Life in Harperville
The way a guy throws a party for his buds says a lot about him.So Harper wants to take his buds up to the cottage for a few days, and then head to the bright lights of Toronto for a big blowout with some more pals.At first glance, it all sounds quite cute, almost like a beer ad.And we know the Tories want a guy world that is a lot more like beer ads.
But underneath that cute middle-class Canadian summer blow-out story lurks a very ugly vision.We might call it Harper’s utopia.That cottage is no cabin by the lake where you can sit on the dock and listen to the loons. It is more like a prison.Then there are those miles of ugly wall through downtown Toronto.Actually, it two really big prisons.
Except these prisons are inside out.The inmates – Harper and his buds – are free.It is the rest of us who are being locked down.The prison guards have been amassed from police forces and private security firms from across the country, and given an unprecedented array of weapons to use.Actually some of the private security is coming from an American company that doesn’t even have a licence to operate in Ontario.A bit of free trade, eh Stephen?
So when Harper throws a party, it is not about kicking back and having a cold one in the sun.Actually, the Tories really are serious when they say they are hosting the G8/G20 to “showcase” Canada. “We’re going to be proud to showcase Canada to the world,” boasted Harper’s Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon.They have remade Toronto and part of Muskoka into a model of their vision for the future.Toronto is being transformed into a showcase Harperville for the duration of the G8/G20.
Harperville is the model city of the Tory future.Security is ever-present, using everything from fences to checkpoints to gas to sound cannon.Looks like Harper is learning something from his good buddies in Israel.The Art Gallery and a number of theatres will be closed – don’t want to showcase that culture crap.The University of Toronto is closed – students can be so pesky.Homeless people are being grabbed off the streets. Toronto Western Hospital’s Family Health Clinic will be closed on June 25th and 26th, with no regular appointments allowed and only urgent care emergency services available.
Rail passengers will be dropped in the suburbs and trains will avoid the city centre.That is the Tories’ hollowed-out doughnut vision of the city, where only the suburbs really count.After all, a high proportion of Tory voters live in the suburbs or smaller communities.We don’t know yet how much of a boarded up ghost town the Tories and their security team will make of normally vibrant downtown Toronto.
But they don’t care about the ghost town, because Harper and his pals will be inside the compound in a theme park with a fake lake and deck chairs.The showcase is really for the rest of us, not for Harper’s pals.The goal is to create a deep climate of fear and paranoia, to shut down dissent.
The level of threat against dissent is outrageous, but that is what a billion dollars of cops buys you.And where will that money be coming from in this atmosphere of cutbacks?Former film studios have been turned into a huge holding area for masses of people they arrest.There are rumours that cell phone communication might be jammed, and that arrangements have been made with the CAS to scoop the kids of people who get arrested.
Harperville is a nightmare.It shows us the dream world of Harper and his pals from the G8 and G20.They are meeting to try to convince us that democracy is irrelevant, and that the real decisions are being cooked up inside the compound where the powerful meet to figure out how to slash social services and increase repression.
It is urgent in this context to get out on the streets, join in the demonstrations, and our right to protest by using it.But Harperville also reminds us that we have a bigger project, to build a diverse and lively new left with real social weight that can challenge the Harper agenda through analysis, debate and militant activism.Our protests during the G8/G20 must be oriented towards a bigger project of building that new left.
Harperville is a ghost town where there is no fightback.We can wake Harper and his buds out of their dreams by building a movement that can contest their vision for the future, and ultimately stop them in their tracks.The left is too small and disorganized to do that right away, but we have to build today with a sense of our goals – no more Harpervilles!