Protests aren’t meant to make us comfortable


There is no shortage of people who feel strongly compelled to place judgment on those who are giving their lives daily to the Occupy movement. That is how adherents to the status quo try to reconcile themselves with what is happening as these Occupiers, mainly young university-educated types, continue their ‘hard to understand, directionless’ action.

You will know members of the status quo by their judgments. Among them are the ones who will say they “recognize people’s right to protest”, then quickly add, “but….”

It was the kind of speech made by Jean Quan, the mayor of Oakland, California, where Occupiers and police clashed recently.

Here’s Quan: “(The police chief) and I are dedicated to the right of every demonstrator to peacefully assemble, but it is our duty to prioritize public safety.”

Alarmingly, the principle of public safety is being distorted as police forces turn on ordinary citizens exercising that right to peacefully protest. Our “Summer of the G20 Clash” stands as a clear reminder.

Just as fascinating are those who feel the Occupiers have ‘made their point’ and that this action has now ‘passed its peak’. In other words, ‘You’ve had your fun, now why don’t you just pack up and go back to your parents’ basements?’

However, haven’t we taught our children that perseverance and resolve pay off?

We need to understand the vast utility of the Internet, Facebook and Twitter as essential to this protest action. The people who are in St. Paul’s Park in downtown Toronto do not feel they are alone in their efforts. And they are not. They are part of a worldwide network of Occupy actions.

Still, it makes some people feel more comfortable if they can minimize the burgeoning movement, and thus dismiss Occupiers as over-privileged college students who should just ‘get a job’.

Focusing discomfort about this action on the participants means that we can look away from the deficit in equity now plaguing us.

Over the past couple of decades, top earners who used to make 40 times as much as the everyday working Joe now makes 400 times more annually. And this is not because they are doing 10 times more work, or improving the value of shares in the companies that pay them more money than any one person can reasonably spend in a lifetime.

Dumping on the Occupiers is an easy out, far easier than having to face the daunting question of how we are going to turn this parasitic economic behemoth around. At this point, our global economic system is so precisely configured to create profit for the very few that there is no straightforward answer. The crisis in Europe is an indication of that. Economists and political leaders are struggling as they try to apply old responses to a new world paradigm.

Young people who are feeling the brunt of it are out there as the weather turns cold trying to figure out how to make a future for themselves. They are doing this because their backs are against the wall. People don’t take desperate action until that is the case; such is human nature, and this is what we are seeing here and in many other parts of the world.

For these groups of protesters, this is their ‘Dirty 30s’, their Depression. And they are, figuratively, the tip of the iceberg.

We have an aging population which, just as it changed the world when its members were young, is about to change the dynamics again as they enter their senior years. Denial will not change that reality.

And here is another hard question: If White, university-educated young people are struggling to find employment and aren’t getting ahead, what chance have the university-educated young people from our community, who have historically had to struggle harder?

A note on the colour Black…

Never thought the day would come when we would learn that being Black could also be a disadvantage for animals. Black dogs and cats are the last to be adopted from animal rescue shelters and the first to be euthanized, according to shelter workers. They say those who go to shelters to adopt a pet are likely to choose animals that are black last because they see the colour black as being ‘boring.’ There are just no words for this.

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