinks he is Batman.

I was especially taken by the four year old superhero.

I could hear my grandson Max, the pirate, in every speech.  It made me sad because I haven't seen Max for almost a year, not since we had his birthday party here.

At his daddy's funeral:

"Mummy, where mine daddy is now?"
"Mmmn.  Is mine daddy coming back soon?"

"Is mine daddy in that box?"
"Is that box heaven?"
"Mummy! Get him out!  Get mine daddy out of heaven!"

One of the major themes of the book is what happens when developing countries become inextricably entwined with the politics and economies of the developed nations.  So that is my segue into my views about the G8 and G20 in Toronto.

Toronto, the Violent:

I have been in a great many peaceful demonstrations over the years and my first instinctual response is always to assume that demonstrators will be peaceful if they are allowed to be.

I haven't been avidly following this conference but you would have to be dead not to know that Huntsville has been locked down for some time and the central core of Toronto has been turned into a militarized zone.  I was dismayed by the idea of the sound cannons.

Like most of the commentators I've listened to or read, I thought it was ridiculous to spend the kind of money being spent on this conference; nonsensical to hold it in Toronto which made policing even more expensive; and just plain ludicrous that an artificial Muskoka  lake would be built next door to Lake Ontario.

So all my normal prejudices were solidly in place.  Harper was over reacting and spending OUR money foolishly.

But when I began to read about the senseless violence directed against plate glass store windows, and police cars, my sentiments began to shift.  These demonstrators seemed determined to create trouble rather than making solid political points. 

Of course these economic conferences are always more violent than other protests; I think part of the point they are making forces them to scale walls and climb over razor wire.  Part of the protest is against spending money foolishly on 8 or 20 world leaders when millions of people in those countries are not being fed, let alone feted.  So spending gazillions on security is bound to create more violent behaviour anyway.

But even if one could understand the vandalizing of the police vehicles ... what about those store owners and their businesses?

And then this morning for the first time (remember I was not attempting to follow all this) I heard on CBC about a man who was about 5'4" and 140 pounds who was reporting the conference for the Guardian newspaper in Britain.  The police roughed him up ... twisted his arm behind his back and then, when he was helpless, a third policeman punched him very hard in the stomach.  All the while, he was protesting that he was not resisting arrest, that he was press.  A Canadian reporter witnessed it all and reported it to CBC.  He added the information that not only was the man small and no threat to anyone, he had one kidney and was an asthmatic.

So now all my notions, preconceived and recently formed, have been scrambled.

Maybe we got this much violent behaviour in Toronto because it was provoked ... by the police ... and by a government that expected the worst so it created an environment that encouraged it.

Early this morning I received an email that read:

"If you keep on saying things are going to be bad, you have a good chance of being a prophet." Isaac Bashevis Singer 1904-1991, Journalist and Writer

Mr. Singer died long before Mr. Harper came to power in this country, but he could have been  talking to our prime minister, who has spent six times as much on this summit's security as was spent in Pittsburgh last year ... a summit that was much more peaceful and whose damage was far less costly.

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