As you may be aware, Australia has just played host to delegates from around the world for the G20 Summit. I was somewhat ambivalent about this event to begin with, and part of me still wonders, with all the modern technology available these days, whether all the expense, risk and disruption are worth it to gather important people all in one place to hold such an event.
I am a convert! To the extent that I even watched some of the television coverage, which was much like an election tally room with continual crosses to the event, interviews, etc. – yes I know that all sounds a little sad and boring and perhaps I am, but the parts I did see I really enjoyed. My beautiful husband and I switched on the TV in plenty of time to catch the speech made by President Obama at the University of Queensland– what a brilliant orator, so engaging – you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium. I am so glad I took the time to watch it. The speech may never be as famous as ‘I Have a Dream’ but it was uplifting all the same. In addition, if even a few of the outcomes agreed to at the summit are achieved, the world will be a much better place.
As part of the coverage, there were images of Brisbane – looking its beautiful best (albeit with no people around!) and also some footage of the many peaceful protests that took place over the weekend, and it’s this of which I am most proud. There were plenty of protesters voicing their various messages, with NO violence, and only 14 arrests (most of which were for refusal to give name and address details). There was even a burning of the Australian flag by an Indigenous Australian group which was non-violent. While I don’t condone the burning of anyone’s flag – it is disrespectful in the extreme – I can understand their standpoint viz European settlement and not recognising the Australian flag. But mostly I am so very proud that something like the burning of a flag can occur without the protester being arrested, bashed, etc. – it is a wonderful testament to the freedoms our beautiful country affords, including the freedom to disagree and the safety to express it.
As Voltaire said “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.