I'm very excited and exhilarated to see the "Occupy" movement and the directions in which it's been heading. There's no question that the world desperately needs not just protest against the pretty awful things that are happening. If this brings some suggestive ideas, or constructive proposals about how to organize to achieve a very different kind of world.
There are currently occupy movements in 951 cities in 82 countries. While it seems silly to be sleeping in tents in the winter, Canadians still have something to say that change the way the world works.
"Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit'em, but remember that it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."--Harper Lee
Sometimes, we all need to put ourselves in another time or another place, or in someone else's shoes.
If you were a black person in 1960's America, you'd want to have equal rights. If you're a women in 1925 in Canada, you'd want to be recognized as a person, and you'd want a woman's right to vote. You'd probably be willing to fight for those things.
Think about it from the point of view of the oppressed. What would that be like? Would you like to be oppressed like the slaves in the 18th century? I doubt it. Why not? Why wouldn't you want to be oppressed? If you wouldn't like to be oppressed, then there is something wrong with that. Well, there are a lot of people who think they are oppressed and they think there is something wrong with that, and they are going to do something about it.
- Imagine today that you are homeless, because you had to sell your house to pay for your children's medical bills, ...wouldn't you want to fight back?
- If you were jobless because the corporations are saving money by laying off the people, ...wouldn't you want to tell people you're mad about it?
- What if...you are homeless and jobless, while the leaders of your country were spending enormous amounts of money going to wars, which makes vast amounts of profit for the rich, who don't pay an equal or fair share of taxes, and your children are sick and uneducated, because the system isn't working for your interests, ...then wouldn't you want to change that system?
While protests and movements are more common in the UK and France; where people are not as scared to make changes, where they know they can change things to make things better for themselves through legislation, this is something this hemishere hasn't seen in decades, like the civil rights movements of the 60's and the anti-war movements of the 70's.
Susan B. Anthony didn't stand up in the 1850's and say "there should be womens rights," and then they got women's rights. It took nearly a century of hard fought battles to win those rights in the minds of men. Martin Luther King didn't stand up in the 60's and say that "there should be equality rights" and then black people had equal rights. He was riding a wave of popular activism that was impossible to ignore. These movements had major campaigns of civil resistance, nonviolent protest and civil disobedience, and communities and goverment had to respond to these situations that highlighted the inequities faced by their people. The people won more rights and freedoms, but it wasn't by doing nothing, there were clear goals and people were working on them all the time, and they ultimately stood up for what they believed in.
This Occupy is just the beginning of a new popular movement, that might also last for decades. Where do you think MLK would be today, if he wasn't killed for fighting for the rights of people? Would he still be fighting for the rights of people? Is feminism dead? Ask any woman. Does everyone feel that they have equality rights? No. This will take a long time, but good things will come of it, and more hard fought battles will be won. The message that is being spread is one of hope.
Who is Occupying?
There are statistics out there, and it's not hard to find. Don't take my word for it, go look it up. Zuccotti Park is not just full of the criminals and hippies you think it is, and it certainly not the youth-only movement depicted in the media. While 49% of protesters are under 30, more than 28% are 50 or older. 15% of protesters are jobless, another 18% consider themselves “underemployed” — for a combined total of 33% who are struggling in the labour market.
There are also many affluent people there, who believe this is about justice, and a number of wealthy people agree with them, that they should pay their fair share.
While everyone sees the pictures of the homeless, or jobless and hippies and peacniks, we often forget about the Grannies, who have worked for 60 years and still can't afford to retire because of rising costs of living. An 84 year old teacher was pepper-sprayed at Occupy Seattle on the weekend. This poor old lady, with remarkable faculties, wants to see better education, and she is not hurting anyone.
What about the parents of a child with cancer...who has to sell their house to pay for the medical bills. Over a million people a year go bankrupt in the US because they are trying to pay their medical bills. They are Occupying because they want to see changes in the healthcare system.
What about the high-school students that might want to go to university, but they don't want to be 120,000 in debt when they get out. What if they can't find a job when/if they graduate? There are kids who show up after school, they hold a sign up and march, they stay until 11:00, and go home. They are there because they want to see a better future for themselves.
Don't forget about the veterans who served their country by fighting unjust wars in other countries, to make money for the rich, while people in their own country drown in crises of their own. There was a march of veterans in Halifax who wanted to say that this kind of Canada isn't what they went to war to fight for. They went to war to ensure better things, and now that they are not fighting a war, they are doing their service by Occupying.
Some people are like me, optimists who think that it would be worth it to try to make any kind of small difference. It would be worthwhile if we were a part of something that makes a more peaceful world. To help make a change, all you have to do is show up. You can do it too, just show up at 7:00 at night in memorial park and talk about issues and come up with solutions. We're not breaking the law, we're doing our democratic duty. We're not loud and disruptful. We're cleaning up after ourselves and everything is recycled, and they use electric generators powered by people on bikes, to keep microphones and amps running. We're not hurting anyone, or getting in the way. These people are responsible, caring citizens. Not just bums.
