Tuesday, June 29, 2010

G20 thoughts ...

The early bird gets the worm. But the second mouse gets the cheese.” —Anonymous.

“The squeaky wheel gets the oil. But you catch more flies with honey.” — Anonymous

The anarchist at the G20 summit gets the attention. But the peaceful protesters get new bike lanes.” — Scott Leffler

I doubt my quote will ever stack up to the other two, but it's just as true. And timely, I might add.

I watched with great interest this weekend as the city of Toronto hosted the G20 summit amidst great fanfare and a billion dollars worth of security. That's not a typo. That's billion. The majority of the world's wealthiest nations seemed to agree that everyone should pay down their debt. President Obama, meanwhile, pushed for “stimulus.” In other words, more spending. I really can't say I'm surprised, can you?

But economic policy bores me and I certainly wasn't riveted by a debate between debt reduction and stimulus spending. No, it was what was happening outside the summit itself that I couldn't seem to take my eyes off of.

For some reason, whenever you gather a bunch of world leaders together, a throng of protesters gathers nearby. This was the case in Toronto where the city had been bracing for weeks for the idiocy that comes with hosting the G20 summit.

If idiocy is what they were expecting, they surely weren't disappointed. There were, of course, peaceful protests throughout the city. People marched, wore funny masks, held hands and sang Kumbaya. They sought economic equality, better health care, paved roads in Africa and all sorts of other things.

And then there was the violent faction of protesters who threw Molotov cocktails through storefronts, fought with police and torched vehicles. They sought anarchy, violence and attention. On one hand, you could say the anarchists won. They got plenty of attention. The news covered them with great vigor, and people who were paying attention — like myself — read every word of it, entranced by the horror.

But there was a particular group of protesters that also got a lot of attention due to the simplicity of their message and the means in which they carried it out. A group of bicyclists — at one point led by Toronto's finest — peddled through the city. It was their means of saying that Toronto didn't have enough bike lanes. It was peaceful and had nothing to do with the economic conditions of Third World countries.

I'm betting in the long run, their plea will be heard and their victory will be much greater than that of the anarchists. I mean, anarchy might be entertaining, but it certainly isn't good for the environment … and cannot get you to work on time. To paraphrase the quotes leading into this column, “the squeaky wheel might get the oil, but the bicycle tire gets new bike paths because the squeaky wheel ended up getting set afire by a bunch of idiots.”

The G20 summit, by the way, didn't get as much attention around here as I thought it should have, ironically because everyone seemed to be too busy paying attention to soccer. I like soccer. It's a fine sport. But I'm pretty sure that Americans paying attention to soccer is one of the signs of the apocalypse. So paying down the debt may be unnecessary.