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The Voices of Occupy Toronto


The grievances, priorities and hopes of protestors, in their own words

Protestors at Occupy Wall Street

Via _PaulS_, flickr

By: Ellen Stevens, Staff Writer

Just a block away from the park and a steady beat of a drum can be heard – harmoniously tapping with the intoxicating sounds of a soft acoustic. There’s a light murmur of a crowd and our walk becomes filled with anticipation.

It’s wonderful to see that in such a short period of time (5 days), with a communal team effort, organizers have created a kitchen tent, a library space, a media station, a medical station, a calling system (microphone echo and spirit fingers), a make a sign station and  most importantly Port A-Potty station.

The park resonates of peaceful protest and the power of togetherness is already on display. “It’s nice to see a protest not end in horrible fights, tear gas, and broken shop windows” says Joseph, Seneca Graduate and protest observer. “Maybe it’ll let the politicians know its citizens – particularly its young people wanting change – aren’t all rioting-careless-people. A bit more credibility never hurts.”


I eavesdrop on a variety of conversations to get the gist of what people are chatting about. Despite common belief that opinions are all over the place, there is a very unified chant.  Corporate greed, government corruption, and social inequality have together caused a lot of harm all around the world. It must come to a stop before it’s too late for the well being of the planet and the people living in it.  “The symptoms of our beleaguered society are a result of systemic disparity and growing injustices around the globe. Although the symptoms are numerous, the source of all of them stems from the prevailing social inequalities. Thus there is a unified goal to this movement” explains Orion, an engineer and protest enthusiast.

The problems seen all over the world as well as in Canada’s own back yard can be placed into these categorizes: economic, social, and environmental.  To scratch the surface, here are some of the concerns mentioned the interviews I conducted:  Highly imbalanced wealth distribution, lack of meaningful jobs, jobs being sent to other countries, wealthy businesses hoarding money, disparity between classes, Native rights issues, corporate agendas destroying the biosphere, restoration of democracy, corporate lobbying over policy and political leaders, not enough taxing for the wealthy, military defence spending, etc.

All this stems from governments and corporations who make shady choices that impact the word in very severe ways.   In the words of Dorian Douma, a multimedia producer: “I think it’s a reflection of how back-logged we are with different issues. Civil rights issues [i.e, Native problems we’ve had for most of century] unaddressed problems of economy… the basic structure of economy. This is a reflection of that.  At this point there is way, way too much.  This is the tipping point; people are really fed up with not having things solved.”

Economy

The issues being brought up in terms of the economy include: the misuse of Capitalism, debt, disparity, and unorganized spending in Canada and globally.

According to Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan, the essence of Capitalism is that the market aligns incentives in such a way that individuals working for their own best interest – passing out Coca Cola, spending years in graduate school, planting a field of soy beans, designing a radio that will work in the shower- enjoy a thriving and ever improving standard of living. It sounds like a hypothetically well-functioning system so why are some people so angry at it?

Dorian remarks: “I don’t have beef with capitalism. I’m totally into a free economy and the market. And it’s the responsibility of our governments to make sure that the systems work for us. And it’s not. Why? Because the government is being very irresponsible about it. We don’t do capitalism right. And it’s the cause of a lot of social problems.”

[pullquote]

Issues being brought up in terms of the economy include: the misuse of Capitalism, debt, disparity, and unorganized spending in Canada and globally.

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Furthermore, some other current problems with capitalism occur because the primary function of capitalism is being warped. It is increasingly used as a means to accumulate wealth for the 1 %. Companies are competing and lobbying to be excused from market forces.

This is being done by pressuring governments and bringing in policies that reduce competition in their sectors.  According to an online observer of the protest, “Bailouts socialize private debt on to the rest of society while profits are retained privately. These are symptoms of a capitalistic model that is serving wealth accumulation rather than efficient resource distribution. Others symptoms include unsustainable levels of income disparity, erosion of the middle class and a tax regime that regressively creeps”.

I asked Orion how this related to Canada; he responded: “While the banks in Canada have not cut as deep into the public’s quality of life as they have in the U.S., they are far from inculpable. They continue to glean record profits from the economy while contributing nothing in terms of material, industry, or technology. They, like their U.S. counterparts, remain in effect a pyramid-scam operation. They invent money at will and loan it out with interest, this is fraud.”

Debt

Debt is a national issue in Canada. Derivative contracts, credit default swaps and mortgages are all part of the problem. “We do have a better-regulated banking system which has limited our exposure to the financial crisis in the US, but we have problems here with growing income inequality, not to mention consumer debt and a looming housing crash. We shouldn’t be complacent about any of those things, and protesting here is also a way to show solidarity with those taking part in similar demonstrations in the US and elsewhere” remarks a recent U of T grad who prefers not to be named.

Social Issues

As Ras Haile explains: “If I drill an oil pump in the reserve, I should be able to decide who I export that oil to. And some of the money should go into the communities of the aboriginal people. The money should be communally spent on projects that should be further spent to help the people with things like social programs, economic programs, psychological programs, residential programs. There are many issues in the reserve, issues like school problem, homelessness, drugs, alcohol, and suicide. What it comes down to the corporations don’t have the first nations interests at heart.  It comes down to not only first Nations but human rights everywhere.”

[pullquote]We do have a better-regulated banking system…but we have problems here with growing income inequality, not to mention consumer debt and a looming housing crash.[/pullquote]

A young lady at Occupy gathering explains to me to me that she always supports the underdog. And right now,  99 % of us are the underdog. “What if,” she says, “99% of us were destined to fail.. and that 1 % percent  – no matter what they did or said – would win?”.

Calling out to others

We just had an election and only 49% of people eligible to vote actually voted. As one protester put it, “People need to make a decision and stop being afraid. Everyone is always talking about how they want change and how they want to see people stop from being impoverished.  Well, we just had an election. Why is Dalton McGuinty the premier of Ontario? Everyone is complaining about how he ripped the people off and about how he raises the GST, but when they get a tax rebate they are willing to swallow it. Change has to come from within. I have a problem with greedy people. Their greed restricts your freedom. Their greed allows those people to at any given moment do whatever they want.”

Where to start?

As Dorian puts it: [“The 1% should] acknowledge that there are some things you really can’t do. There’s no polite way to have our cake and eat it too. Huge amounts of people can’t be scarified for business-as-usual. Make some clear priorities. Enough is enough and enough. Let’s not make shady economical and political arrangements and begin with legitimacy.”

Get Involved (Social media links):

Links

http://www.occupytoronto.com/occupyto.html

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/061213/dq061213c-eng.htm

Twitter:
http://twitter.com/#!/OPSEUSisters
http://twitter.com/#!/OccupyToronto
http://livestream.com/occupytoronto
http://occupyto.tumblr.com
http://anonops.blogspot.com

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=272069372817351
http://facebook.com/OccupyToronto

ARB Team
Arbitrage Magazine
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