It was Sunday morning, the day after major protests against the G20 in Toronto.
I was on my way to the temporary G20 jail on Eastern Avenue. I was planning to partake in the peaceful jail solidarity that started at 10 that morning. (turned out to be a police riot)
I was on a street car running east down Queen West when I noticed them, the cops on every single corner. They were stopping passersby, randomly searching them and in some cases detaining them. The blatant illegality of it made me mad but what made me feel horrified was how comfortable other pedestrians were with the whole situation.
The scene was eerily reminiscent of Alfonzo Curzon’s film Children of Men. A militarized society is just part of the everyday. Fences, random searches, detentions, riots, snatch vans, cops on every corner become indistinguishable from shopping, tourism, and home cooked meals.
Of course this reality is part of the everyday in countries and communities which live under occupation or engaged in civil conflict. And there can be no doubt that this overt police violence is just the visible expression of the systematic violence which the government wages upon marginalized communities everyday. The point isn’t how can that happen here. Rather the point is how can such overt violence and authoritarianism be so quickly incorporated into the logic of our society?
To answer that question we must turn our gaze to inside the fence. The G20, a self-appointed body and manager of the global economy, got together and called for the greatest collective round of austerity measures in recent history. Government deficits will be slashed in half by 2013. Governments around the world will have to cut spending and raise taxes. The type of taxes that will be raised and the government programs that are on the chopping block will target the poor and marginalized communities. The G20 communique released on Sunday was not a road map to economic recovery but a declaration of class war.
Naomi Klein put it succinctly, “faced with the effects of a crisis created by the world’s wealthiest and most privileged strata, they (G20) decided to stick the poorest and most vulnerable people in their countries with the bill.
Inside, absolute systematic violence was being planned against the poor, racialized and marginalized communities, pensioners, and students. The sycophants in the media have by and large accepted the new order of things and begun to spout the new economic line and demonize those who resist it.
Outside, those who voice dissent are beaten, jailed, searched, terrorized, and subject to egregious slander. Our rights become contingent upon the security of the very leaders who are making our lives insecure. Some have called this the Miami Model: heavy police presence, demonization, mass arrests and the curbing of rights. (http://www.thestar.com/article/828876–porter-when-police-stick-to-phony-script)
This model, is the new normal. The economic dictatorship of capital has to deal with multiple points of contention and contradiction at once: the global north’s consumer driven economy of cheap credit is faltering, the looming, across the board, environmental crisis and the massive growth of absolute disparity of wealth.
To solve these crises, contradictions, tensions or whatever in-vogue marxist term you would like to insert, the elite can no longer rely on propaganda alone. The authoritarianism, latent within the state and corporate institutions, will be called upon to visibly to suppress dissent and enforce increasingly unpopular economic, environmental and social policies.
This will not happen overnight and it will not happen without a concurrent process of normalization. Those who want the slow grind of exploitation to continue, those protected by fences, those on the inside, will need to centralize their powers or risk losing them all together.
Those of us on the outside need to find effective strategies to combat this. We must not rely on our rights nor on the charter. They can be too easily circumvented when they are needed most. We must recognize that we need a whole new language of democracy and rights. We must push for democracy based on justice and equality in all aspects of our lives.
In Toronto we saw the world that awaits us, a world that exists for many. A world that too many people are willing to accept.
In Toronto we saw horrific repression. Horrific in the sense that it happened all too quickly, all too easily.
(Next post, I will talk about the actual protests)