This was a pretty crazy week for the Occupy Together movement – police beat and sprayed occupiers in New York, Seattle, Denver, and were going to descend on San Francisco as well before being scared off. That’s to say nothing of what happened to the students at Berkeley who were assaulted by police on the very steps where the free speech and anti-war movements of the mid-20th century were born.
I spent part of yesterday evening with Occupy Vancouver, on a march that went from Brookfield’s Vancouver office (the people who own Zuccotti Park and requested that the city tear down the OWS site) to a local branch of the Royal Bank, back to Brookfield, and returning ultimate to the foot of the Art Gallery. I was struck by the positive, upbeat attitude of the crowd and the (nearly) seamless communication of ideas.
What I was more struck by was the clear level of commitment, energy, and skill that had gone into making what was (when last I was there) a ramshackle affair into a cohesive, established site, that was offering a variety of services to the city of Vancouver.
I thought you might enjoy this video:
The Occupy movement, despite the idiotic, reactionary criticism it gets from people informed by a media that is not set up to understand a movement like this, is not a bunch of shiftless layabouts who would rather have a handout than push a broom. They are passionate, dedicated people who are willing to put themselves through quite a lot of suffering to make an important point about how our society is structured. In between making points, however, they’re also providing valuable services.
If I can speak as an economist for a moment, the video highlights something that doesn’t get spoken about much. I got into an absolutely one-sided “debate” with someone on Facebook who called the occupiers “losers”. Her position (rambling as it was) eventually settled on the fact that she didn’t want her hard-earned tax dollars paying for the electricity that Occupy Vancouver is getting from the city. The $0.00001 that she has contributed to the movement aside, that argument only works if you completely ignore the fact that Occupy Vancouver is housing and feeding people, providing medical care, and generating political advertising and awareness. Each of these things, provided without charge, is not only valuable, but takes pressure off of municipal services.
But again, this is the whole point of the Occupy movement: society is not living up to its promises to provide these services. If we want to see improvements, we have to become more proactive. What we should have is a system that places a greater emphasis on equality than quarter-to-quarter growth – the two are not independent entities. We should be using the wealth we generate to care for those who need help, so they can get up on their feet and begin generating wealth of their own. Instead, we reward a small number far beyond what their services are truly worth.
Anyway, if I’m not careful this will turn into a 2,000 word opinion piece on the philosophy of the occupiers. This is movie Friday – it’s supposed to be fun and relaxing. Here’s CROWN doing a Beatles tune:
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