The G8 Summit is over for another year, resulting in the usual half-measures to combat world poverty and extreme measures to maintain the power relationship between the developed and developing worlds.
Due to a major aversion to getting arrested, I was on the G8 Alternatives march in Auchterarder (just outside Gleneagles) – and, as luck would have it, was right at the front when it all kicked off. For a full account (with photos), check out the People & Planet G8 Report.
Lots of people have since asked me what I hoped to achieve by marching, and whether the violence did the cause more harm than good. It’s kind of a daft question, because it’s almost rhetorical. If there’s something in the world that you don’t agree with (for example, the G8 and the inequalities it represents) then you have to work to change it. If you don’t, then you forfeit your right to complain about it. Everyone effects change in different ways – I chose to march on Gleneagles to register my disapproval of the G8 and show solidarity with other people fighting for a different world. As for the violence, it’s worth noting that there wasn’t that much but that the media always give it disproportionate coverage. You can’t blame them – they know what sells and they’ve got their own agendas. In fact, the mainstream media probably does more harm to the cause than any violent acts.
I will rarely go along with wanton damage to people and property – but at a peaceful demonstration the politicians will just smile, pat the activists on the head and then ignore them. The only way to make them do things is to challenge their power and take them out of their comfort zone. Whether this is done through mass street actions or the ballot box is entirely up to the individual.
As my train home was pulling out, somebody asked me where I was going (with a full pack, I must have looked like I was going camping) – naturally, I said that I was on my way back from Gleneagles and the G8 demonstrations. Immediately, there was a short but perceptible silence as everybody in the carriage looked over at me to get a load of what must be some kind of free-thinking anarchist. At the time I didn’t know how bad things had gotten in Edinburgh and Bannockburn, but it’s still surprising how much stigma can be attached to trying to change things instead of breezing along and consuming with the status quo.