Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Both Halves of the Occu-pie Taste Like Crap

I have mixed feelings about the occupy movement.

On one hand:

London's leadership is now officially the the douchiest in Canada. Last night, after a warning Tuesday morning, police descended on Victoria Park to steal the tents of the people who had been living there for the last two weeks. They were within their rights to do this, since there is a bylaw asking people not to put up tents in city parks. However, let's look at the actual warning that cited this bylaw:

Notice all those "unless authorized" exceptions. Hey, here's an idea to prevent people from breaking the law: authorize them to be there so it's no longer illegal. Apparently "we demand people giving us money for sunglasses, gangsta blankets, and overpriced meat" is good enough to skirt the bylaw (see: Sunfest, Ribfest, every other fest there in the summer). But "we demand a better future for our children"? GTFO!

The bottom line is that there were a bunch of tents sitting in one corner of a park, occupied by people who didn't hurt anyone (I walk through there every day, and it was more fun and felt more safe than it did before). Someone—maybe the mayor, maybe the police, maybe a combo—made the conscious decision to evict them from the park based on an optional bylaw. That decision was probably motivated by personal beliefs more than following any guidelines. That's not being a firm decision maker, being tough on crime, or being a good leader. No, failing to tolerate people you personally disagree with, that's simply being a giant asshole.

On the other hand:

The occupy movement is failing. It's clear from the general public's reaction to London's assholery that most people don't know, nor care, what the protestors are protesting. When the point is to raise awareness, to have not done so after months of occupying, that's a failure.

Signs, well-meaning people, and infographics attempt to explain the purpose of the protests. But they either contradict each other (or reality), are too vague to be meaningful, or complain about a problem without offering a solution.

Be mad.
The main focus has been the disparity between the wealthiest 1% of the population, who control a lot of the country's wealth, and the other 99% of the population, who don't. Ok. That's bad I guess. But how should things be different? The financial crisis in the United States is another focus. Banks fucked up and ruined the economy. That's bad. Yep. But it already happened, in another country with crappier laws, so how should things be different here, now?

It'd be nice to see a list of problems, with potential solutions offered by experts in the field.

E.g., to me it seems the problem isn't the 1% / 99% disparity itself, but how it got there. There are some giant assholes who make conscious decisions to scam or screw over other people to gain massive amounts of money. Many of the 1% have gotten their wealth through immoral or illegal means. The banking crisis is one result of this.

The solution, then, isn't some vague call to "close the gap". Rather, the solution is to stop people from gaining money at the expense of others. Find the people—not a vague type of person, but the exact, specific people—who are rich because they are assholes. Arrest them if possible. If not, bring in an expert to study them. Find out what laws and loopholes allow them to thrive, then change them.

Or something. The key is that the rich/poor disparity is a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. "We are the 99%" isn't even pointing out a problem, let alone offering a solution. "Raise minimum sentences on white-collar crimes so that we 99% stop getting screwed by the criminals among the 1% and rewarding the worst side of human nature" is a less catchy slogan, but now you've got me listening, and a direction for taking action.

To sum up: I don't necessarily agree with the occupiers' muddled messages, but as long as they're expressing them peacefully, I fully support them being free to do so.


Phronk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
c said...

I've seen a few people initiate conversations, and be inspired to work towards positive change at the local level - as a direct result of the Occupy movement. I don't even know very many people.

Things are being planned in London right now that will positively effect the community for the long term. I'm involved with one, and I wouldn't be had it not been for Occupy.

Multiply that by the countless Occupations around the world.

Occupy has not been a failure.

Hey Lady! said...

We have an "Occupy Austin" movement here too. Though I think more than half the people in many of these movements are there just there to have a place to hang out. I think it feeds the human need to belong somewhere and be part of something, even if they're not sure what.

I don't have a problem with protesting, I think everyone should have that right. I just wish the objectives were made clear, so it would be more productive. Much of it all seems like a big mess(at least here in the US), and in some cases harms what I believe to be the objectives with racism and disorderly conduct.

Phronk said...

Good point, "Chayce."

It's not a complete failure in every way. It's had a positive effect on many individuals, and beyond that, gotten people talking and thinking about things they wouldn't have otherwise.

But it is a failure in some senses. It's failed in getting the general public on board and educated, and in delivering a cohesive call for change. Given these were its goals (or at least some of many goals, which is part of the problem), I don't think it's unfair to say it's a failure.

Like, a bake sale that doesn't sell any muffins may teach some individuals to bake, but I still wouldn't call it a success.

Phronk said...

Hey Hey Lady! Yeah, I agree, I think a lot of it is about just getting together with like-minded people to try to do something good. That "something" can be anything or nothing, though.

It's messy here too, though in a typical polite Canadian way (except for someone biting a police officer in Vancouver...that's not very polite). I think there are people who are hurting the cause. Here, when the cops were set to come in, many wore masks. That only makes it seem like they have something to hide or are preparing to get violent. I know that as soon as I see someone resorting to violence, they lose all sympathy. Violence is a step backwards, not productive. That goes for cops and protestors.

Nancy said...

I knew I was your friend for a reason. You articulated my views on this whole issue. I think the movement is about tapping into people's frustrations and about bringing awareness to multiple issues, which is why the message gets so muddled. My impression was that Occupy London was being run by people who didn't communicate well with each other and the general public. Also everyone was there for their own cause. However, it got people from multiple perspectives to talk to each other. If it creates a sense of community, that is only going to serve our community better in the future. If people want to go camping in freezing cold weather at Victoria Park, it doesn't bother me. But obviously it was bothering someone.