I walked all over hell’s acres last night – from my home in Riverdale to the City Roots festival in the Distillery District, along Esplanade, up Yonge, along College (had a meal at Free Times Cafe) then up to the Tranzac Club in the Annex for a beer, then along Bloor to the Danforth before taking my aching feet home down Broadview Avenue, where the city in the late-night fog was as beautiful as ever, in an eerie way.
I carried a ukulele all the way. I was thinking it would make a great story if I was detained and searched.
The first stretch of my walk was along the Don River – and was I ever grateful to be there. Even though it flows through the heart of the city, nature is always in evidence along the river and the madness of the G8/G20 summit and accompanying riots was reduced to the sound of helicopters in the distance.
Along Esplanade I had no idea that there’d be a major protest shortly thereafter – it was practically empty when I was there, and it wasn’t til I read Steve Paikin’s compelling report this morning that I realized something had gone on there last night.
Yonge Street from Queen up to College was distressing – windows smashed, others being boarded up. 28 police officers riding bicycles in a group down the street at one point led to shouts from wandering passers-by, some no doubt supporters but others plainly haters.
Here was the apathy in evidence: the main goal of most people along Yonge Street seemed to be to take pictures, which is understandable; when your town gets trashed, you need to witness what went on. At least, I did. But posing in front of smashed shopfronts as if for a tourist shot shows a regrettable lack of sensitivity to what goes on.
Thankfully, among my circle of friends and contacts, there’s more empathy than anything else. I had a meal and conversation with some friends at the Free Times Cafe on College. I heard support for both police showing restraint, and legitimate protesters caught in a bad situation. And in equal measure, disgust for police going over the line and especially, so-called protesters who get their kicks smashing stores, burning squad cars and heaving bricks.
There’s apathy, there’s empathy, and then there’s stupidity.
I enjoyed my last beer of the evening on the patio of the Dora Keogh, mulling the events of the day.
Actually, I only enjoyed 2/3 of the beer. I had struck up conversation with a local acquaintance, telling him what I’d seen on my long walk. But when he dismissed the damage from the G20 riots, I got a sour taste in my mouth I couldn’t get rid of.
“I don’t really care,” he said, when I told him about the damage downtown. He said, “I mean, it’s all big businesses anyway.” I said, “You mean Tim Horton’s, Starbucks and Swiss Chalet? Those are FRANCHISES! Local business people own those places.”
He shrugged. This was an ordinary middle-class guy, spending a middle-class wage on beer on a Saturday night, evincing no sympathy for people who run the places he probably eats every day. No philosophy, no political stance – just plain not giving a good goddamn.
I considered punching him hard enough to break his nose, and realized the day had gotten to me. I put down my beer and left.
I’ve always had high hopes that ignorance is curable – just apply education. And apathy can be cured with a good dose of sensitivity.
What’s the antidote for stupidity?