Why Occupy?

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On Saturday, October 15th, over a thousand cities around the world, including Montreal, will fuel the “Occupy Movement” by hosting, or intensifying, their very own “Occupy (insert city here.)” The occupation of these various cities will go on for as long as it takes for our governments to acknowledge that there is a problem with our economic systems.

If your reading this, you’ve heard about Occupy Wall Street

Maybe you’re even super gung-ho about it and embrace the movement with every inch of your being? Maybe you have been watching the live streams coming out of the various occupied cities, maybe you have joined the Facebook groups and have read all the latest related articles and blog posts. Maybe, just maaaaaybe you’ve even bought a t-shirt. If that’s the case, great! Stop reading – go dust off your sleeping bag and make a sign for Saturday.

But maybe you’ve heard of it and don’t entirely get it, and aren’t really sure if you support it. That’s okay too but if you’d just give me a couple minutes of your time, I’d really like to use this platform to explain why your participation in this movement will make your life and the lives of the vast majority better.

In order to understand the ‘Occupy Movement,’ we need not focus as much at its specific so-called origin vis-à-vis Adbusters, however interesting, but rather we must examine the origin of it’s underlying motive.

The motive for the Occupy Movement is inequality. Point final.

The occupiers are those who feel abused by the systematic inequality and injustice that is perpetuated by the current economic system. A system that lends to the growing disparity between the super rich and the super poor and between the super rich and the middle class, who are on their way to becoming the super poor. A system that places the interest of corporations over those of the people they are sworn to protect. The occupy movement is made up of people who feel disenfranchised and ignored.

This inequality is fuelled by an insultingly minute level of corporate financial regulation and growing corporate welfare, regressive tax policies that target the middle class instead of the rich, loose monetary policies, anti-trust laws, manipulation of the financial system and government corruption by entrenched corporate influence. The skeptic need look no further than the 2008 financial crisis for evidence of this lack of regulation. And then again at the ensuing exploitation of the un-responsible middle class for an example of corporate influence over the government.

When we look at the Occupy Movement, we must not forget the damage the American financial system has thrust upon the global economy in the past years. We must also not forget, as Canadians, our dependence on and role in, the American economy.  But the Occupy Movement isn’t just about opposition to the ripple effect of unfettered American capitalism. What about Canada, why occupy here?

Most of us don’t have a clue that income inequality is actually growing at a faster rate in Canada than it is in the US. Most of us don’t realize that Canada has had one of the fastest growing rates of income inequality since the 1990s. Canadian household debt has reached a record high (1.5 trillion) and the poverty rate in our rich country is hovering at around 10%. That ol’ gap between the rich and poor just keeps on growin’ and is showing no sign of stopping.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reported that, in the land of bacon, maple syrup and beer commercials, “the…richest 1% took almost a third (32%) of all growth in incomes between 1997 and 2007.” In the 50s and 60s, they only took 8% of income growth. Since the 1970s, the richest 0.01% has almost quadrupled its income. The CCPA also found, that our “generation of rich Canadians is staking claim to a larger share of economic growth than any generation that has preceded it in recorded history. An examination of income trends over the past 90 years reveals that incomes are as concentrated in the hands of the richest 1% today as they were in the Roaring Twenties.”

In one day, the top CEOs in Canada make more money than the average worker does in one year. Between 1995 and 2007, the average salaries of CEOs went up 444%, while our salaries  haven’t  budged in the last quarter century. They aren’t working any harder, they are just getting paid more, much more.

“Canada’s elite has managed to convince decision-makers that if they kept more of their income, they could create more wealth for everyone. After thirty years, the evidence shows that trickle-down economics was a hollow promise and a costly social experiment,” writes Armine Yalnizya.   Yes, the Canadian economy is growing. But at what cost?   To learn more about economic injustice and income inequality in Canada check out the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report.

This inequality is in large part the result of the absence of a sense of government accountability to the people who they are supposed to serve. Democracy has been perverted and ultimately overridden to serve the interests and agendas of the richest 1%. The Occupy Movement is about re-democratizing democracy, about putting power back in the hands of the  99%. It is about forcing the 1% to stop handing us crumbs and finally take the needs of the rest of us seriously.

According to Maxwell Ramstead, of Occupy Montreal, “The problem is that there’s no way to vote against the banking system and the dominance of the financial sector.  That’s what [the Occupy Movement] is about. This is about opening a public space where we can voice our opinion and discuss issues that have not been accessible through traditional avenues.  People say the movement has no specific demands, that’s missing the point.  The point is to allow critical discourse to happen, to compare demands and solutions with other citizens, and to voice our opinions in a non-violent manner.”

Things have been crappy for a very long time, so why now? Maybe we just needed the time to grow the balls? Maybe we were inspired by the Arab Spring? Whatever the reason, we have reached our breaking point.

If you come out to Occupy Montreal, that means there will be one more person. Instead of adopting the apathetic, “Oh, there will be tons of people there already, they don’t need me,” attitude, think of yourself instead, as that one more person that makes all the difference. A movement is made up of thousands of those, ‘one more people.’ There is no such thing as too many.

This is the beginning of something big, a revolution hopefully. A revolution takes a lot of people, with lots of drive and lots of time to achieve. So many people have sacrificed so much to put this together, they have given up time and money, and some have quit their jobs. All you have to do is show up!

If you are still not 100% convinced, that’s cool, come out on Saturday or any day after that and check it out for yourself. Talk to people, ask questions, have a discussion. Make up your own mind, not from the sidelines but come and see what it’s really all about.

Occupy Montreal needs you! The world needs you. We will only be as strong as our numbers. On saturday bring warm cloths, food, generators, audio-video equipment, walkie-talkies, tents, tarps, blankets, batteries, solar chargers, first aid kits, maintenance equipment. Bring everything you can and everyone you know.

The people united, will never be defeated!

Occupy Montreal happens in Square Victoria starting tomorrow, Saturday, October 15th starting at 9:30am. More info can be found on the Facebook event page

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