Movements for change require new thinking

By Pat Watson Wednesday April 29 2015 in Opinion
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When it comes to government and political affairs there are really three basic options: you can fight the power, be the power or do nothing. Fighting the power or being the power calls for strategy. At the same time, the latter of these two can at times rely heavily on a large sector of the populace following the third option.


Those in power these days are ensuring that they keep the power by giving as much as they can to those who will keep them on top. A strategy therefore is they give those voters lots of goodies – tax cuts and tax credits that directly affect that group, for example.


At the same time that a special privileged sector floats on the largesse of the power group, there is a sense of powerlessness among other people. They are the disaffected ones. That belief turned into action, or, if you will, inaction means they do not vote. They do not see any political party of the day as being for them. Ironically, they help to keep those in power there by ceding their own power.


The groups who fight the ones in power do so in two basic ways: one is that they try to appeal to those in power; they protest and advocate. Most often that does not work. There is plenty of evidence to support that outcome. Furthermore, they are regularly assaulted when they exercise their right to disagree strongly with those in power.


Recall that during the G20 Summit held here in Toronto back in 2010, those in power ordered military forces to arrest hundreds of individuals exercising their right to protest, incarcerated those individuals and about a third of those were psychologically terrorized with the strip search method. That would be our tax dollars at work…against us.


Needless to say, this is a very bad situation.


Yet power can shift from one group of vested interests to another. Part of the reason that a good portion of people in power often disrespect those who don’t have it is that the power holders know how much work it is to get into power. It takes perseverance, energy, commitment and consistency.


Because they spend so much time and energy getting there, they understand things that those who never take on that experience do not. They understand the complacency of most people. They rely on that complacency to stay in power, yet at the same time they disrespect the complacent.


We like to talk about how youth are not involved in politics, but take a look at the student movement in Montreal as they fought against the rise in tuition fees and for access to education. The Montreal student movement has a tradition of fighting the power and with effect. Their fight precipitated a change of government in Quebec during their last election. So, fighting the power can work.


But being the power, there lies the ability to direct how vested interests can be enacted.


Many of those who consider themselves activists need to reassess their effort for change, and find effective ways to move from protest to power.


Earlier this week a report on CBC’s The Current spotlighted Srdhja Popovic, who runs the Centre for Applied Non-Violent Action. Popovic spoke about how to bring people into a non-violent movement that can effect change using humour and clever yet simple people positive empowerment strategies.


The actions to bringing about change also require a change. Furthermore, no political movement can survive without numbers. As in the case of the Toronto police force’s unrepentant support of carding, protest groups must find clever strategies that will foster public support across the board. In Montreal, students got everyday people beating pots and pans. Anti-carding activists here need their own version of a pots and pans movement.


A note on the optics…

The Progressive Conservatives in Ontario are in the process of identifying a new leader and the marquee name at the moment is Christine Elliot. One of the Elliot campaign offices is on Yonge St. just south of St. Clair Ave. where a scan of the facade presents passersby with a sizable and messy deposit of pigeon poop. You can make your own inference.


Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose.

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