Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy Toronto: What To Do?

My mind has been consumed with novel writing, and unfortunately my blogging has taken a back seat. But I've been thinking about Occupy Toronto, how it reminds me of the On-to-Ottawa Trek (sans its violence), and how different it has been (so far) from most other places. The violence that was so-not-Toronto-like during the G20 has not yet marred our Occupy movement, unlike other cities in the US, Europe, and even Canada. Our Mayor has not done a sneaky end-run round the Occupy protestors like Halifax's did. And the church that owns half of the park tells reporters that they are talking with the city and the protestors both to end the occupation and to respect the movement at the same time. In other words, people are trying to respect each other and all the different viewpoints in order to end the occupation of St. James Park peacefully.

I heard something interesting on CBC Radio 1 Monday morning. A business spokesperson said that there are 500 protestors in that park who have energy and interest in political matters and want to make a difference. We always complain about the young not participating in the electoral process, but here we  have an opportunity to engage them.

Imagine if Toronto not only didn't devolve the protest into violence and a fight between the complacent against the hurting, but also did something radical: listen to the protestors and create a forum for change that included politicians, leaders, business people, and protestors. That way the protestors would no longer have to occupy the park, and it would no longer just be about a bunch of people living in tents while the rest of us struggle along.

Yes, I know, I hear the bleatings already: How can we listen when the message seems to be all over the place? Well, Occupy Toronto has a democratic method of hearing everyone. Why not tell them as part of the negotiations to use that method to whittle their issues down to three key issues, with one of those issues specifically reflecting the 99% slogan. In other words, define that in concrete terms that people can act on (as well as understand). Then we would set up some sort of forum with a set date to start and a set schedule during which solutions would be hashed out for those three issues.

I don't really see the point of dispersing the occupiers when we are doing nothing about their fundamental message of the fracturing of our society into 1% and 99%, as if dispersing them will end the issue. In Toronto, we lament the disappearing middle class, but there's no point wringing our hands over that if we're unprepared to do anything about it. The protestors have put a boot in our rear. It's up to us as to whether we whine about the boot and rub our offended rears, or whether we turn around and talk about it so as to effect change, as Canadians have always done very well since Confederation.

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