Way to keep it classy Vancouver. I wasn’t sure there after I made my last post, but you sure proved me and the rest of the news media wrong. Apparently Vancouverites can collectively gather without tipping cars over and looting stores. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for some of the other 662 cities around the global, such as Rome and Athens where it seems that black bloc tactics won the day and undermined the message of unity, peace and a collective will to put a decisive end to corporate greed. Wake up radical leftists, you do more to harm the cause than to help it through your extremist actions.
If I am right, and I hope that I am, what I witnessed yesterday was a major moment in recent global history, the coming out party for a new civil society movement. What struck an emotional cord with me yesterday was the collective will to be bigger than yourself rather than as a self-interested individual. It was a beautiful thing to witness true participatory democracy, I was so moved by what I saw unfurling below me that I was driven to inform a woman standing right in front of the railing at the top of the Georgia steps what democracy really means.
As I recall from my political theory lectures, the root word ‘demos’ means people therefore democracy is a form of governance by the people for the people. She told me in response, that what we were witnessing was a real throwback to a different era of political acculturation.
In many ways the #occupyvancouver movement was similar to the 1960s and 1970s drives for racial and gender equality but different because this gathering of between 2-3,000 people (depending on whose numbers you believe) was largely leaderless. Well it did have leadership but not in the traditional sense of a centralizing figure like Gandhi or Martin Luther King JR. The organizing committee had a few noticeable reoccurring characters that acted as facilitators, guiding the discourse and passing the mic off to anyone in the crowd, so they could vent there common frustrations with late capitalism. In this way the demonstration was largely cathartic. But these facilitators freely admitted that their role within the movement was largely transient according to one activist who told the crowd that anyone could take his job- if they decided to join one of the numerous newly formed committees at #occupyvancouver that dealt with everything ranging from event security to public relations to even nascent policy development.
And here is where we reach the collective breaking point, if this 99% movement is destined to become long lasting, demonstrating the longevity and the efficacy that was lacking in the March 2003 anti-Iraq war protests; then common goals must be collectively reached within the coming days or this noble attempt at social change will fail like past attempts.
Talks ground to a halt last night at approximately 9:30PM when it seemed that an impasse could not be overcome. A disagreement arose when it came to dealing with peace officers assigned to oversee the newly erected tent city on the Vancouver Art Gallery grounds. It should be mentioned that huge strides where made prior to this, a mandate was approved by the amorphous crowd which was similar to the ‘working statement’ discussed in the October 13th-20th edition of the Georgia Strait Newspaper [sic]:
We challenge corporate greed, corruption, and the collusion between corporate power & government…we oppose systemic inequality, militarization, environmental destruction, and the erosion of civil liberties and human rights.
Could a more grand and far- reaching statement be drafted? Probably not the activists, hearts are in the right place but that is not the issue at hand.
The true problem facing the organizing committee for #occupyvancouver in the next couple of days, should it want to keep the revolutionary fires burning is how to actualize these goals. I have given it some thought and it seems that the Occupy movement across British Columbia should direct its collective efforts to oppose corporate greed through direct action campaigns.
My first recommendation, which should follow the proposed march along Howe St. [Vancouver’s financial district] on Monday should be to promote and engage in shareholder activist measures across the province; so if you don’t like the potential for natural resources companies such as Terasen gas to make a profit from natural gas exploration in the Sacred Headwaters region at the expense of the planet, letting the executive board know by purchasing shares in the company and attending their next annual general meeting. The monies that were donated from various participants yesterday and today could be used to send delegates from the newly formed policy committee to these shareholder meetings.
I came to my next recommendation after speaking to a videographer who has been traveling around the country documenting the 99% and posting there protest actions on YouTube. He told me about a new action coming out of New York where activists are engaging in ‘divestment campaigns’. He told me that people have been arrested outside of national banks in the US after collapsing their savings accounts on mass as a form of protest. Let’s do the same here, just without the part about going to prison. We should start by putting our money into institutions that we know is ethical rather than morally questionable, I am looking at you RBC. It is a well-known fact that black-bloc protestors in the Olympic games demonstrations targeted the RBC building on Burrard Street; they did so because RBC has a record of financing companies that engage in oil extraction in the Tar Sands in Northern Alberta. Instead I choose to bank with VanCity, the second largest credit union in the country for its clear and measurable commitment to corporate social responsibility. In fact VanCity will not extend a loan or invest in a business until it meets its stringent ethical standards.
In closing Vancouver remember to keep it classy NOT trashy. The legitimacy of this movement lies in its common respect for people and the planet. So I would recommend creating less trash and cigarette butts when you are out there waving placards today. Doing so will make the event more accessible for young families.
Yours truly, To Tread Lightly.