What Are We Afraid Of? Mandi Schrader

9 Nov

UPDATED TO REFLECT CURRENT INFORMATION

We live in a society which all too often rewards greed over honest work. This has led to a culture of fear and intimidation, where many people feel intensely pressured to toe the line or lose what they have.

We are very often told that as Canadians we are lucky. Our country has been least affected by the global economic crisis… so far. We still live in the best country in the world. And it’s true, we are lucky compared to some. At least, some of us are.

We allow ourselves to be lulled by this even as a sense of uneasiness grows. Some part of us knows all is not well. Even as the newspapers tell us we have nothing to complain about they report how a major energy corporation intentionally drove Alberta’s energy prices to highest in the country and cost Alberta residents millions. And how the punishment was extremely light.

You’d think this would be front page news, wouldn’t you? What did you see on the front page of the Calgary Herald on Tuesday November 8?

Occupy Calgary Showdown. A photo of a scruffy looking guy with full suitcases and a sheepish expression leaving St Patrick’s Island.

Alberta residents just got ripped off for millions by a corporation which controls 16 per cent of Alberta’s commercial power and are facing an extremely light penalty for it. But Matt McKellar and his fellow protesters get the front page. Oh those silly protesters.

The media rants and raves about the so far unverifiable $40,000 figure for damages supposedly caused by the demonstrators in Olympic Plaza, (go look, there is no damage, and if there is, we have several landscapers who have offered to replace the sod free of charge) yet it doesn’t even tell you that Stephen Harper did in fact bail out Canadian banks to the tune of $69 billion between 2008 and 2010. 

That’s a pretty big, faraway figure isn’t it? If you divide that between 34 million Canadians that means the average person paid $2000. What could you do with 2 grand of your own hard earned money?

This same prime minister has cut veteran pension funding. The people who fought and risked their lives for the peace and freedom of the Canadian people have been told by that same country that it will not support them. Harper recently announced approval a $22 million budget for a war of 1812 reenactment. Does that look to anyone else like taking money from the living to give to the dead?

Sure, everything’s fine.

What does it mean to working Canadians who struggle to do good things for our society to see such evidence of callous disregard for our efforts by our own government?

Those of us who work the hardest, who care passionately enough about the work we do to pursue it despite low wages and unfavorable conditions, are often the most vulnerable to bullying by our employers. Especially at times of economic recession when jobs are scarce, many feel afraid to speak up against injustices within the workplace. Or even outside of it.

We have heard of several corporations which instructed their employees that any involvement with Occupy Calgary would result in immediate termination. We have at least one alleged example of a person being fired simply for having participated.

This would put the lie to the portrayed image of the protesters being a bunch of jobless bums. At least one of us used to have a job. This writer also has one and so do several others, unless things like this are allowed to go on.

Though the company in question states the termination letter was a fake and many have pointed out that the company is a reputable one, abuses of this sort do occur often between invividual human beings when one is in authority over the other. 

The sad thing is that such abuses occur out of fear.  Such is the sickness in our society. Perhaps even members of our local media are too intimidated to show us what is really going on without using misdirection tactics to distract from the dangers around us. 

It is just this injustice that we seek to cast light on in the hope that people will find the courage to speak out against it. Not only the individual injustice of one lost job, but the all pervasive and deeply rooted injustice we all participate in when we shut our eyes and mouths to the truth. 

Marcus Arsenault wasn’t afraid, but too many are. 

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8 Responses to “What Are We Afraid Of? Mandi Schrader”

  1. Matt McKellar March 1, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    Quick update for the sake of fairness. I shaved the beard, agree whole-heartedly with Jen and have continued to support the movement. I’m still quite involved with Occupy Red Deer. We left to get our foot in the door and establish an agency. with OP still standing they could continue street operations and we could affect the boardroom and council chambers. I’m disappointed in how this was received and carried out but I’m not done fighting the good fight.

