Privilege Convoy

For anyone who was on Bloor St. February 5, you likely heard some annoying honking by grown men who don’t like masks. The “Freedom Convoy”, in protest of masks, vaccines, and shutdowns, ironically, caused shutdowns at our borders and in our capital. Toronto got but a little taste of Ottawa’s stupidity.

Though they cloak this protest around words like “freedom”, it is anything but. It is a grown-up tantrum. It is also why climate change is so hard to tackle.

The convoy made little attempt to hide the white supremacy underlying this movement. Twitter was flush with photos of these trucks sporting confederate flags, anti Jewish posters, and Swastikas. The entire concept of “wearing a mask to protect others” is an affront to their ideology. This is a demographic that has enjoyed centuries at the top of the social hierarchy pyramid. The world revolves around them, their needs, and their desires. Right in the root of Christian belief is that the Earth is theirs for the taking. Having to incur a minor inconvenience to protect someone else is ludicrous to a crowd of people who have been conditioned to put themselves first and sold the idea that rights can come without responsibilities.  Not since JFK has a serious politician spoken about the responsibilities of citizenship. When caring about neighbours is a foreign concept, it would certainly feel like an infringement to have to incur a tiny inconvenience to not spread a highly communicable disease to a vulnerable person.

Occupying our nation’s capital, blocking the Ambassador bridge, is but a tiny glimpse at the temper tantrum we can expect if our government enacts anything resembling effective climate action. If asking people to put a piece of cloth on their face, get a life saving needle is too much infringement of their entitlements, imagine what their reaction will be when gas prices necessarily increase, methane gets phased out, and they are told they can’t drive pointlessly large trucks.

Democratic societies are built on notions of rights and responsibilities. The responsibilities part has been neglected while politicians sell more and more rights (and privileges) and lower and lower taxes in celebrity frat boy fashion. As a society, we’ve forgotten that those rights are supposed to come at a cost.

The temper tantrum in Ottawa is over our government asking the privileged class to make a tiny sacrifice in the name of protecting others (and themselves) from a high probability of immediate death. The temper tantrum they will throw when our government asks them to make slightly bigger sacrifices to protect children from future heat deaths and starvation will be even larger.

As every law student knows, there are those whom the law binds but does not protect, and those whom the law protects but does not bind. A decade ago, Toronto saw how police were ready and willing to kettle, arrest, and use violence against G20 protesters – people who stood in the way of capitalist interests.

In Ottawa, police are paralyzed not because they don’t have the resources to act, but because they don’t have the will to act against the privileged group they are supposed to protect, not bind. Our entire country, every institution, is built to pander to the privileged class, give them what they need and protect them from minority threats. Our institutions fail when the very class that are supposed to be protected become the hooligans. Those with privileges were never expected to oppose the powers that upheld that privilege. Our society is not equipped to handle the tantrums of a class of people who were neither expected to be burdened with the responsibilities of democracy nor shackled to the scales of justice.

This temper tantrum is exactly why climate activists insist that climate change cannot be solved without first dealing with white supremacy. This small, rich, powerful, and loud group has demonstrated they are capable of disrupting society simply because police will never move against them the way they attack Wet’suwet’en protestors.

What we see is the interconnection between so many issues. We won’t get climate action without tackling white supremacy. We can’t tackle white supremacy without taking away their protections. And we now know, those protections will not go away without major police reform.

The police budget is a great place to start. Let your city councillor know you want to see fewer police toys, more social workers and more public housing. The poor have been hit harder by the pandemic and will be hit harder by climate change. Despite what public health has been telling us, we have not been in this together. It’s time we get together.

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