Dear G8/G20 Protesters,
Once, when I was a child, I felt that my teacher had treated me unfairly. She had taken another student’s side even when the weight of evidence clearly fell toward me being the slighted one. She then told the principal about the incident, and I was left to feel even more slighted.
In response, I tried to reason with my teacher. She ignored me. I pointed out the effect that her stupid assessment of the situation had on me and my friends. She did nothing. I brought in a friend to give an outside opinion. She laughed him off.
So, I did what came completely naturally at that point: I threw a rip-snorting tantrum.
I screamed at the other kids about the unfairness of the situation. I threw their books out the window. I kicked over their desks. I made abusive signs on construction paper and waved them in the faces of passing teachers. When the vice principal came to the classroom to calm me down, I peed in a bottle and threw it at him.
And do you know what happened? The principal conceded that my points had merit and suspended my teacher without pay for three months. I was hailed a hero by my classmates.
They also named the school after me.
Of course, none of this story is true.
First of all, I can’t remember the last time that someone conceded a rational point because someone screamed it at them over and over again and then started throwing and breaking things. Generally, we ignore people who do that.
Secondly, I’ve never felt that throwing a fit was even a last-resort means of getting what I want. I’m pretty sure I learned that lesson when I was about two years old. I plan on teaching it to my daughter as soon as she can pick up and throw something. I’ll also teach her that hurling abuse at people that are paid to protect her from murderers and psychopaths – people that have taken an oath to put their lives in danger to protect ours – is never an acceptable way to deal with perceived unfairness.
Thirdly, real change cannot come from anger and violence. Sure, you might bully some people into doing something in the short term, but they’ll just return the favour as soon as they can gather up some friends to help.
When Gandhi wanted to protest something, he found ways to do it that positively affected the people around him. He would do things like get a bunch of people to march out to the ocean and make salt. Why salt? Well, since the British government was unfairly taxing salt, Gandhi saw a way to act out civil disobedience such that the end result was productive and relevant to the cause.
This may come as a shock to you, but burning a cop car does not count as a productive bit of protest. Nor does flipping off cops. Or smashing windows.
The right to peacefully protest is one of the things that makes Canada a great country. It needs to be there. I get that. You have the right to go out and scream at cops and wave signs at world leaders. You have the right to bang your drum and flip people off and generally act like a bullying goon.
And I have the right to tell you this:
Never has there been a better way to direct attention away from your cause than by acting the way you did in Toronto.