  2. Jen Gerson November 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    The Calgary Herald did put the TransAlta Corp. fine on the front page of the paper. It was displayed in the bottom-left corner. It also received front-page billing in the business section. I believe this placement had more to do with the lack of available art for the piece than a judgment on its newsworthiness. Ie; the front-page story must be not only the most newsworthy, but must also provide that day’s best image. The only images we have of TransAlta are pictures of plants and such, which are very weak.

    As for the city’s accounting of $40,000 worth of damage, I agree it has been sparse. The city has explained much of it is due to deferred park maintenance and a full accounting will only be made after the protesters leave. I am continuing to follow up with it.

    Lastly, I spoke with Marcus Arseneault today about being fired from his job, allegedly for his involvement with OC. If true, this is both illegal and unacceptable. Because it is my job, I called his old boss to get the other side of the story. Elric Nielsen told me that he did not write the email that Mr. Arseneault claimed to have received. I found this very interesting. One might suspect the manager is denying writing the letter in the face of media scrutiny, and this is one compelling explanation.

    However, I’m at a loss to explain why Mr. “Neilson” would misspell his own name at the bottom of the email in question.

    I can assure you, I am looking into the matter.

    If you have other concerns with coverage, I would be happy to address them. Further, if any of your members have been fired for their participation in legal protests, we would be happy to address these matters as well.

    Regards,
    Jen Gerson
    jgerson@calgaryherald.com

    • Anonymous November 9, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

      I sincerely hope Marcus is smart enough not to give you a second interview after that biased story your just published Jen. You will look so stupid when the truth about Sodexo comes out.

      • Jen Gerson November 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

        If Sodexo is lying, I’ll be the first one to condemn them for it. That’s why I interviewed Marcus in the first place.

    • idnami November 9, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

      If the email should prove to be fake we will publicly apologize of course.
      I have no explanation for the discrepancy but the matter is being looked into on all sides.
      I must stand by the nature of this post, written with full belief that the matter was a fact. Things like this do happen frequently and the story is rarely told for he reasons mentioned in the above post. If we believe ourselves powerless, we are. If we speak, things may change.
      I think the TransAlta article was far more news worthy on the strengh of the headline alone than the packing up of the occupy camp. But maybe that’s just me. The lack of relevant art seems like a bit of a flimsy excuse considering the magnitude of the story. $5.5 million is a lot more than $40000, y’know?

      • Jen Gerson November 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

        Oh I totally agree TransAlta is the stronger story, all else being equal. But a lot of the time people don’t realize that editors and page designers have to balance competing elements like art, newsworthiness, public interest and importance etc. For example, one of the reasons we’ve devoted literally thousands of dollars to covering Occupy Calgary is because the public is interested. The stories are very popular even though the small number of people involved in the protest renders the event questionably newsworthy.

        Putting together a newspaper is a daily visual puzzle and when you understand how it’s done, you have a better understanding of why it’s done.

        Anyway, if people are getting fired for protesting, that’s a story anywhere. I agree you should speak up. You are not powerless and it’s good for you to state your cases through blogs like this and in the media more generally.

        I understand you believe Marcus’s story. I am certainly not the arbiter of truth in the case but I do have an obligation, both legally and morally, to present the company’s response in my work as well. However, I respect you guys are presenting polemic here.

        Anyway, just my $.02. Always happy to respond to emails jgerson@calgaryherald.com

  3. Anonymous November 9, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    Well done! This certainly sums up the climate of a culture of silence and the totalitarian iron fist of the corporation. Clearly the dominance of profits over people is the norm in this city. Should we expect our weak-kneed government in Alberta to do anything about this? A hard feat I suspect when many of the MLAs are corporate pinheads themselves and have used our pseudo-democracy to entrench the interests of the corporate elite. Time to unseat their fat butts and get some people in there who really care about the lives of the people of Alberta.

    • idnami November 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

      Thank you! It is also a good example of the results of this amazing social experiment so far. We seek to shine a light on greed and inequality and the extremely damaging effects they have on our culture and the reaction we have seen to this by certain people is beginning to expose the reality behind that message. The people who hate us most show us why this movement needs to exist. Pass it on!

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