Tuesday, May 25, 2010

REDUX IV: Big Pigs and Little Wolves

I see that I have been being lax in pumping out the columns that hoards of you await impatiently each day. Yes, that means you too Fred. So once again I delved into the cobwebby archives, this time inspired by a lovely half hour spent in the class at Prince George's Ron Brent School. I was invited to read to the group of Grade 3 and 4 scholars and in sifting through the leftovers from my daughters' younger days, came across an old fav' - The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. Years ago when Genoa hosted a G-8 summit, I had been moved to think of this inversion of the more familiar nursery tale not because of the role reversal but because of the sanguine moral of the retold version. Making these points again now in the immediate aftermath of the badly miscalculated Red Shirt siege in Bangkok and with another of these economic parlays soon to come to the bucolic Muskokas, I guess that's enough reason to dust this entry off and hope that in its own small way, it can help keep a humane perspective as the inevitable protests unfold with the ever-present threat of violence.


Death in Genoa, or the Pig/Wolf Alternative
(from the Coast Mountain News, circa July 01

Nothing, you think, is as unarguable as death. But differences in the pictures Canadian newspapers chose to run of the young G-8 protester dead on the Genoan pavement say otherwise. One photo showed diminutive Carlo Giuliani stone dead and bloody - and you can’t help but think: My God the Fascist bastards have finally killed somebody in their paranoid defense of globalization! But other photos seem to depict him of one of several aggressive hooligans about to toss a fire hydrant into a police jeep. He got what was coming, right? Or dead wrong?

Would you have shot someone waving this unusual “weapon” as you sat cramped up in a car? Or on the other side, if a carabineri aimed his rifle at your head might you have just tried to shield yourself with whatever was at hand? Misunderstandings abound in the deadly heat of such moments but only foretell far broader and deeper clashes of world-view.

That even the ultimately unambiguous fact of death can so divide and confuse us, symbolizes the widening gap between those who see the various annual gatherings of world leaders and bankers as a ushering in a new era of world prosperity and those who think “globalization” is at the roots of most that is wrong in our world. As one watches the path from the now almost innocent days of UBC bearspray to bloodshed in Seattle and thence to death in Genoa, the questions must be asked, where next? What happens in beautiful Kananaskis when Jean “Let them eat pepper”, “Grab them by the jugular” Chretien, hosts his compatriots at another meeting of the G (for Gluttonous?) 8? Already the limited access roads to this foothills paradise are being touted as a principal reason for this venue.

In seeking a way out of this inevitable escalation of violent means by both sides, political leaders and anti-globalist NGOs could do worse than study comparatively the well-known tale of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf, and Eugene Trivivas far less familiar inversion, “The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig”.

No question that the organizers of these incessant gatherings of lofty politicians, bankers and bureaucrats, have absorbed well the lesson from the original “Three Little Pigs” -- that only way to survive a wolf at the door, is to surround yourself with impenetrable fortifications. “Build it (strong) and they won’t come”, the wisdom seems to go.

You’d think that fifty years of the nuclear arms race might have taught the world that when you surround yourself with increasingly vicious armed guards, the other side will adjust its tactics to a higher and more dangerous level. Any reasonably intelligent national leader, social psychologist or child who has had time on life’s playground can tell you that “aggressive defense” begets a fearfully symmetrical response of escalation. It is a theoretically endless race but in reality has a very untheoretical and foreseeable ending – someone gets killed. And that is what happened on the road from Seattle’s 1999 World Trade Organization riots to young Giuliani on that street in Genoa. If you think you can end it all by lighting the fire and waiting for a wolf stupid enough to go down the chimney, you really do believe in fairy tales!

Here is where the alternative re-telling about the little wolves and the big bad pig may have teaching value for a lesson that Canada better learn before next year at Kananaskis. In this redone version, like the little pigs, the little wolves leave home warned by Mama Wolf to watch out for a roving sadistic swine whose purpose (unlike the Big Bad Wolf) is not to consume but simply to terrorize the cubs for the pure joy of doing harm. (Probably exactly what our esteemed political leaders believe to be the motivation of many anti-globalists)

The Little Wolves start where the three little pigs ended – their first abode is brick. When the Big Bad Pig arrives he goes through the ritual but futile huffing and puffing and gets out a sledgehammer which is predictably more effective. Escaping narrowly, the wolves go for a concrete home the second time around. Again the giant hog huffs and puffs before availing himself of a pneumatic drill and again sends the cubs scurrying for new shelter. House three is nothing short of a fortress one that would impress even the G8. There’s barbed wire, iron bars, armoured metal plates, steel chains and 67 padlocks, not to mention a video surveillance system. Mr. Big Pig breaks through the initial lines of defense but seems stumped for a few minutes. Alas he returns with dynamite.

After their apparently impregnable house is blown sky high, the little wolves do something that M. Chretien would not probably understand. They build a beautiful but utterly flimsy house of flowers. When the Big Bad Pig makes his inevitable appearance and does his huffing and puffing, he is overwhelmed by the wondrous fragrances. Instantly he is transformed into “the Good Big Pig”, and dances a tarantella to the little wolves’ amazement. They all end up playing “piggy-in-the-middle” and living together happily ever after.

Something to think about. Now you may say that the Grouse has spent one too many hours out in the eastern sun (yes I am on P.E.I.) to imagine for even a moment that there is a lesson from this tall tale applicable to the real world of violent protest and more violent defense. Still, bear with me, given the apparent lack of workable alternatives. I really believe a way must be found for these international high level gatherings to open the doors and bring in those who scream from the outside and who are so profoundly troubled by globalization. The press is telling us that the leaders are listening: fine, let the youthful idealists in to smell the flowers and not only affect but be seen to affect, decisions made, for the most part, by old men who, unlike those protesters, will not have to live all that long in the world they are bent on redesigning.