Friday, October 21, 2011
From a letter I wrote to the Camrose Canadian
Your editorial in the October 20th edition, "Occupy protesters lack focus" misses importance of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Hard-working, honest people are becoming increasingly uneasy about the unrestrained corruption, greed and criminality of our largest corporations. These global giants wield incredible power over our financial and political systems. Where once democratically elected governments looked after the rights of citizens, they are increasingly looking out for the interests of powerful lobbies.
For decades, we have been sold on a model that serves not us (or the well-being of our families and communities) but one that serves the interests of a very small minority. No matter how hard we work and strive to live within our means, the cards are stacked against us. Citibank, GM, Chrysler, AIG, Bank of America... they are too big to fail, but the rest of us... we get to fail all the time. And when the big guys fail, their bosses still get millions in bonuses?
One of the main criticisms of the "Occupy" movement is that it is unfocused... has no leaders... has no answers... no demands... and so it's not legitimate. The truth is... it's not the job of protesters to draft legislation; that’s the job of our political leaders. If our governments had been doing their jobs... with the interests of citizens at heart, the Occupy Movement would never have been born. It is precisely because government has forgotten who they serve, and who ultimately has power in a democracy that this movement has legitimacy.
Perhaps the most important thing that can come from this movement is a renewed recognition that when citizens stand together and raise concerns... when we take to the streets... when we recognise injustice and put pressure on political leaders to remember who they represent, they have to pay attention.
What is truly frightening to those in control of the current power structure is the very same thing they criticise: there are no leaders. This is a spontaneous movement made up of fairly non-radical people... old, young, women, men... largely middle-class. It is not associated with any political party... or union... or ethnic group. The power of this movement rests in it's vagueness and the breadth of its support.
This movement will no doubt mature. It's likely going to evolve into many different agendas, and quite sadly (yet inevitably), identifiable leaders will emerge. However, this non-specific, leaderless movement has spawned debate we haven't witnessed in a long time. This movement is not one born of a narrow band of interest. It was not started to address someone's personal agenda. That's the charm and the magic of it all.
Vague to begin with... yes. But who among us has not questioned the entrenched, back-room power that controls our lives... the failing of our democracy... the tendency of government to look after the interests of those who can afford to lobby and not protect the interests of regular citizens... especially our most vulnerable.
One may be skeptical about much of this movement... but the fact remains, it is different, and despite being ignored by mainstream media for almost a month, it has touched off a renewed concept in the power of peaceful assembly. That vague injustice and longing for something better that dwells in so many of us... is something we share with a much larger (and if we want... more powerful) group. We are not the fringe... but the center... and we have power... if we want it.