M.I.A. At The G20

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

Taking The Low Road Out Of Town

The original plan was to cancel my scheduled trip and stick around town for the week, get a close up, bird’s eye view at what would most certainly be an eventful few days around town. Or maybe it would all amount to little more than The Big Fizzle. Could they erect a temporary police state and nobody shows up to the party? What’s that you say? The successful spending of a billion dollars for preventative measures?

But then Urban Sophisticat announced that he was bailing. An unexpected invite to a friend of a friend’s cabin in the woods, far away from all the fuss and bother, to kick back and luxuriate in a self-imposed media blackout, free from what will surely be a crescendo of hysteria and nefarious terrorist/protestor spotting. That he also gets a break from the incessant World Cup chatter is only an added bonus for him.

And then Acaphlegmic reappeared after a long absence, sporting what he referred to as a spirit of ’68 glint in his eye. There was a certain unsettling bounce in his step, a swagger one might say. It even looked like he might’ve been working out. He was more buff than a man his age should be. I told him as much. “Hey. We didn’t start this thing,” he responded. “They came in and hijacked our house.” Oh, good christ. He’s juiced. Again. This wasn’t going to be about political protest. What I was witnessing was an incipient case of roid rage.

So I decided to pick up stakes and head out as planned. Off to a quinquennial gathering of the clan with the hopes of finally settling the matter of a new sporran design. Leaving behind one wall, I would spend the week behind another; older but equally as ineffectual in the long run. Like Hadrian, you can try and keep people out but you can’t stop the free flow of ideas forever. And in Scotland, I’ll get a few days enjoying soccer, free of the dismissive taunts of those who aren’t even willing to try and understand the appeal of the sport. “No, it is not called the Beautiful Game because we’re watching it in HD.”

Yes, I’m probably acquiescing to the intimidating barks of law and order or just simply threatened by inconvenience. The preparations all seem so unnecessary, provocative even. It’s like this place was chosen to prove a point. We are important. We and what We represent are unassailable. We are not afraid of you. You cannot sequester Us out in the middle of nowhere. You cannot keep Us from exerting Our will.

In the face of that, Acaphlegmic and his ilk are right. Sometimes you do have to make a stand. Sometimes you have to strike a blow against egregious shows of force and intimidation. Fight fire with fire. Sometimes, as Ferris Bueller once stated, you just have to say, what the fuck.

Once more to the barricades, my friends! I will be watching and pulling for you from afar. If you would be so kind, could you organize your news breaking events when the World Cup isn’t airing any games. That would be from 1230-2130 GMT (0730-1630 local time). And if you could keep your rampages away from our offices that too would be appreciated. We haven’t kept up with all our insurance payments. Some cash flow problems lately. You know how those companies can be. Damages due to riots and civil unrest are most definitely not covered. Read the fine print.

Firth of Forthly submitted by Cityslikr

Meet A Mayoral Candidate XVIII

It’s Friday. That means Meet A Mayoral Candidate post here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. Here are some perfunctory !!!s to denote enthusiasm.

I am writing in place of the usual MAMC©™® contributor Cityslikr who seems to be suffering from a toxic mix of World Cup fever (its megacoverage is literally making him sick) and bile from attending two mayoral debates on successive nights this week. He’s been reduced to a simpering state of mental incontinence, so the call has been made to the bullpen.

Today: Andrew Barton for Mayor.

Now no one should mistake the lack of enthusiasm on display here as any negative reflection of Mr. Barton. In fact, assume just the opposite. He is a self-described “scientifictionist (writer and reader of science fiction literature), photographic dabbler and transit nerd.” His blog, acts of minor treason, reveals an engaged, articulate, progressive leaning young man who has “goggles on”. Why he thought it necessary to point that fact out under his photo is somewhat unclear but it struck me as funny and endearing, and not at all in a patronizing way.

His thoughts on transit are very incisive and well-informed, both about our very own TTC and other systems around the world. It isn’t merely the knowledge of political motivation or idle curiosity. Mr. Barton is a daily transit user and proudly announces that he doesn’t own a car and doesn’t want to own one. He possesses a driver’s license purely in order to purchase alcohol which makes him our kind of people if a good chunk younger since he’s still actually worried about getting carded.

Barton also writes very smartly on such topics as the importance of culture, environmental initiatives and governance issues. In his initial declaration of seeking the mayor’s office, Barton advocates for the intriguing idea of crowdsourcing. This is an inclusive (some say possibly exploitive) proposition of handing over projects, development or research to the wider community usually via this thing here we call the interwebs. Certainly from a governmental standpoint, one of the benefits would be an increased sense of participation within the general public which could not be a bad thing.

If I have one beef with the Barton campaign so far it would be the lack of an easily identified, unified platform. While front running candidates like George Smitherman and Rob Ford can get away with that, it makes it tough for the voting public to discover new voices and ideas. I get paid whatever the proper adverbily opposite of handsome is to search out worthy candidates toiling outside the spotlight. Most folks don’t have the time. Give us old technogoofs a fully functioning website, Mr. Barton, and don’t hand those in charge of designating ‘credible’ mayoral candidates any further excuses to keep you wallowing in obscurity.

Because that’s what’s going on at the moment which is part of the reason for our growing discouragement. There seems to be some sort of orchestrated effort during this mayoral campaign to keep new ideas and new, viable candidates from participating in any meaningful manner. Or maybe that’s just giving in to easy conspiracy thinking. In all likelihood it can be chalked up to nothing more than laziness. Of those whose job it is to cover the election as well as the voting public, desirous to get behind a candidate as long as there’s not too much work involved in the process.

So interesting candidates like this one get lost in the shuffle of our indifference. That’s a shame. If we all were doing our homework, we might be listening to what the likes of Andrew Barton is saying. Once he gives us that campaign website.

dutifully submitted by Urban Sophisticat