To the Editor,
What did the Occupiers accomplish, and how has the Occupation changed Nelson and local politics?
The Oct. 15 march was a one-off, a great occasion for our local vocal middle class liberals and progressives to replay their radically-youthful politics from the 1960's and '70's. After that day, the real significance of the Occupy movement would be seen in action, not symbolic protest. Was there a plan or agenda for legislative demands? No. This time it's different. And what happened ---?
What seems to have happened, in my view, is that a rhetorical slogan about the one per cent, asking for the widest and deepest structural changes in our capitalist-market and democratic-political systems and to challenge mal-distribution of wealth, got handed off to homeless young people to carry forward.
Not merely homeless and younger, but desperately poor, and in notable cases mentally unhealthy. Their issue was immediate and material, not long-term and abstract. They were not revolutionaries.
How could such human resources be expected to bear the work of political transformation? To make us think of solutions to the economic insanity that rules our lives and threatens our ecology? Who thought that the homeless and poor were the most-effective agents for massive socio-economic transformation?
When I decided to run for Nelson Council, I had a single major objective: to say things no other candidate would say because to say them renders a candidate unelectable. I repeated the message that we are at a fork in our road as a society.
The question that matters is, do we try to keep the old capitalism going in the face of banking/ corporate debt crisis and government impotence to find solutions – and keep on degrading our environment to exploit resources? (e.g.,all in the news recently: yet more tar sands in Alberta, or a limestone quarry under arable land in Ontario, or natural-gas shale in New Brunswick) Or, might we choose to take a new path?
Can we agree that it is time for an anti-growth strategy, for retrenchment from the narrow vision of growth as the only way to prosperity? Could we stop development in Nelson? Could we put ecology before economy? Could we agree that more is less? Could we take tiny steps to curb corporate power?
The answer to my questions boiled down to this – people are not ready to change. They want the past. They want the promises of Prime Minister Harper and Co. to be true: “Don't worry. We can manage all crises, and Canada will stay on top, a developed nation with capitalist tools of resource economics.”
The Occupy Movement has some very articulate proponents, writers in Adbusters magazine for example, or Charles Eisenstein (Sacred Economics) and Chris Hedges (Death of the Liberal Class.) But the homeless campers and tenters on the public lands in Canada and the USA recognize that having leaders is the old politics.
The media were driven mad by this lack of leaders to run to with microphones. Politicians let the camps last for various lengths of time, and then predictably responded to the dictates of the ruling class that such illegal occupations must be ended, with law and with force.
The Movement is not over. It will have new manifestations. It is not predictable using historical knowledge, by study of past protest and reform movements. It will use new tactics, for we are in a new era of mounting crises in many areas of our lives and the planet's life.
The rhetorical progressives will find themselves left behind by the people who demand more than cosmetic reforms to our laws. The word “revolution” will not be used as it was so much 40 years ago, for we learned lessons about violence then, and know that the State has more police and army force than we can defeat in a war for the end of capitalism.
Non-violence, satyagraha, will continue to be an Occupy strategy. Disobedience of unjust law by civil resistance is recommended by thinkers like Eisenstein and Hedges.
Stay tuned citizens, this is not over. Ask yourself what side you will find yourself on, next time a challenge to the power of the ruling class is made clear in the streets.
Charles Jeanes, Nelson