Seven Reasons Not To Support Occupy Calgary – Arran Fisher

24 Oct

I’m not an economist or political analyst. I can’t say I have any answers, and
I don’t attest to even have a keen grasp of the problems, but that there are problems with the way our society runs is obvious to anyone who bothers to pay attention. I know like-minded people who feel this way also, but are not getting involved with the Occupy movement. I’m trying to understand why this is. Here are some possibilities:

1. “I can’t get behind a movement that doesn’t have a clear statement of objectives.”

2. “I don’t see how this applies to me in Calgary.”

3. “I like the way things are.”

4. “I don’t relate to the people in the Occupy movement, I’m not an anarchist.”

5. “I don’t feel well-informed enough to get involved”

6. “I’m too busy.”

7. “It’s not going to accomplish anything.”

Here are my own responses to these thoughts, since I’ve had all of them myself:

1. “I can’t get behind a movement that doesn’t have a clear statement of objectives.”

My favourite Occupy placard that I’ve seen so far simply states, “Shit is Fucked Up and Bullshit.” The base objective of the Occupy movement as I see it is to express dissatisfaction with how our society is currently functioning. How is society currently functioning, you ask? It’s nearly entirely controlled by the profit motive at the expense of the will of the people, that’s how. I’m not going to spout stats and facts, this stuff is easy to find, but you’d be hard pressed to name an aspect of our lives that isn’t largely controlled by very powerful global corporations, or, put conversely, to name an aspect to our lives where the democratic will of the people has gained in influence. Corporations are, in their very structure, unable to consider environmental sustainability, social justice or quality of life in their operation. They are simply machines of financial gain, controlled by nothing else. The Occupy movement is not trying to directly accomplish a set of goals, it is wedging itself into the day-to-day, business-as-usual process and sparking a conversation that begins with the question, “What kind of society do we want to live in?” In supporting the movement I am agreeing that this is a question worth asking. Of course there are many issues that are related to this: income disparity, aboriginal rights, labour issues, housing, social welfare etc. These are all important topics, but I don’t think I need to subscribe to any one of them in particular to feel that the occupy movement is worth supporting.

2. “I don’t see how this applies to me in Calgary.”

Most of the attention that the Wall Street protests are getting is in regards to the U.S. financial crisis and income disparity, and this makes sense because they are easy, concrete targets. Of course, the Canadian financial system has policies to prevent things like the sub-prime mortgage fallout. So we’re fine, right? The thing I’ve come to realize is that we live in a global economy, and here I use the word “economy” in the broad sense to mean “household management”. The recent decades have brought everyone in the world together in a way that has never been the case before. Large corporations function without borders and without any one set of laws.
Environmental sustainability affects everyone, and will undoubtedly be the most pressing concern for generations to come. Human consumption is putting stresses on every aspect of the natural world, to the point where we are really on the brink of being unable to feed ourselves on a global scale. This may not affect Calgary immediately, but I’m convinced that it’s only a matter of time, unless our household management system is not substantially altered soon.

3. “I like the way things are.”

I do. I really do. I’ve got a nice place to live and enough free time to write this stuff down. I don’t go hungry and I spend lots of time doing the things I enjoy. I would guess that most Calgarians feel this way as well, so why would we want to change anything? In some ways, it seems like human nature to be only concerned about oneself and immediate friends and family. Maybe that’s a fine way to live for some people, but I don’t get it. How can I see the direction that we’re headed as a civilization and not feel concern for everyone? Or for even just for my own future generations? I would have to willfully ignore even the most myopic news sources and try to forget that the inevitable outcome of the corporate agenda is to turn all resources into profit until those resources are used up. I don’t think I can live like that.

4. “I don’t relate to the people in the Occupy movement, I’m not an anarchist.”

The mainstream media in Calgary has focused on the people who are living at the two Occupy encampments as exemplars of the movement, and it’s fair enough to say that most of the occupiers appear to be either of the anarchist urchin or the homeless variety. While I support their commitment, I don’t feel a huge kinship with either group myself, but at the main rally on October 15, there were all kinds of folk out there to support it, and the online communities seem to show a large cross section of people who are involved. I think of the Occupy movement as a global phenomenon and the Calgary aspect is just one version of it. There were well over a thousand cities around the world that had Occupy protests on October 15. This does not seem to be a special-interest fixation and I do my best to ignore how it’s being portrayed by the local (corporate owned) media.

