I had every intention of ignoring the G20. As previously stated, I didn’t know where I stood on all the issues I thought were at play, and thus didn’t want to align myself with a side that I didn’t agree with completely.
In that vein, I tried to avoid it as much as possible. I skipped town for the beginning and hid out off-campus at the end. This week, I had every intention of blogging about the June blues and my most recent obsession, floral prints.
But as I sat down to write that article, I found myself floundering. Maybe it was that whenever I logged onto Facebook, I would see photos of my friends’ bruises from police batons (scroll down to 3.15), or status updates that were either (1) upsetting personal accounts of the way protesters had been treated followed by formulaic debates, or (2) (often) ignorant and offensive defenses of the police.
And so here I am, blogging about the very thing I told myself I wouldn’t blog about. Yesterday over lunch with a friend, we theorized that there would be a mass Facebook de-friending in the wake of the protests because of its polarizing effect. Indeed, in conversations I have had all week online and in-person, there seems to be no middle ground. Either the police are given carte blanche and completely justified in everything they did and do, or they are ultimately evil, planting cop cars as bait for rioters to blow up/torch/burn/vandalize and inciting violence amongst protesters.
What do I think? Well student lifers, that’s kind of why I wanted to avoid this whole thing to begin with. I don’t know what I think. Ridiculous as it is that a Poli Sci specialist would want to avoid all things Summit, it’s actually because I’ve studied these issues (and heard convincing arguments on either side of any one of them) that I don’t know where I stand.
But, note! When I say “these issues” I’m referring to the things the G20 stands for, the things that the protesters are actually protesting. Capitalism, free trade, globalization. And in my experience, those haven’t been the hot-button issues this week, with people instead arguing over whether the protests themselves were just.
On that tip, I can come out unequivocally saying that I believe in free speech. I might even call it an inalienable human right. You know, just off the top. I can also say that I don’t like my friends being beaten up or arrested, or walking around traumatized in their city, but that I don’t believe Canadian police would plant cop cars as bait.
Though I don’t know, because by design I wasn’t there, I’m thinking the truth is somewhere in between, with neither the protesters morally immaculate, nor the police. Something I do think though, that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, is what the real ramifications of the Summit are. There was a lot of talk about all the money spent on it—$1.1 billion last I checked—but what about the other costs?
One of my favourite concepts in economics is social cost and benefit – the idea is that there can be costs and benefits to society that are not included in the market price of something. Applying this model to the G20, I’d argue that the cost greatly exceeds the projected billion-and-one. First off, the bank, business and school closures (which we at U of T know *nothing* about) which went largely unsubsidized by the government. Then, the vandalism. Most notably, though, the cost to our Canadian psyches of seeing lines and lines of police blocking streets; of hearing horrible accounts of what went down; of being inundated with Youtube clips of people dragged away like ragdolls on the streets you walk to school on. Can we put a dollar amount on losing faith in our government?
I kind of feel like we’re a city in disrepair at the moment, with people feeling traumatized, conflicted, disillusioned, and out of sync with fellow Torontonians. On the bright side, if we’ve ever needed a festival of unbridled celebration, we need one now.