Today in Vancouver the name was, of course , changed to: Occupy Vancouver. But the overwhelming theme that summarize most of it was even simpler: We are the 99%.
Is it possible for the mass media and politicians not to understand the protests anymore? Repeating their mantra that it is hard to respond to something that does not have a very well defined borders would amount to saying that they are stupid. More ignorant than arrogant. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has come today to Canada.
Remembering my youth and activism in Solidarity movement (which – despite obvious and glaring differences – was really not that far away from the cause of present day protest) I took the skytrain from Surrey to Vancouver in Canada today to join the people, who were going to gather in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. From passengers on the train (mainly young) I could hear that the press was talking about a group of about 250 people. Sad that such a universal cause could not bring more, I thought. Than the train PA’ system announced that due to regular maintenance of the track we will be experiencing delays. For which the management of Public Transit is sorry. Of course. And we are really that stupid, for which I am not sorry to ask? Saturday noon, the day of the demonstration – regular track maintenance! Really?!
As it happend, the announced (by official media) ‘crowd’ of 250 welcomed me with thousands and thousands of people. All walks of life, all generations. With one dominant slogan: we are the 99%. Powerful. Simply enough. Of course there were many detailed messages – wages, taxes (no, not to lower them, but to make them fairer and equitable), environment, greed. More or less the well known and documented maladies of current system. A system were young people finish their universities and colleges stranded with 40, 50 and 70 000 dollars debt; when a small apartment in Vancouver is being offered for 400 000 dollars and small house for over a million dollars. And wages, well, mostly in range of 15-25 dollars per hour. A lot of them not even on full time basis.
Is this a future for new generations? Is lowering corporate taxes crippling the state treasury to a point that nothing is affordable in a form of social, educational and health system? Is it fair when an inept (that they are we know because the permanent economical crisis) General Manager or Boss (CEO and the likes) gets a 300 000 or 300 0000 yearly earnings when an equally educated employee gets that in 10 years of service?
An owner is a different story – as long as the investment is his or hers and not through publicly funded grants or tax provisions. We all know the old war cry of capitalism: the government has no business in business.
1) OK – except when the business is people and their well-being. Than it is very much the business of the government. Because, to put it simply, the government is the people. Or it ought to be.
2) OK – except when the business is using public funds to perform the business. Than it is very much a government business because public funds means: the people funds.
It is true that money doesn’t grow on trees. But it applies not only to private orchards. It doesn’t grow on tree in a city, provincial and state parks and forests, neither. Not for free, anyway. If you pick up the fruit from these trees, the people except you to pay the fair market value of that fruit. Not a subsidized one. Just as the business wants to receive a market value for the fruits from their parks and orchards. It isn’t necessarily the homeless beggar or alcoholic on the street that cost us a fortune. It is often a subsidized multimillionaire. And that we truly cannot afford anymore.
The City Police force was, to my nice surprise, both well behaved, rather helpful and not to obtrusive. Although a bit too paranoid, a think. For example rather theatrically visible filming of entire crowd. As we know camera pictures and videos were the main tool in their prolonged and lo(ooooo)ng investigation of Stanley Cup riots. But there was no riots here, not a single incident that I noticed. The crowd, after informing through loud chants that the streets are theirs – acted as a proper owner: with due care and attention.
What will happen to that movement and how will the plans to semi-permanent occupation of the plaza across from the Gallery proceed, I have no idea. What I know is that there is a chance that this movement awakens a bit o social activism and social responsibility in the new young generation. In a stark contrast to the generation from 10-15 years ago, which was lost in the empty image of material consumerism.