Are Harper, Obama And The Other G20 Leaders Terrorists, Criminals Or The World's Best Hope For A Sustainable Future?

This weekend, Toronto was catapulted into the global spotlight as host for the controversial G8 / G20 summit. On Saturday, June 26, inside a heavily fortified enclave, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially greeted political leaders from the G8 / G20 nations. Yet, outside the summit walls, the streets of Toronto descended into chaos. At least 150 people were arrested Saturday, and dozens Sunday, after thousands of anti-G20 protesters marched through downtown, forcing Toronto police to use tear gas for the first time in city history. Four police vehicles were set ablaze, windows of public and private businesses smashed, and multiple confrontations between security forces and protesters ensued. Despite the chaos, leaders inside the summit were engaged in a series of intense and vitally important negotiations, searching for sustainable solutions to the world's most challenging economic, environmental, and social issues. While many protesters continue to argue that the summit is a gluttonous maceration, I categorically disagree. Tackling issues including financial regulation, trade, climate change, as well as topics including the Afghanistan war is important. Rather than condemnation, I believe that Canada's Prime Minister deserves commendations for hosting this important event. Sadly, through all the drama, vandalism, and confrontation, I am disappointed to see that many of the positive messages, as well as concerns from legitimate protesters, continue to be lost. Are we going to let a a small handful of agitators goad us into believing that the G20 summit is not important for global change and environmental reform? Should we accept the arguments made by many anarchists and protesters that G20 leaders including Harper, Obama, Merkel, Medvedev, and Jintao are terrorists and criminals, or hero's on whom our collective hopes for a sustainable future rest?

Through the opening days of the summit, leaders made significant progress on a number of critical issues. On Saturday, a trillion dollar trade plan was signed by all G20 leaders. This plan includes unprecedented steps to restore growth and prevent a global economic crisis from ever happening again. As part of the new agreement, G8 / G20 leaders have agreed to tighten regulation of the financial markets, including hedge funds and ratings agencies, boost international financial institutions (such as the IMF), while giving emerging markets and developing countries a greater voice and representation. The leaders signed pledges to reject protectionism and the creation of tax havens, signed new commitments to address the fight against climate change, while creating solutions that will aiding the world's poorest nations. According to the agreement, most of the additional funds will be channeled into the IMF, which will see its reserves tripled to 750 billion dollars. This will enable it to more effectively help nations on the verge of collapse. In the 9 page summary document, G20 leaders argued that the combination of stimulus measures could raise output by 4 percent by the end of 2010. While this may not be enough to stop the short-term economic contraction in many G20 economies, it may be able to make sure the global recession does not turn into a replay of the 1930s Great Depression. Furthermore, early Sunday morning, leaders of the G20 nations agreed to to halve deficits and stabilize debt-to-GDP ratios by 2013, in an effort to foster recovery from the global economic crisis. With these types of outcomes, it is hard to argue that the summit, which has cost nearly $1 billion, has not already re-paid itself. The event has enabled critical decision makers to make progress on controversial issues including the proposed international bank tax, carbon trading, climate, and emissions trading schemes, while enabling tough discussions on Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, while the summit has already yielded many positives, much of the discussion has been overshadowed by a small handful of  dissident protesters, determined to turn peaceful streets into war zones and prevent meaningful dialogue. Police cars were torched, workers in local shops threatened, police officers injured, and businesses suffered millions of dollars in damage. While I am sympathetic to the concerns voiced by many of the most aggressive protesters, their chosen method of voicing discontent, as well as lack of personal accountability, continues to leave me troubled. Free speech is a principle of our democracy, but the thugs that continue to promote and instigate violence, while refusing to identify themselves or articulately express their arguments, in no way represent the beliefs of Canadians, or others from around the world. Moreover, I am unconvinced that excessively violent protests will inspire real change. Does pelting police with rocks, bricks and bottles, inflicting damage on public workers, using Black Bloc tactics to hide from authority, while engaging in violent acts against public and private property, help furthering important discussions relating to job creation, health care, education, infrastructure development, poverty, trade, or the environment?

In order to achieve change, protesters, governments, and all citizens must reassess their approach and personal beliefs. Breaking windows, burning cars, and defacing property - public or private - is counterproductive. On the contrary, I suspect that such behavior will lead to more resistance, alienation, as well as the entrenchment of the current societal norms and values that anarchists reject. Furthermore, I urge each of the cowardly anarchists dressed in black to unmask themselves, take personal accountability for their actions, and join peacefully with the rest of us that seek to challenge authority as well as questionable governmental and social policy in a respectful manner. Surely, such a move would help strengthen the recognition and position of anarchists, while contributing to inspire more effective discussions. Demonstrations and protests are essential. Still, we must not let the violent events perpetrated by a few take away from the important issues being discussed behind G20 fences, in living rooms, coffee shops, and work places around the world. Holding this summit, as well as future gatherings, is not merely a simply pleasure, but an obligation that Canada and other developed nations has to citizens across the world. The questions raised by the thousands of legitimate protesters need to be heard, and actions of the egotistical and foolish vigilantes must be tossed aside. We must find more effective ways to work collectively to create global change, abolish poverty, spread democracy, increase trade, improve individual freedom and choice, while use peaceful means to collectively protest misguided governmental and societal policies. Summits like the G8 / G20 are absolutely critical for economic growth and social development. Let’s hope, that amid the burning cars, broken windows, and filthy curses, we don’t let a few individuals with radical egos make us forget this.