TOXIC THOUGHT SYNDROME

"Woah woah woah. What in the hell do you mean? First off, I'm not going to get arrested because I'm not going to do anything wrong. I'm certainly not going out there to kick some ass and take some names, I just want to exercise my right to protest. How does that turn into a jail sentence? As far as the notion of things turning violent, there is that possibility. I don't deny that, and I while I do not in any way condone it, I think I have an understanding as to why things do turn out that way."

by Jim Martin

COPYRIGHT © 2002, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


When the hell did it become dangerous to protest? At what point did it suddenly make a whole lot of sense for us as a population to fear standing up for ourselves? Did I miss a memo somewhere along the way?

The G8 Summit steadily approaches, and the locale that they have selected is Sunny Calgary, also known as My Home Town. To a certain extent I have to admit that I am glad that this is taking place in my city so that I can have the opportunity to protest, but I'd be happier if they just stopped having these little meetings altogether.

My ire was raised early on when Prime Minister Chrétien, the disco daddy of Canadian Politics, announced that they would be hosting the next G-8 Summit here. Immediately our own Premier (for those uninitiated, a Prime Minister is similar to a President, and a Premier is the equivalent of a Governor) started weakly voicing his displeasure before kowtowing and agreeing to host the celebration.

The standard response from both friend and foe seems to be that we just couldn't stop it from happening here. I have a simple way of stopping it. Tell the Prime Minister, "We'll host it, but we aren't increasing our staffing levels for police officers and any extra security that either delegate countries or federal agencies deem worthy of bringing in will be immediately asked to leave." Holding a G-8 Summit with no security force might just make a few smiles fade...

We've all pretty much accepted the fact that we are going to have the Summit here, so the question is what do we do now?

Me, I consider this to be an excellent opportunity to stand and be counted. I figure that you have representatives from the wealthiest countries in attendance, and the only human thing to do is to try and make your voice heard. They may choose not to listen, but I feel obligated to try.

What frightens me is how my friends are reacting to my statements. "Jesus, man. You know you're just going to get arrested. It's going to be a violent riot. It's better to not get involved."

Woah woah woah. What in the hell do you mean? First off, I'm not going to get arrested because I'm not going to do anything wrong. I'm certainly not going out there to kick some ass and take some names, I just want to exercise my right to protest. How does that turn into a jail sentence? As far as the notion of things turning violent, there is that possibility. I don't deny that, and I while I do not in any way condone it, I think I have an understanding as to why things do turn out that way.

I say that because I recently wrote a story all about the situation in a protest. To be honest, I have never been in a protest, at least one that had any number of people involved. I tried to imagine what that would be like, and why they so often turned ugly. In the hopes that the story gets published I'm not going to go into the details here, but suffice to say that storm troopers beating war marches on their Plexiglas shields might just have something to do with things.

Are we really better off staying safely out of the line of fire? I doubt that. On a microscopic and selfish level, I put myself at a much greater risk if I am the one standing in the heart of the protest, I don't deny that. But what is the greater impact if we throw a protest and nobody comes? What happens to our rights if nobody stands up to protect them? Like it or not, corporations and government ultimately don't give a shit about opposing positions, but they are kept in line primarily by people standing up and calling them on their mistakes.

If you don't protest, I can only assume you like it. This is the mind frame of the abusive boyfriend, though, isn't it? Bitch asked for it. You never told me not to. Well, I'm not prepared to take that stance. When we agree, I'll tell you, and when we disagree, you'll hear about it.

Throughout the world we are products of standing up and saying no. We have seen Communism in Russia fall. We have seen the French and American Revolutions. The trouble is that the actions that the heroes of old took to stand up and be counted, whether through a physical rebellion or passive resistance are great for historical reference, but we don't seem to like them as much when it's us in the gun sights.

Imagine what would have happened if Ghandi had said, "Vishnu, man. I'm just going to get arrested, or it might turn violent, so it's better not to get involved. Where would Ben Kingsley be? More importantly, where would India be?

Protest isn't a sign of corruption, it's the impetus for societal growth.

What it boils down to is that I don't feel like living scared anymore. I'm right tired of having people tell me that the fact that I don't agree with them about something makes me a dangerous force. I'm not going to let other people dictate my future without at least trying to have some say in things.

I refuse to lie down and be pessimistic. You know how the optimist thinks the glass is half full and the pessimist thinks it's half empty? Well, I'm just trying to figure out who stole half my beer.

I think that Joel Schalit said it very well in his recent interview with Charles Shaw of 3am:

"Bear in mind I do not agree with the WTO rioters. I unilaterally condemn violence in any form. There is no room on the Left for violence or smashing windows of stores. People make a living at Starbucks and the GAP. You take one of these stores out, you deprive someone of a week's wages or more, and that's fucked up! Violence does not serve the Left whatsoever because it replicates on a smaller scale the level of violence that the state has a monopoly on. It cannot be tolerated. It's morally wrong, it discredits us, and the people most affected are not the corporate people to whom it is directed but the working class people who get caught in the crossfire."