The G20: A Very Different View From The Margins


It is less than a week since the G20 whirlwind descended on Brisbane. Politicians and commentators hailed the event as an “outstanding success”.  I have a different view from the margins.

I live in a community house project located in the G20 zone. About 130 tenants share in community arts, music, and bikes.

Many of us are also survivors who are living with brain injury, mental illness, trauma and addictions.

Whilst only young, and little, our community housing project is showing some amazing healing, new growth, and hope. 

A small band of four within our community house project was so, so, so, excited when we heard that Barack Obama was visiting The University of Queensland.

We saw it as a sign of hope, that the US President chose to visit a local university, as his first stop.

He is the first leader to be big enough to be little.

Our group decided to create a positive little G20 arts package for our favourite world leader, Barack Obama.

Together we dreamed up and hand painted a red, white, and blue, star spangled banner on recycled paper. 

It read “*OBAMA…CARE(s)*…*VISION… (is)HOPE*”.

One of our group, who I shall call “Totally Sweet”, a survivor of systematic abuse, knits obsessively. She knitted, and donated a beautiful rainbow coloured, “bicycle blanket for four”. 

Another of our group, who I’ll refer to as “D.J. Hopelessly Romantic”, submitted a golden art pen “for signing things”.

We asked “D.J. Hopelessly Romantic” why the pen didn’t work. He said, “Yeah like the U.S. legislative process, it’s broken, and Barack must try to fix it. Pens are for signing things… do you ‘see’?”

We arrived at the University of Queensland, hoping to unfurl our banner and catch a glimpse of the President or even his motorcade. In our dreams we thought we might be able to give him our community arts package; although we knew that was just a dream.

But we were not prepared for the nightmare that was to follow.

Around the entire precinct a computer refined, medieval inspired castle wall maze had been installed. Clearly, special attention had been paid by the computer to the public “intruder” ferry exit point. 

Police officers were stationed at 10-metre intervals inside the fence. What they showed us was their backs, or fronts, laughing at some joke they were sharing among themselves. 

It was really hot, physically arduous, and psychologically torturous. It was a daytime nightmare, even for one amongst us who graduated at that campus, and wasn’t diagnosed psychiatric.

When we asked Constable 21652, carrying a box of fruit and water to refresh the human police, where we could find a public toilet, we were told for the umpteenth time “I can’t give you any information whatsoever”.

On the way home on the ferry, our little band began break up, fracture, schizophrenically splinter, and display other “symptoms” common amongst the broken, disadvantaged, downtrodden, and dismayed. 

Our little group had no chance of any visual contact with Barrack Obama, and no human fail-safe to “see” or even humanely assess our little idea.

It was so sad, and unjust, and unthinking, on a campus built on ideas, and a President specially gifted to be “different”, to always see the little people and the big idea. 

At the end of the day, “Totally Sweet” lost her art gift somewhere on the campus. The unfurled star spangled banner “*OBAMA CARE(s)*VISION*(is) HOPE” and the broken pen “sign” lay hidden in pain, shame, and loss, at the bottom of a draw in our community art room.

So here is the message from the G20 to the margins: There is no room for new ideas or little people; the “BIG” have been vacuum-sealed from the small.

Listening to the closing speeches, you can hear that not one of The BIG G20 Speakers mentioned a single little new idea. 

Each of them only spoke “BIG” of their own national interest.

It was so sad to watch Barrack Obama delivering a lifeless, uninspired, and “no surprises here” speech. That Putin left early was the only little surprise. 

It’s no surprise that our political leaders talked BIG, BIG, BIG, about their BIG, BIG, BIG success at their BIG, BIG, BIG, event. 

But “little” people, and “little” Australians, are not BIG fools.

To us, it was a big, expensive, excessively policed, talk-fest, with not a single surprising little or local “beauty” idea. 

In a month or two, the Brisbane G20 summit will be as long forgotten as our “little” community arts idea.  

* Chris is a community housing tenant in Brisbane. He describes himself as a "cyclist, artist and survivor".

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