(Ottawa Citizen article available here)
Some have said that Occupy isn't about anything. That convenient and short-sided response is missing what has led to this unprecedented movement. Occupy is about all of us, its about the fact that we have become a have - have not society, this is the new global pandemic, and our governments are not ramping up their rapid crisis response systems. This is about the reality that prosperity and opportunity will soon be out of reach for our eroding middle class.
This is about people, people and their economic structures that are not meeting their needs; people and their governments who do not understand their needs; and people bumping into systems that are not designed to meet their needs. This is about fear, real fear that shortsighted policies are reaping havoc with our future.
Whether it’s ignoring the 15-degree temperatures in Ottawa in November, yes Ottawa.... that is signaling climate change has found a comfortable place to nestle in thanks to Canada’s non-response response and fear of anything green. Fear that with rising health care costs and pressure on an eroding social infrastructure, there will be little left for future generations. It’s about feeling unheard, and frustration that the fabric of our social infrastructure is crumbling beneath us and much of what we grew up believing about our country is today more aspirational than real.
And it’s about the fear of being left behind.... It is inconceivable that a country as well endowed as Canada, a country that prides itself in protecting and empowering the most vulnerable in our society, a country that was once heralded a moral compass in the international community is quickly becoming a country of myths. Universal Health Care, the Social Quilt, Peace Keeping, Our Aboriginal Heritage, the Cultural Mosaic were all once pillars of Canadian Just Society. Uniquely Canadian, once sources of great pride and today, no longer reflect who we are.
Have we decided that it is okay for children in Canada to go to school without breakfast, to hide during lunch so that no one will see they have nothing to eat? To go home at the end of the day uncertain as to whether there will be a meal for them?
That after years of raising their families, working and contributing to their communities their country that it is okay for seniors to go without. To make choices between paying rent, heating bills or groceries, where is the dignity in that?
That our shared Aboriginal heritage is not something to celebrate? That for so many, their rich heritage has become is a life sentence to live in catastrophic poverty, conditions that rival developing countries? That isolation, discrimination and hunger are simply regarded as a fault and not a symptom of discrimination?
That after fleeing persecution, war, torture and coming to Canada that going hungry and living on the social fringe is just part of settling into Canadian Society?
The Occupiers have not.
Clearly, it is time for a rethink…. A renewal of our social contract, time once again for a big national conversation about who we are today, where we want to go and how we will get there. That is what Occupy is about. So when draconian measures force the tents down, the spirit of Occupy will continue, it’s a movement, the tents are simply a symbol.
Sure, you can dismiss it, ignore the signs, pretend we are that Canada, the moral compass, but the reality of what is happening will strike you, whether it's today, next week or ten years from now, a country fundamentally changed. Get involved… join a movement, occupy, volunteer, sign a petition; anything is better than standing on the side of the road.