Yesterday, a woman screamed at me and called me various pejorative terms, bitch and cunt among them. She then promised that she would ‘get’ me outside of the centre, augmenting the statement later to say that she would gather a group of friends to beat me to death. At this point, she began punching the piano where she sat, and then grabbed a closed can of Pepsi and punched it into the wood, causing a minor explosion and spraying pop into my eyes.
My crime? I’m not really sure. I like this woman, and she’d been giving me high-fives throughout the afternoon. We played bingo together. Also, she claimed that I was her daughter. She was clearly upset about something, though.
After the scary woman left my workplace and I’d washed the toxic corn syrup from my eyes, I watched the news coverage of the G20 summit, and the protests today in Toronto - the most violent in Canada’s history.
Amidst the pictures of bleeding civilians and riot police beating batons, various officials from all levels of government have condemned the non-peaceful protests. A police chief used the word ‘wanton.’ Certainly, angry. The smashed storefronts and torched police cruisers speak for themselves.
Now...I work with the homeless and don’t eat meat. I like to think that I’m a good person. And I know firsthand how scary it can be when things get violent. Seriously...corn syrup, sprayed in my eyes. Obviously, there were many victims of those protests - people who were scared, people whose property was damaged, and people who were hurt.
But...violence can have meaning. Violence is powerful. Violence is employed, all the time, by the powers-that-be, and violence of disenfranchised passion for change, when its directed exclusively at inanimate objects...I can respect that, kind of.
The targeting of storefronts and empty cars full of police ammunition - it’s not exactly the same as punching a kitten, you know? I express outrage all the time - there is so much that happens, every day, that makes me furious. And if I thought it could actually change things, and make the world a better place, or at least communicate clearly how fucked up things are - I might throw a rock through a storefront or two. And I have to admit it’s a fantasy of mine to throw a molotov cocktail into a police car (it would be empty, though. Seriously.)
Unemployed kids standing up against the man? Taking to the streets? Screaming that this is THEIR city and country, that it belongs to them, not corporations and conservative minorities, and that military police in terrifying riot gear will not intimidate them...these things bring me great happiness, on the inside.
I’m way too chickenshit to do any of these things myself...and I’m not an anarchist, I don’t think. I believe in trying to find solutions within the current system whenever possible. But the system is, in so many ways, fundamentally broken. And the willingness of downtrodden citizens to scream and smash and say that we will not tolerate the intolerable...it’s the founding principal of democracy. It’s enough to make me proud to be Canadian.
Scream on, angry mob. May the flame of your passion burn the vehicles of oppressive authority, quite literally. I didn’t hear any reports of police injuries, today...but you, the mob, will be hurt. And arrested. And subject to much ridicule, and probably called a bunch of whiny spoiled brats (by baby boomers with very selective memory). You’ll bear the brunt of it all, because the system is set up that way, and you are all small and squishable and the big guys always win.
It’s wrong to hurt people. It’s wrong to cause pain. But sometimes, it’s the right thing to scream.