|Real Action occupies political movement|
|Written by Brandon Barrett|
|Thursday, 08 December 2011|
A spirit of protest has emerged in Canada, and perhaps itís a sign that the times, they are a changiní.
Politically speaking, Canadians by and large are a passive bunch. We struggle to break 60 per cent turnout at the election polls, avoid the level of polarizing political smear campaigns so common to our southern neighbours and save our best riots for after traumatic hockey games. Itís hard to say what exactly to attribute this to.
Generally, political indifference is a sign that things are going swimmingly for a society. Thatís why itís been so interesting to witness the level of engagement thatís been so prevalent in communities across the country over the last two months. A spirit of protest has emerged in Canada, and perhaps itís a sign that the times, they are a changiní.
The Canadian Occupy movement, which sprouted in a show of solidarity with the initial wave of protests on Wall Street, has seemingly hit a few bumps along the road in recent weeks. In Ottawa, protesters were evicted from Confederation Park. Calgary has been shut down. Occupy Vancouver came under intense scrutiny after a 20-year-old woman died of a drug overdose on the site of the protests. Since then, the city has forced the encampment to be disbanded. The situation south of the border is even worse. A severe crackdown by police in metropolises across America has led to a rash of injuries and evictions. It would appear to some that the movement is losing steam before anything concrete has been achieved. I would disagree with that notion by saying things are barely getting under way.
Itís tough for the average citizen to fully support the protesters. Recent polls by the Globe and Mail and La Presse found that 58 per cent of Canadians have a favourable or somewhat favourable view of Occupy but itís easy to see these numbers havenít translated to putting asses into tents, so to speak. Itís safe to say you support the cause-of-the-month when you donít truly understand it. This has been, for the most part, the major criticism levied against Occupy: it lacks direction, organization and clearly defined goals.
If you were to ask the typical Occupier what they were rallying against, chances are they would rattle off a bullet-point list of anti-government buzz words that sounds more like a half-baked undergrad essay than a well-formed political stance. Whatís more is people are reluctant to join forces with the stereotypical activist that many people associate with the demonstrations. You know the type: the hemp-clad, dreadlock sporting, organic granola munching post-hippie that U.S. presidential candidate Newt Gingrich advised to ďget a job after taking a bath.Ē
Unfortunately, the issues hindering Canadiansí involvement are wholly beside the point. This is a grassroots movement that sprouted out not because of a specific political talking point, but rather a general sense of frustration that has reached a boiling point on the global stage. Canadians are by no means fighting the same battles as Egyptians, Libyans or even the Wall Streeters, but we are undoubtedly inspired by them, and that is a fact that should not be taken lightly. If we deny the inherent desire for change that lies at the heart of this Occupy undertaking, then we risk being left in the dust of other nations eager for swift social action.
If nothing else, the last months have successfully exposed the limits a government has for political activism. Itís easy to govern when things are peaceful and prosperous, but the true colours come out when times get tough. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the U.S., where rumours have spread that thereís been a federally coordinated police crackdown on protesters in urban centres around the country. Weíve seen old ladies and children getting injured, and more recently, supine demonstrators at Californiaís UC Davis get pepper sprayed by aggressive cops. Police action has been less confrontational within our own borders, but weíve seen the initial municipal support wane in the face of extended occupation in public spaces. The Occupy protests must be achieving something, to evince such confrontation from the powers that be.
No matter what your political stance, you should at least be supporting Occupyís right to exist. The mere fact that you hold a political stance is reason enough to do so. This is pure democracy in action. Literal action. Itís rare that Canadians are so fully engaged with an issue that they are willing to get out and make a stance, and in that regard, the movement should be encouraged, not demonized.