“Torontonamo Bay”

Toronto just finished hosting the G20 Summit, which literally lasted about eight hours in our city. The meeting got started at around 9am on Sunday and by 5pm leaders were already on their way out of town. An eight-hour meeting sure cost a whole lot and wreaked a whole lot of havoc.

I was glued to live news coverage on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday I skipped out on plans and watched the news from about 5pm until midnight. On Sunday, after participating in the completely peaceful, happy, and fun bike rally protest for a couple of hours, I was glued to the TV again from about 5:30pm until 11pm. I want to say that CP24 did an amazing job…for those two days…covering the vandalizing and police standoffs. It would have been nice if they had also provided wall-to-wall, commercial-free coverage of the demonstrations that took place all week—thousands of people in the days before the summit peacefully demonstrating on the streets of Toronto, getting their message out. That wasn’t so interesting, you see, because there were no assholes lighting police cars on fire.

Where were the media for the “Shout Out For Global Justice,” which took place at Massey Hall and featured Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, and Maude Barlow (among others)? And when Naomi Klein led the entire audience on a peaceful walk to the temporary “tent city” at Allen Gardens in solidarity with the homeless, where were the media? And when Allen Gardens became a peaceful dance party? That wasn’t so interesting to the media since there were no assholes smashing store windows.

What occurred this past weekend in Toronto was nothing short of a clusterfuck. These meetings should not be held in densely populated urban settings. They should not cost, for two days, what the United Nations spends in an entire year. They should be held in places that are already fortified and secure enough to protect the heads of state that reside in them—the White House, Parliament Hill, Downing Street, the Palace…or the freakin’ UN! And they should not pick the pockets of cities, small-business owners, and residents when it’s the federal government making the decisions.

There’s a lot to say about the G20, the politics, and what happened in Toronto on the weekend. There is a vast echo chamber now and there’s little chance I’ll say something that hasn’t already been said. Except for one thing.

Yesterday there was another demonstration, an extremely peaceful and massive “jail solidarity” demo for the 900+ people who were arrested and detained in the makeshift detention centre. I heard two or three people who were interviewed on the news refer to the detainment facility as “Torontonamo Bay.” And today I read the report of Cameron Fenton, a 24-year-old who was arrested and detained for 17 hours; he referred to the detention centre as “tantamount to torture.”

No one is denying that the conditions at the detention facility were bad—they probably were terrible. I would have been miserable if I had had to stay there for even 3 hours, let alone 24. I would likely be complaining about it to anyone who would listen. I might even be seeking legal representation. But let’s be reasonable and respectful. There are innocent people at Guantanamo Bay and other detention facilities overseas who have been held—without charges, without lawyers, without habeas corpus—for many, many years. There are innocent people in these facilities (and some who are likely not innocent) who have been tortured. Truly tortured. To compare your treatment for 12, 17, or 24 hours at a makeshift detainment facility in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to a military-run torture centre that exists in a legal no-man’s land is completely ignorant. It’s akin to comparing Barack Obama, Stephen Harper, or anyone besides Hitler, to Hitler. It’s like Gretchen Carlson comparing her job as a talk-show host to that of the President of the United States.

People who have been held in a legal abyss and who have truly been tortured would likely have a thing or two to say about your experience versus theirs. So no more of this “Torontonamo Bay” and “tantamount to torture” bullshit. If you want to have your issues taken seriously, then be serious.

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Humankind — only two hours old

“…imagine that the earth—four thousand six hundred million years old—[were] a forty-six-year-old woman…. It had taken the whole of the Earth Woman’s life for the earth to become what it was. For the oceans to part. For the mountains to rise. The Earth Woman was eleven years old…when the first single-celled organisms appeared. The first animals, creatures like worms and jellyfish, appeared only when she was forty. She was over forty-five—just eight months ago—when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The whole of human civilization as we know it began only two hours ago in the Earth Woman’s life…. It was an awe-inspiring and humbling thought…that the whole of contemporary history, the World Wars, the War of Dreams, the Man on the Moon, science, literature, philosophy, the pursuit of knowledge—was no more than a blink of the Earth Woman’s eye.”        – Arundhati Roy, from The God of Small Things

I think about this quotation a lot. It truly is humbling. First of all, it puts the earth and our place on it into perspective. I have a feeling that if we as a people don’t stop our destruction of the earth, she’ll just boot us off and start all over again. She’s been here infinitely longer than humanity has been, and will likely be here long after we’re gone.

This quotation also brings me some small bit of comfort when I start thinking about the state of the world, with all its corruption, discord, conflict, intolerance, discrimination, oppression, violence, and war. I remind myself that humankind is just an infant, which is why people act infantile so much of the time. I remind myself of this when I think about the fact that people do not solve problems with grace, diplomacy, tact, compassion, and maturity, but with violence, vengeance, pettiness, pride, and jingoism.

The hatred, intolerance, and violence—will it end when humankind “grows up”? I wish I could live long enough to know the answer to this, but it won’t reveal itself until millions of years hence.

In the meantime, it’s a worthwhile pursuit for humanity to keep striving to be wise and mature beyond its years.