Don't forget that in America, many of the people Occupying don't have jobs because the economy has been going down the toilet for decades. Sure, some people don't have jobs, they don't have healthcare, they don't have a good education, and they are sick and tired of being lied to about everything. When people have no jobs because of a stagnant economy, and they can't afford to go university to get a good job because the costs are too high, and they see the entire education system itself is failing them, and they see their leaders moving in the wrong direction...they need to stand up for what they believe in to try to make something good come from all of this.
Struggles between the classes have always existed, but we've also had the courage to rise up against our oppressors in the past, and take the power back. This has happened time and time again in history, and this is about to be one of those times. They feel as individuals that they must do whatever they can to change it. And good for them for trying. Vive le Revolution.
The real implications of the Occupy movements around the world; not just on Wall Street, and not just in America, is to bring some suggestive ideas, or constructive proposals about how to organize to achieve a very different kind of world.
If you're interested in finding out some of those ideas and proposals, you'll have to open your eyes and ears to what is really happening. If you're not interested, then you might as well forget about it. But there are people coming up with alternatives and I think that's wonderful.
I've also heard a lot about the question of leadership many times...since there are no obvious leaders springing forward, people see this as a weakness. I see this as a strength.
I know people think that the Occupy movement needs a leader. Well, there are leaders in every Occupied encampment, organizers that run the general assemblies and so on, and they are already doing a fantastic job of organizing these huge events, but there is no one leader of all the encampments in all the cities, in all the world. The power is in the hands of the individuals. Almost everyone down there is speaking their own mind and deciding what they need to do. I think the strength of this comes from the fact that the people realize they have the power, and that they are their own leaders. These groups are creative and organized and they work together marvellously. There are leaders at every site, and they rotate resposnibilites, and nobody is greedily assuming too much power within the group. This also makes it hard for the "authority" to decapitate the movement. Already, we know of the corporate spies, and the there are undercover police officers walking around the encampments and lots of people are asking "so, where's the leader? who's in charge?"
Is it necessary to have definitive, charasmatic and out-spoken leaders that can broadcast one message to the world? The thought is that: people don't know what to do because there isn't one clear message arising from a leader with a list of demands. We assume that this is an appropriate response because...thats what people do on TV, like terrorists. Well, for one thing, these people are not terrorists, they are people non-violently standing up for what we believe in. They don't need to provide a list of demands to socialize with each other.
Besides, there is a lot of clear messages. And anybody who cares, knows them. The big picture of this is not simply about OWS, its about trying to end the current state of affairs of global corporatism. "Wall Street" isn't just a great place to protest because of the bail-outs, it's a standing-point for the the short-hand of what amounts to "Corruption of Governments in Collaboration with The Financial Institutions" and that is still short-hand for the ideological support systems on which all of our policies rest. There isn't just one message, there is a lot of messages that need to be heard. The people spreading the messages are students, and teachers, firefighters and doctors etc...and you're right that they're barely even being heard by the news/entertainment media and the mafia-like corporations who want to shut the whole thing down. If this was a Tea-Party movement with 2000 Tea Party members on Wall Street, you can bet that there would be 2000 news reporters down there telling their side of the story. They certainly won't be pepper-sprayed.
It's crazy that anyone wants to shut down any of the protests. Public spaces should be open to whoever comes to them first and there should be no limit to how long you are allowed to stay on those public spaces. Regardless of your physical appearance or political views you should be allowed to converse, play games, hold meetings or sleep in any public space. This is our right. Thats the best part about Free Speech, and the Freedom of Association. If you believe in free speech you have to let people say whatever they want to say, especially the stuff you don't want to hear! What if a group of Christian nationalists set up camp in a public park and excluded all non-Christians from their encampment in order to demonstrate the possibility of a purified Christian America. What if the KKK came out and did the same thing? Well, all of this has happened before, and many other groups are allowed to protest and gather together and nobody started shutting them down. They are mostly ignored. They aren't pepper sprayed. This Occupy Group is not being ignored. It's being pepper-sprayed. Violence against protesters brings even more people out to the encampments in support of the cause. This is only helping the movement grow. Its going to sustain.
They are not asking demands of anyone right now, because that means they are trying to demand something from the authority, the owners, or the people who are in control. Well, the occupiers no longer believe the owners have authority, they don't believe they need to be controlled, and they don't need to beg their masters anymore, they can do it on their own. They are creating a self-sustainable revolution down there. Like I said, this is just the beginning. You think it's bad now? It's almost winter, people aren't coming out. But the people that are down there are creative, they're informed, and they're determined. Wait until spring...