This is the most cosmopolitan city in the world. There are more different kinds of people living close together here than anywhere else.
We won the battle of Toronto with empty hands and open hearts. But we are losing the war.
We have seen the future. This is it. More troops, more brutality, more police pretending to be protestors and smashing whatever they want at $80/hour, more acceptance from a population that will submit to any limitation on its freedom as long as it can pay someone to make them feel temporarily safe.
We were brave. We have been hunted on our own turf like dogs. We love dogs, and find no animosity in our hearts even for the horses that bore down on us over and over.
“Son,” I’ve been saying to my tall fourteen-year-old, “we should do something together as father and son. Shoot some pool, maybe catch a movie.” In the end, the bonding activity was to be hunted by cavalry and foot soldiers amongst campus buildings in which I have often taught, near Knox Church where pictures of our great great and great great great grandfather hangs. Our people have been protestant for a long time. We didn’t go looking for trouble that day, but we dealt with it.
“Sons,” I say to both my sons now, “I’ve got two words for you now: Par-kour.” Things change.
We will probably not be so lucky again. Many, many were not. We honour our fallen comrades. “If you go a third day into that,” my wife said, “you will not come back.”
They didn’t teargas us because their horses were so thick in our midst. We are Scottish from way back. Scottish we are—when we are not the people who have canoed the Great Lakes for five thousand years. In either case we knew and know what the English can do. We remembered things from deep down inside, the feel of being prey. Above us a hawk flew. Many of us pointed up to it.
The fight must be waged with empty hands. If we had done anything—anything at all to even the odds and make it something like a fair fight against these massively outfitted warriors—even so much as raising a stick, they would have killed us on the spot. We’re not naïve. We understood that what we were in was a rout, a defeat, at best an organized withdrawal. That the only victory, if there could be one, would be on camera for a world we could seduce away from football only with the spectacle of our suffering.
And yet we understand today what the bourgeois left, with its stern and pompous little warnings against what it calls violence, will only understand when future generations look back at them in anger. This is why we do not chide any person who, hounded from pillar to post for the crime of wishing to walk in her neighborhood, smashes the icons of our capitalist basilica, our holy of holies, our glass, our possessions, our things.
Is there anything more smug than bourgeois people offering to be scandalized by broken glass? The slightest disintegration of their spectacle unnerves them. “Violence!” they cry.
By violence, they do not wish to indicate the forty thousand children who die each day from hunger and other capitalist depredations. They do not mean the millions of children forced each day into servitude around the world to keep them in cargo. By violence they mean the destruction of objects.
“I agree with peaceful protesting,” they say, like they’re offering some special indulgence, “but I think it’s terrible when there’s violence.” Oh, thank-you, Pope of Peoria.
It’s pathetic. Perhaps an undercover cop at $80/hour breaks the glass of the American franchises or perhaps it’s some kid who has understood justice and decided to act. That’s not the important question. The real question is: Why is the franchise there destroying the neighborhood and leaving its backtrail of environmental filth in the first place?
To the tongue cluckers we say: Do you think future generations will be as indulgent with you as you are with yourselves, you pompous whitewashed sepulchers? Stop destroying the world, and we’ll worry about some plate glass later.
I have seen my ten-year-old attacked in broad daylight on a peaceful afternoon by your police, I have seen the people falling under the horses, I have seen peaceful people dragged down, beaten, and hauled off to face what you call “justice.” Shame on you, giving your little sermons against the iconoclasts.
Our group never broke anything, never offered the least resistance except for shank’s mare and a few eggs and the art of the skedaddle. I would have stopped anyone from molesting the shop of some small business person. None of us were interested.
I remain absolutely committed to nonviolence (even this little formula will not, I assure you, stand the test of time) and, for strategic reasons, to not spending a lot of time smashing the machine. But I do not think future generations will be grateful for our nonviolence. Your platitudes about violence are your way of avoiding looking at the real violence your system is causing every day. You know you are doing wrong with your commerce, yet you carry on destroying the world. Stop it. Wake up.
There may be somewhere a full measure of pacifism, a cup of bravery and truth a strong man might drain to the dregs, but it is not to be found in the tidy little prissiness of those burgher kings, the bourgeoisie.
We’re not fighting a few irritable fat cops with nightsticks anymore. The wall is impenetrable. We are losing. The leaders have floated to the top as scum always does, and we are drowning.
* * *
Little Liam says he never dreams, but today three days after being attacked he tells us of his night vision: a wall, a tower, a joker. The wall is the wall of giant men that suddenly raced at him without warning. The tower is our city, the stronghold. The joker is the man holding the little sign, “Free Hugs,” who is attacked and dragged under as the men sprint at Liam.
But the joker has always been me, as well, Eva-Lynn points out. I am the jester, the juggler. On another, far more innocent day—almost another era it seems, though it was just 24 hours before—I did more juggling and jesting and flower speeching than the hugs man, yet I was not crushed or beaten. Luck of the draw. In fact, if the wall had attacked three seconds later, my son would have seen his father dragged under, because I had just stepped forward to hug the man of hugs.
Man of hugs, I salute you! We are a mirror for each other. If you get out, find me!
We are defeated not by force of arms but by those who abide the law, who welcome it, who know in their heart of hearts it is evil and not to be abided, yet acclaim it anyway. By those in my extended family, for example, who have given up being protestants, given up on Jesus smashing things in the temple, given up on iconoclasm entirely, and gone with the Pauline sycophantism for “kings and those in authority,” as if the gospel were or ever could have been conservative. One loves one’s family, but it doesn’t make it any easier to see them pledging allegiance to the false gods of nation-states.
We are not defeated by the police, but by their keepers, the kind of people who write to chide me for going for a walk with my children and wife in my own land, on my own streets, telling me I am endangering them. We are defeated by the law abiders. Canadians love the law. They love the boot. Perhaps this is why in the end their police are so much more vicious than those of Argentina or America or England. They abide, when they ought not to.
The world is theirs and the fucked fullness thereof. Wall upon wall of police. Gangs of blueshirts in the street. Peace, peace they cry. But there is no peace when it’s paid for in the blood of the world’s children.
Leaderville is winning, its burgher kings are choking the world, and the willing population bends to suck at the tube of its own spiritual destruction. As its gains the whole world, does it even know what it has lost?
DAVID Ker THOMSON’s description of how he stayed on his analyst’s couch talking about his mother while the building was under siege is at Maisonneuve Magazine, where you can also find a link to the CP article describing the attack on his son. He wishes to thank the many people who have written with encouragement. He plans to respond to each email at some point. This is the first part of a two-part series, Defeat/Victory, but the second portion may be delayed. firstname.lastname@example.org