5. “I don’t feel well-informed enough to get involved”

When I’m on a busy street, do I need to know what that smell is to know I don’t like it? I don’t think the Occupy movement needs to know the intricacies of all the issues and finding all the solutions. There are people that devote their entire careers to figuring this stuff out. It’s our job to let them know that it’s not working. How do I know it’s not working? Well, to be honest, I know because people with more information than I do have said so and made good arguments to support what they think. As I said before, if I just look around my own situation, I can find some problems, but the full picture of the systemic failure of our current “household management” doesn’t reveal itself without some investigation. My own visits to other places around the world have definitely been insightful as well. If you’re looking for some quick sketches, try these:

David Suzuki speaking at Occupy Vancouver:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AqiVdruCII

Slavoj Zizek at Occupy Wall Street:

http://carlygsdrafts.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/slavoj-zizeks-speech-at-liberty-square/

David Harvey explains the financial crisis in a general sense, animated, no
less:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOP2V_np2c0

6. “I’m too busy”

When I look carefully at how I spend my time, it turns out that I’m not ever too busy to do the things I really want to do. “Too busy” is just an excuse I use to suppress the fact that really I don’t want to do that thing in the first place, or at least that there are other things I’d rather do instead. I suppose I finally decided that the Occupy movement was something I needed to do. I think a lot of people are just like this. In some cases, people really are unavoidably, without any options, too busy to do what they want, but usually it’s a matter of figuring out priorities. Right now I see a chance to make a change in the world, and I would like to have a part in it.

7. “It’s not going to accomplish anything.”

The Arab Spring began when a man set himself on fire as a dramatic gesture of protest against his government. Three regimes have since been toppled by mass popular revolts and at least three more are under threat. I don’t think one can predict the outcome of the Occupy movement, but I already see it as being successful. Already, every major broadcast network has had panel discussions surrounding the reasons for the Occupy movement and problems with the banks and the corporate system, and this in itself is a success. These topics were hardly mentioned six weeks ago. You reading this is already an amazing thing. Change is already happening.

Arran Fisher

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4 Responses to “Seven Reasons Not To Support Occupy Calgary – Arran Fisher”

  1. idnami October 26, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    That’s what we created this blog for. It’s easy for the average citizen to dismiss the “weirdos in the park” as being irrelevant. It’s a little harder to dismiss sincere and thoughtful writing on the reasons why they are there.

  2. Kelly October 25, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    Great post Arran, just an editorial note -the main protest was October 15, not the 17. Also, I’d question the productivity of calling our anarchist friends “urchins”. They are important in pushing the envelope and expanding the frame for dialogue. Just my two cents. Cheers!

    • genre slur October 25, 2011 at 9:25 pm #

      Excellent read. Thank you. I would like to leave a consideration for dialogue, however. I question the productivity of leaping to the defense of of ‘urchins’. The individuals Arran seems to be referring to most likely know nothing about the etymology/history of anarchy. Also, the direction in which they push seems (historically) destructive to any attempt at building a frame of dialogue. Which is why covert agents from various levels of government historically disguise themselves as such. Yum!

      • Arran Fisher October 26, 2011 at 10:50 am #

        Sure, the “urchins’ bit is perhaps unflattering, although I did say, “most appear to be . . .” and I don’t think you could argue they appear otherwise. I meant the term endearingly, as a way to concisely describe who I’m referring to, and I don’t mean to devalue anyone’s contribution to the movement, especially since the campers are what’s keeping the media talking.
        I would agree with Genre’s point, at least in so much that, in the context of the Occupy movement, someone who presents themselves as being from a marginalized demographic in a dramatic way (e.g. anarchy symbols, skulls, pentagrams etc.) is not doing a lot to promote the movement as one for average citizen, the “99%”.

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