Occupy Whose Space?

What follows is the perception of a senior citizen who has been visiting the occupied St. James park in Toronto, listening and talking to people, and who has been disappointed with the media representation of the Occupied movement.  Because contrary to complaints, there is a coherent message.

The state structure is a kleptocracy and very different from the democracy they were taught to expect.  Corporations are thieves not subject to the social contract.

There is the theft of natural resources.  These resources belong to all of us but are sold off with profits going to the few, without our permission, without anything but fake consultation, with no view of the future beyond the next shareholders report.  Most of these resources are shipped out for the value-added component somewhere else.  So jobs that actually produce stuff disappear and employment shifts to services, none more plentiful than financial services

There is the theft of elections.  Voter turnout is low, but has anyone really thought about why?  Succinctly, if you know the game is fixed, don’t play.  Except for the very naïve, most of us see that the political process is corrupt, elections bought and paid for, politicians co-opted.  The corporate / banking elite and our elected representatives can be found at the same clubs, their kids go to the same schools, they understand each other, and they know what’s best for us.

There is the theft of labour rights.  Collective bargaining is an impediment to a smoothly running feudal system, and is quickly being eradicated.  Demonization of unions serves to divide people, in particular separating the essentially common interests of small business owners and workers.

There is the theft of pensions.  The rights of the shareholders trump those of workers who have invested their lives, who met their side of the bargain but were cheated out of their fair share.

There is the theft of sovereignty.  Our government security apparatus is using a foreign no-fly list.  Indeed, we cannot trust the 1% to make deals like the upcoming “security perimeter”, or Keystone XL.

The folks at the park are working democratically to find consensus on a way forward while they occupy a piece of their own country.  Many of them are remarkably well informed.  Whether the Keystone XL pipeline project, the paralyzing cost of an education, the federal tax structure, or how democracy works, a visitor to the park could learn a lot.  But they are battling the strong message that things here in Canada are not so bad, that we’re doing so much better than our neighbours, that our banks are regulated, that our financial system is strong.  Relax, we’re in control, we know what we’re doing, we know what’s best for you.

Not so.

Evidence suggests instead that they, that elite cadre of the wealthiest, know what’s best for them. And there’s good data to be had within the group about the disparity of outcomes.  Historically, revolutions do not succeed until different groups finally see their common interest.  The non violent revolutions in Eastern Europe are useful models.  Students cannot do it alone.  Labour cannot do it alone.  Human-sized business cannot do it alone.  Environmentalists cannot do it alone.  The exercise at the park is a hopeful beginning.  But more on that later.

(Photo by W.S. Rivera)


Irene Germain is the pseudonym of a member of the working class, formerly a Bell telephone operator, cemetery cleaner, bookkeeper, construction estimator, high school teacher, student, and incidentally a senior citizen.   Interests include mathematics, history, science, justice, and whatever insights may therein accrue.