Adult Literacy and #g20

Well, we barely made the airport for the last plane out.
As we taxied down the runway, I could hear the people shout.
They said, "Don't come back here, Yankee!" But if I ever do
I'll bring more money, 'cause all she wants to do is dance
Danny Kortchmar, All She Wants to Do Is Dance

Well, that went well.

As far as I could see, Saturday went south because the police miscalculated. Guarding against an anticipated mob attack on The Fence, they refused to be drawn by what they perceived to be a deliberate diversion on Queen St. Of course, no mob turned up (we now know that none was likely to), and lots of shop owners and media people agreed that the storefront damage on Queen was more than just diversionary.

Of course, the burning police cruiser didn't help.

What could have happened had, say, pairs of uniformed police walked beside the crowd at 50 or 60 foot intervals was revealed when one black bloc hell-raiser, intent on a plate glass window, was met by two beefy security guards. He or she skidded to a halt, dropped whatever they were carrying, and took off up the street - window saved. If only there had been more, er, security people around.

It seems to me unlikely that the cops on the ground allowed the violence in order to justify the over-the-top security spending. First, they weren't the ones who wrote the cheques. Second, a violence-free G20 would have been even better proof of wise management. I'm more inclined to blame simple, poor planning. Yes, I saw the same video you did of two apparent black bloc people slipping behind police lines. I, too, assume they were undercover cops. But like I said, I think the problem was mostly that the police thought they were on some kind of military maneuver, and so they stopped doing policing just when the streets could have used them most. I could be wrong about all that - I live in New Brunswick were we mostly only riot on wharfs, when the natives and non-natives get to eyeballing the same lobster beds.

Then, Sunday, the predictable reaction - a riot squad in search of a riot. There was lots of baton-banging, some snatch and grab missions, vague round ups, the punching a journalist, bigger round ups.... At a certain point, it all just went to hell - about the time of the 'O Canada' incident, I suppose. Thank goodness for the rain.

I would guess I spent half my viewing time on Saturday and Sunday watching the #g20 twitter feed. The other half was split between the CBC and CP24 web-casts, with occasional glances at the online Toronto Star. (Later, during Monday's demonstration, I depended solely on a twitter feed - refresh, refresh, refresh.)

Things would have been different if I'd had cable television or a radio connection to Toronto. Certainly, ten years ago things would have been different. I suppose I would have listened to CBC radio for up-dates.

But, right now, with the internet as my chief (and only real-time) port of access to news, I live in a pretty print-heavy world. (Refresh, refresh, refresh.)

I think that's true of a lot of people. Think about the crowd sending and receiving tweets. Not since the days of telegraphed news and multiple daily newspaper editions has, um... civics? politics? social-involvement been so tied to reading and writing. And, of course, the lack of media gatekeepers - editors and such - gives a tool like twitter even more immediacy.

I guess this is all old hat. Wasn't there a big deal about twitter and the Iranian elections a while back? But it was new to me. I haven't used twitter for much. Haven't had reason.

So, yeah, this was new for me. And while it was happening, I kept thinking about the Literacies piece Brigid Hayes published in the fall of 2009. It was called From community development and partnerships to accountability. One part of it that stuck in my brain was her explanation of the NLS's involvement in literacy:

One of the federal government’s initial efforts was the creation of the National Literacy Secretariat (NLS) in 1988, which was housed within the department of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State had a broad citizenship mandate based on ensuring that everyone in the country had the opportunity to participate fully in Canadian society. Low literacy was seen as a barrier to that full participation.

"To participate fully in Canadian society" - isn't that a wonderful rational for why literacy work is important? Much nicer and more honest than "to get them to work" or "to grow the GDP."

What I saw this past weekend was that to participate - to be "literate" and so participate - can sometimes mean quickly and accurately reading twitter feeds rushing in from a downtown protest march gone sour.

They're picking up the prisoners, and putting them in the pen,
and all she wants to do is dance, dance, dance.
Rebels been rebels, since I don't know when,
and all she wants to do is dance....

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