On Saturday Rosemary and I participated in the Occupy Vancouver protest. During the few hours we spent downtown, the protest was orderly, calm, peaceful, and fairly boisterous. There was good music, a wide assortment of protesters from every demographic, and the police were polite and helpful. We listened to a few speeches, went on a march, and generally felt good to be participating in an expression of democracy.
That said, leaving the protest brought a sense of unease. Personally, I wasn't sure what the next step would be. Granted, in Canada there is much to protest about: a government system that favours economic growth over environmental protection and social justice; a democratic infrastructure that does not adequately reflect the desires of the electorate (proportional representation); a growing chasm between the rich and the poor; and, increasingly, a society that is privatizing wealth and socializing debt. For these reasons we should be angry, and we should be working to make a change. But what, exactly, will that change be? What will it look like, and whose ideals will it best represent?
I've heard over and over that the best thing about the Occupy movement is its lack of a single goal, its lack of an obvious leader (despite the typical claims that Anonymous is pulling the strings), and the plurality of voices/complaints contained within the movement. That may well be true. But I was slightly disturbed by the realization that I was marching with 9-11 truthers and Lyndon LaRouche supporters with occasional chants of "Eat the Rich".
This girl spent the entire march waving her 9-11 Was an Inside Job sticker. At first I laughed, but I soon realized that we were participating in the same movement and I didn't want my views associated with hers. Especially when it only takes a few minutes of reading Popular Mechanics to make the whole thing seem stupid.
The LaRouche folks got their crazy out for whatever reason. This image isn't from the protest, but they had a booth with this poster.
Others were more creative.
|"Tall People for Wage Equality"|
It was obviously a strong turn out, and kudos to everyone for wanting to make a change. Before we go forward, though, shouldn't we figure out what the change is going to be? As the Occupy movement morphs into the October 2011 Movement, some clarity will be necessary. As great as he is to listen to, Chris Hedges can't speak for everyone all the time.
That said, I suppose plurality is rarely a bad thing. These protests allow everyone to have their say, even the crazies. This will breed tolerance (hopefully) and, at some point, clarity. For now, the simple act of protest and expressing frustration peacefully will keep the movement strong.