Monday, 28 June 2010

G20 Thoughts

If there is one concept that eluded the G20 organizers throughout this whole debacle is that Toronto (as any other urban setting) is a city that belongs to the people.  You cannot deny people access to their own city where they work live and play and be consistent with the democratic principles that our country was founded on.  If you want to host a large secure exclusive access meeting in a state controlled city, it should be held in Beijing or Pyongyang.  Not in Toronto, Seattle, London, etc.

Now that we are in the aftermath component,  a lot of people are taking sides in the police vs. protester debates.  Others are trying to fence sit and point out mistakes were made on both sides.

That misses the point in my view.  We are not learning the lessons of mob vs. mob confrontation.  

Mobs are interesting beasts.  Any group of people above a certain size loses the characteristics of the individuals and becomes a living breathing organism of its own.  It has emotions, attitudes and takes actions.  Generally speaking the emotion of a mob reflects primal emotions.  Fear, Anger, and sometimes brotherhood (such as when the Jays won the World Series and it seemed all of Toronto mobbed Yonge St.  That was a good fun mob.)  Mobs can quickly get of control and cause mayhem and destruction.  Which is why police and other organizations trained in mob (they call it "crowd" but I use mob on purpose) control focus on breaking up the mob as quickly as possible into small groups of dazed individuals.  Hence the tear gas, water cannons, etc.  The training is centered on doing this as quickly (which others see as brutally) as possible.  They do not have the luxury of time to determine individual motives and capabilities.  In a mob, an individual becomes part of the larger whole and must be separated as surgically and quickly as possible.

You may disagree with this assessment, but please wait, I'm going to expand further.  Even so, this is definitively the view of the police, military and any other organizations that are given the responsibility of mob control.  This is how they see it, and good luck changing that if you disagree.

But that point of view ignores another fact.  Once you have a large group of police and other law enforcement individuals gathered together, you are creating another mob.  This mob has different training, organization and intent.   Which is what makes it scary.  Because mobs amplify primal emotions, when officers trained in applied violence lose control, whomever opposes them suffers.  It is only the training and (more importantly) the personal willpower of the police officers involved that overcomes the mob impulse.  But officers are just as human as the people in the mob they are sent to control.

What results is a volatile mix.  Shit happens, and events spiral out of control.  We are mixing a high octane fule in an oxygen rich environment with lots of ignition sources.  Sure, you can do that safely, but if things blow up on you, it should not be a surprise.

And yet, we are constantly "surprised" when violence happens at these things.  Which brings me full circle to my introductory paragraph.  Toronto is a city that belongs to the people.  It does not belong to the state.  As soon as you require a large security presence to deny the people access to their city, you have created that fuel and oxygen mixture.  All it needs is a simple spark.

So the action I propose for urban and provincial leaders when the feds come calling to host an event like this, just say no.  Publicly deny them the "right" to use your city for their purposes.  Because we all know IT. WILL. NOT. GO. WELL.  Wishing otherwise, and using "if only the people would just.." type thinking is foolhardy in the extreme.  History is repeating constantly here, and it is time to put a stop to it.

Anyone else that remains unconvinced, and still thinks these events should occur in large urban centres, click this link. That is what the world is going to remember.



Ken Breadner said...

Oh, well written! I love it when somebody turns my head around. My own post on this reflects a naive idealism I can't help but feel sometimes.
Nice injection of reality, there, Catelli!

Catelli said...


It was your post that prompted this, because it got me thinking, why does this happen the same way every time?

Because you beat me to it, you made me look for a new perspective.

So thanks for that too!