M.I.A. At The G20

June 28, 2010

All things considered, I guess arriving back home with only an hour delay should be considered a pleasant surprise. As we approached Pearson airport last night, the pilot informed us that we should buckle in due to reports of ‘weather’ on the ground. Certainly the plane circled in the dark clouds and growing dusk for a time but the landing was no more adventurous than many I’ve sat through.

It was raining for sure, more startling to my eye perhaps due to the fact that I’d just spent 6 days in Scotland without seeing more than a wee dram of the stuff. Hey! You’re looking tanned. Been down south recently? No, Scotland. What?!?

We sat for a spell on the tarmac, waiting for gate personnel to come and free us, again due to the earlier deluge. There was no reason to suspect otherwise. That is, until I caught sight of this monstrously huge, unmarked, half-cargo/half-military plane taxiing on past us on the right and into the darkness ahead. Ah, yes. The G20’s packing up and heading out. Moments later, our plane lurched forward to the gate.

Truth be told, in the part of the world I was holed up in during the course of the G8/G20 meetings there wasn’t much talk of them. Granted, I was in the soccer mad U.K. although they still insist on calling it ‘football’ despite the fact that what we play over here is called ‘football’, leading only to confusion and Three’s Company-like conversational mix-ups. Not much else but soccer was talked about and with England’s humiliating ouster at the hands of Germany yesterday, it will continue to be so in all likelihood until the qualifiers for 2014 start up again in a couple years’ time.

We heard about the outbreak of violence on Saturday, of course. The main point of the exercise, I imagine. There were images of the suited G8ers, glad-handing and photo-opping in front of Muskoka backdrops. As for the details of what was going on inside the gathering? Nothing much aside from many commentators pointing out that the annual aid pledges promised to the developing world were less than the cost of hosting this particular 3 day event.

According to the statement our Prime Minister released at the confab’s conclusion, it appears that the deficit hawks in the crowd won the day. Countries have vowed to start cutting and slashing their spending and wrestling down their debts and deficits starting almost immediately. The PM assured us that Canada would lead by example, hitting its targets ahead of schedule. It will be interesting to see if we’re more willing to keep that promise than we’ve been with past declarations of international aid.

Making my way uneventfully from the airport and into a cab, the drive home was tinged with the surreal. There was no westbound traffic on the Gardiner except for the two motorcades that zipped past us. Motorcades. Huh. Our driver seemed skittish and told me that it had been a crazy weekend. A moving target of road closures and detours. As if to prove his point, he attempted to turn north from Lakeshore only to be sent back west by a traffic cop blocking the street. This, however, seemed to be G20 non-related and more to do with the earlier weather event, what with the massive pool of water in the road and a downed hydro pole nearby.

We wound our way through unfamiliar territory all of which was very quiet and peaceful. Granted, it was 10:30 on a wet Sunday night so I’m not sure what I was expecting. It was only when we reached College Street that some life seemed to pop back into the streets. But there’s nothing really all that unusual with that, right?

Once home and slightly unpacked, I began to comb through in more detail the reports of what happened here over the weekend. Again. Huh. As bad as the doomsayers predicted? Well, there were no dead bodies on the streets but outside of that, despite all of the military tactical planning, serious violence against property erupted, civil rights were egregiously trampled upon and nothing more came of the proceedings than an attempted buffing up of the justifiably damaged neo-liberal brand.

Likewise, I too feel shamed. For choosing convenience over conviction and allowing myself to be chased from the city by the braying of the law and order crowd. Retrospectively reading through the stream of information that emerged over the course of the weekend – much of it in real time – it is clear that a significant segment of this city’s population was traumatized by the show of force shown on both sides of the (figurative… and quite possibly, literal) fence. And I was m.i.a.

What would my presence here have accomplished? Next to nothing, I’m sure, except maybe bearing witness to the imperious show of power. Citizens’ rights were summarily rescinded while I was off drinking beer and watching soccer in the warm Scottish sunshine. A scenario, I must admit, that is depressingly routine (minus the Scottish sunshine angle).

So to those of you who remained here and got involved, recorded the events for posterity and maybe even were detained or arrested, my heartfelt apologies for abandoning you and this city during a time of need. It is due to attitudes like mine and my cavalier approach to our rights and responsibilities as citizens of a democracy that allow our elected officials to behave as if there are no consequences or repercussions to their actions.  They cannot be held accountable from afar and no few hundred words in hindsight will change that. Again, my sincerest of apologies.

And if there’s anything I can do to make it up to you…

supplicantly submitted by Cityslikr