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Protesting Violence

I read an article by Marcus Gee in the Globe and Mail today (Why some G20 protesters won’t condemn violence). The piece looked at a number of groups protesting the G20 who were unwilling to renounce violence: Creative Queer Resistance, Toronto Community Mobilization Network, and the Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance among others. The last of these was quoted as organizing against the “capatalist, colonial, racist, patriarchal, homophobic, transphobic Canadian state” with “militant and confrontational action”. Therein lies a major problem. Yes, the status quo that basically rules what we do and how we think is pulling us all down, and every expression of patriarchy cited above belongs to that status quo. But whoever aims to overthrow patriarchy by subscribing to its means (“militant and confrontational action”) is either unwittingly committed to replacing one form of patriarchy with another, or is simply blinded to the fact that to activate and rely on the means perfected by patriarchy will inevitably reinforce it. The end may not justify the means, but the means always justify the tacit values that underlie them. In other words, violent protest against the organizers of the G20 will justify and more deeply entrench the role they have chosen for themselves. It will justify the hundreds of millions of dollars they have spent on security. It will tacitly assert that might is right. And it will reinforce how important their mission is, even as the protestors strive to undermine it. There is so much anger and frustration and anxiety in the world that it’s easy to tap into those roots and express rage once a target has been identified. It feels good to say, “Fuck you”, and move in a mob that “leaves Bay Street blazing”, as one rap video puts it. But let us distinguish between what merely feels good, and the deep, deep need to engage with our wounded world and help it heal. If we are to change the status quo, we first have to recognize it, name it, and feel it living within us. That is really the main task I took on when I wrote New Self, New World. We are all up against some long-standing and profoundly embodied habits of being – habits that have been practiced since the Neolithic Revolution took hold (which anthropologist and author Hugh Brody aptly calls the Neolithic Catastrophe). I think anyone undertaking that work with honesty is inevitably led to the conclusion that the violence we commit against others is always a reflection of the violence we commit against ourselves – against our own being. I call the source of that self-conflict our “inner patriarchy”. The organizers of the G20 are as stuck in those cycles of violence as we are, and no act of violence will awaken them to that fact.

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