The G-8 meeting just ended. No that anybody really noticed. The town of Muskoka, where it was held, awakes from virtual lock-down, emerging from it like from some sort of strange dream. Not a nightmare mind you, but a strange one. What was is all about? Who was here and what for? It used be (really, just a few years ago) that you could see presidents and prime ministers strolling through park, through streets. Not alone, of course. With an entourage of security officers, but still visible, still in the open, still somewhat approachable. Now it is all some sort of strange gatherings more akin to Munich of the 1930. or Yalta of 1940 than a friendly , even if businesslike, gathering of leaders of world democracies. And the word “democracies” is really the key in all of it. Democracy by it virtue implies openness, transparency, questioning, open debate. It is not a Congress of Vienna of 1815 where the emperors of Europe decided the fate of million of its subjects, national borders, spheres of influences. All in the secrecy of a palatial royal castle. Where the citizens of Vienna would even dream of asking questions or protesting. But we outgrew that anachronistic model. We do not have (for practical reasons, at least) ‘God appointed and anointed sovereigns – we have a seasonal employees or servants whom we elected for short time to look after our affairs. Or did we? Or are they? Servants or masters?
It is not really typical rhetorical question or a manner of speech. It is the quintessential question of our society. The answer decides whether we are citizens or subjects. A fundamental difference. Are we being told what to do or are we telling our chosen temporary leaders what they have to do? In a word : is it still a democracy or just a miss-moniker of the term?
To a degree it is a question much more important than any issues decided at the meeting of G-8 and it’s protesters.
Alas, the more colourful theater of a strange comedia del’arte starts in earnest in Toronto. The G-20 meeting. The one we paid for with a handsome sum of well over a billion dollars. By “we” – I mean really us, the taxpayers. We paid it to protect the leaders of 20 countries from us. Sounds a bit paranoid? Well, perhaps it is. Specially, that so far the G-20 appears to be a summit of protesters, not governments. Toronto looks a lot like Warsaw did in one infamous night of December 13 1981. The night martial law was invoked by, than communist, government of Poland.
That also begs another question; who are we as a society anno domini 2010 in North America? With the enormous and ever growing security apparatus of our state. And not the one facing outside, the one to protect the borders. The one inside. The one watching us, citizens. It almost resembles the Orwellian atmosphere of the McCarthy era in USA in the 1950. The way we interact with our policeman. Is it the same we did 20 years ago? Or is it based on fear, intimidation? Is it still a society where you are innocent until proven guilty (and the onus being on the authority, not the citizen) or has it changed to: potentially all are guilty, until they (citizens) prove otherwise?