My hat is off to them. In the past few posts about the “Occupy…” protesters I suggested that they needed an exit strategy and a next step. The occupation was getting to the point that it was beginning to sour and it was time to get out while the gettin’ was good.
I didn’t anticipate what should have been obvious. The way things have played out over the past few days is the next step. At first it just looked like it was going to involve the cities taking action to evict the protesters, and in some cities that is actually all that happened. But in, at least, New York and Toronto, it has turned into a debate involving the courts and the municipal government. In Toronto, a court challenge stating that the right to free speech trumps municipal by-laws was at least partially upheld by a local judge, frustrating the city and the police in their efforts to evict the protesters last night. The city councilers have presented a petition to the Mayor insisting that the protesters not be evicted until the City Council has had a chance to debate the issue.
These are both important developments. Whatever the court eventually decides, the very important issue involving the supremacy of freedom of speech and the right to protest has emerged on a real legal level. Furthermore, the fact that elected representatives have not been permitted to weigh in on the issue of eviction has been spotlighted and exposed. Both of these are victories for the “Occupy..” movement, as much of their message is that the 99% needs to have a voice and are tired of being swept under the rug by special interests that would like to muzzle them. Even the heavy handedness used in some American cities to to evict protesters plays into the strategy, as it demonstrates the intolerance of government when confronted with real protest. As long as it goes away so it can be forgotten, it is tolerated. Effective protest is not.
This morning on the news there were interviews with several residents in the city who made comments like “I thought it was a good idea in the beginning, but enough is enough.” What an interesting point of view. It points to the shallowness of most people when it comes to taking an interest in their own freedoms. These people thought that the original protests were cute, but it’s old news now. Nobody wants to deal with old news. It’s so “yesterday”, eh! These might be the same people whose lack of far-sightedness led them to take out loans and mortgages that they might never be able to repay, -or at least would have if Canadian financial restrictions allowed then to.
I still run into people who claim that “They don’t even know what they’re protesting.” To believe that is to admit to blindness. What they’re protesting has been made painfully clear. (That all the protesters may not be in total agreement on priorities, or may not have an equally eloquent understanding of the issues is hardly a condemnation.) What they are protesting is not something that should be a momentary flash, consigned to “old news” like so many other disposable news stories.
This story is not disposable. It is the story of fundamental flaws in our society, and while occupying a park downtown may not produce miraculous solutions, it’s a far cry better than sitting back and saying, “Oh, there’s nothing you can do about it anyways. It’s always been like this and nothing will change it.” Wrong. Yes there has always been pressure for reform and yes it has not always been successful. But the protests of the 60s and 70s led to important strides in racial and gender equality. It led to, at least for a significant part of society, a shift of world view to a more global awareness. What would have happened had protests and the counter culture rebellions not occurred? They weren’t perfect. They didn’t always have a crystal clear idea of what they were doing. And in the end, many of their participants reneged on their own values. But all of that doesn’t matter, because the social evolution still happened.
It’s not appropriate for people to say that they are getting bored of this movement. It would be like people saying that they were getting bored of democracy during the Age of Enlightenment, -and I’m sure many did, leading to the establishment of tyrannical governments in the early history of several democracies. The current movement is one wanting to reclaim the rights of the people to have their interests considered, -especially by financial institutions which are blatantly conspiring against them. Yes, conspiring. It is most blatant in the U.S., where financial institutions suckered people into high mortgages and loans and then bet against them in hedge funds, hoping that they would default. We didn’t have the same scenario in Canada, …and we want to keep it that way. In Canada, however, we are far from perfect and the protesters have plenty of issues that they want to spotlight. Student loans, for example.
But even if there were no specifics, the sheer act of raising awareness and fostering debate is an incredibly worthwhile goal, -especially when done in a peaceful way which is as exemplary as human nature and reality allows. By escalating the issues to the courts and to the halls of municipal government, they have upped the stakes and promoted their cause. Well played.
Examine the video at the CBC News site. This is the model of a responsible, peaceful and democratic social structure. These people are peaceful, organized and relevant. Their ideas are noble and in the interest of society. On the other hand, Mayor Ford who has amply demonstrated his vulgar nature and whose attempt to hijack the waterfront was shady to say the least, sits in his comfortable office and enjoys plummeting support from the people who originally gave him his mandate. Juxtaposing the two models makes you wonder exactly who should be evicted.