Isn’t discontent enough? It seems like rubber bullets have to fly before some people can take civil disobedience seriously. The best part about the Occupy protests is their civility.
For years, images of political action have muddled the line between the rioter and the protester. In the United States, the last newsworthy protests were the Tea Party rallies. In Canada, it was G20. This kind of coverage made “activist” a dirty word. Being an activist unfairly placed you in one of a small selection of bins with labels all containing the word “nut”.
Almost everybody has a complaint about the government, but an all-too-polar environment has made political junkies the only people talking. Somewhere along the way, everybody else has forgotten how to stand up and shout.
This is the chance. The Occupy movement’s wide umbrella covers just about every objection.
Despite accusations of being directionless, Occupy Wall Street has in fact had a single goal since its first call to arms, an email bulletin sent out by Adbusters Magazine in July. In it, they demanded “that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”
The reason the TV news networks’ interviewees all appear to have different demands is because they have the same root—the tremendous influence money has on politics. The far-reaching effects of big lobbying means that an ending of corporatocracy would play a big part in solving many protesters’ problems.
And it’s this that makes it relevant to Toronto, too. No unified demands have arisen so far. Occupy Toronto is first and foremost a show of support for the Occupy Wall Street protests, sure. Canada is not the United States. We did not share the same fate during the financial crisis because our banking system is different.
But all is not well. A September study by the Conference Board of Canada found that the gap between rich and poor is growing faster in Canada than in the US.
There is reliable evidence—voter turnout from the recent election, for instance—that about half of Ontarians aren’t engaged by politics. Who can blame them?
The performance grows more melodramatic by the year. All the posturing and the grandstanding make for a thrilling display that keeps real issues off the table. Modern politics is a violent spectacle, like some kind of verbal bloodsport. It takes a constant supply of news just to keep on top of it all.
Canadians aren’t losing their homes en masse, but if things stay on track that may not stay true. This affects more than just the political hardcore. It hits everybody. Laying this truth bare may end up being one of the most important conclusions of Occupy Toronto.
Canada cannot continue to abide a poisoned political discourse where simply disagreeing with the status quo casts you unfairly as an outsider. Police officers gassing crowds and bearing riot shields makes civil disobedience look like a crime. It isn’t.
So when protesters are happy, that’s cool. Drum circles, pot-smoking—so be it. Heaven forbid asserting yourself politically be enjoyable.
Those Occupying Toronto stand alongside others in a global movement. Isn’t there a certain amount of joy to that? Change is exciting.