It feels hard to write about anything other than the G20 these days, and it feels even harder to say anything original or make sense of it. Even the media is split between reporting on protests and threats, real and imagined, or on the so called "business" at hand for these "very important people" to discuss. Both of these things mean very little in the grand scheme of things, and yet for a week they are omnipresent in the public and media space. And for Toronto and Southern Ontario they do mean a lot…of enormous inconvenience, and everybody I've talked to seems to agree that it's pretty much bullshit. From the cops expanding range of weapons and tactics to the Ontario government's silent passing of draconian laws giving them extra powers to deal with potential muckrackers, the population is being forced to deal with a series of slaps in the face that gives them no tangible benefits. The largest is a suffocated locked down downtown where business can't operate on one of our relatively rare beautiful summer weekends. Even the Conservative government's regular handjob-and-reacharound provider, MacLean's magazine (not that that prevents it from employing some astute columnists and having some very interesting articles sometimes; we make do with what we have in our choice-free Canadian media landscape) , had a lambasting cover recently screaming "What a waste of a billion dollar boondoggle." or some equally sensational vitriol.
It's evident that people are pissed. You don't have to be a patchouli scented stoned unshaven white english speaking B.A. student palestinian activist from Mississauga (sorry, quick stereotype off the top of my head) to be annoyed at the leaders of the twenty richest nations on Earth in terms of GDP (because that's all that matters in the definition of "richness", obviously) putting massive cement walls of tasers and riot gear clad meatheads around themselves while they have a powwow for three days. It is demeaning and insulting to anyone with a little self respect, regardless of their political stripes. The very clear message is we're at the top and you're at the bottom, and that's why you're paying for this security out of your taxes. It's our insurance to make sure you don't cause trouble. Right. And I guess that's the "leader of the free world" you got there in your conference. The president of the United States, Barack Obama, the guy who was supposed to bring "hope" and "change". I guess what he really meant was "pessimism" and "cynicism". I'd feel a lot better if he said that. But of course, we humans are still busy taking ourselves ever so seriously, entrusting authoritarians of various nations who managed to seize their countries media machines far and wide enough to get elected (Berlusconi is the most extreme example; Sarkozy, Harper and Cameron, in that order, all owe their success to the majority of their countries media establishments' love affairs with right wing politics, and China and Russia are just nakedly authoritarian), and listening to their straight faced drivel about the economy, recovery, the environment, and lifting the third world out of poverty. Because they really, really just do want the best for all of us, every one.
The fact that this is not overtly celebrated as high octane, exciting mix of talent and innovation charting a bold new course for our world but rather a meeting of middle aged guys, some more outspoken than others, to discuss vague rhetoric on how to work together, manage the economy and save humanity, tells me there is a dearth of talent in global leadership. Anger at the summit is not so much at why these guys exist as to what do they expect to accomplish? Were centralized political structures in big business' back pocket not so counterintuitive to the successful flourishing of human society, I would advocate for all the excluded nations to hold a meeting somewhere. Unfortunately, they are by and large beseiged by these same parasitic forces.
Take away the world's joke dictators and authoritarian punching bags, like Mugabe, Jong-Il, that asshole in Sudan, and the Silk Road "stan" countries one man post soviet dictatorships, and the men in charge of the G184 want the same things as the men in the G20. Thomas Friedman at the New York Times talks about world issues in these wide reaching, simple, sports coverage-grand bargain terms and deplores the lack of vision and originality across the board in a way I really identify with, but he with his influence remains a believer in the ridiculous core concept that we put all our stock in. Weak or strong at home, favoured or mocked privately by so-called "rich" nations, these G184 leaders legitimize the wills of their peoples and curry favour with the international community by saying the same thing we hear at G20 and Davos and all this other bullshit. The almost seven billion strong potential of diversity in human perspective reduced to a single word at the highest level of basket we put all our democratic eggs in: Growth.
So growth works like this: to be "competitive", a country must do a number of things. #1 – Auction off your natural resources to foreign companies at bargain basement prices. Do not collect any profits or these countries will go to the other places that have the gold, oil, water, coal, or uranium you covet. #2 – Encourage big, established companies to establish themselves in your major cities, or find them yourself. If they ever get too big and find themselves on the wrong end of the business cycle and unable to keep up, bail them out. That is to help #3 – international investors. You need these. Without them, you won't survive. Nobody knows who they are, what they are pursuing or why they do all that crazy international investing that they do but your country's fate lies in their balance. Don't ever let them find out that your consumers have no #4 – Confidence. Oh yeah, about that last rule, your citizens are no longer citizens they are consumers. And they're ability to consume is based on their ability to suspend their disbelief and spend all of the windfall of your short term, short sighted wasteful policies on plastic goods, electronics, new cars, and other various crap that serves no real purpose or benefit. You'll have to prop this up at first by allowing payments to be made on credit, then later by directly subsidizing it. It will be necessary to do this more and more often as the international investors will demand it. 6) Another way you can get money is by tourism – reduce your citizens to zoo exhibits wherever possible. Don't bother telling people to discover your culture or build character by learning something new; make it seem chez vous as much like everywhere else as much as possible. Build hotels, resorts, condos and other various useless structures which will probably not be occupied or enjoyed by many people but are a superficial way to please, oh there they are again, international investors. Equally useful white elephants include massive malls, conference centres, golf courses and highways. There will always be summits where you can reiterate your commitment to international investors in case they start circling like sharks. But these will ring hollower and hollower.
Some day. But not anytime soon. You're a rich nation now. This means you have the right to be among the most indebted on Earth. Your citizens are entitled to a constantly ballooning amount of direct and indirect entitlements, you have to borrow to maintain your outdated infrastructure, your population is aging, you collect fewer taxes to provide more services, and yet the rest of the world is still banging down your door because they think the streets are paved with gold. Welcome to the world of the G20, G184. The G20 dream. Someday, this could be you. You're already working hard to get there.