I am not sure if Idle No More is a movement or merely a passing protest. Like Occupy Wall Street before it, Idle No More, above all, appears to be an expression of frustration.
Earlier protest actions opposed the status quo, but they did have a clear focus — civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights — visions for a new reality.
These earlier movements may not have achieved the full measure of their objectives, but they did bring about significant changes. The norms of today’s society differ from those of the 1950s in part at least due to their efforts.
It is easier to understand what Occupy Wall Street and Idle No More are opposed to than what it is they want to achieve.
What do the 99 percent want to do to with or about Wall Street? What new economic order do the 99 percent want, and how do they propose to implement it?
Do they want to replace capitalism and global corporatism with a new economic order?
These two -isms can and do flourish under any political ideology, from fascism on the right to communism on the left, and under any form of governance, from dictatorship to democracy.
Must the 99 percent occupy Bay Street and Sussex Drive to bring about change?
We know what the 99 percent are opposed to, but it is far from clear what new reality they want and how they hope to get there.
Idle No More raises similar questions. The idleness that is to be no more is the protestors’ own. The movement is as critical of its own servile passivism as it is of governments.
What is to follow our idleness? How will our lives have changed once “Idle No More” is replaced with “Busy Now”?
The Prime Minister did commit to designate one official within the Prime Minister’s Office (where the real power resides) with special responsibilities to deal with issues of concern to First Nations.
Details of the terms of reference for that new post are vague. But the Prime Minister left no doubt about the fate of Bill C-45 and all the changes brought about by that omnibus (ominous?) legislation.
That book is closed; lakes and rivers will not be allowed to impede the resource industry. There is willingness to talk about talking, but not about respecting treaties, about giving the environment equal standing, much less priority, with matters dear to the energy industry, gas and oil specifically, on the public policy agenda.
The Idle No More movement was born out of First Nations’ frustrations, true, but the movement’s issues and concerns are not limited to First Nations.
The movement’s opponents are not Prime Minister Harper and his Conservative Party, the elephant in the room is the concentration of corporate power and its influence over governments at all levels.
Governments of every form, shape, and political ideology around the globe have long ago surrendered their independence to corporate interests.
First Nations have been taken for granted by governments for centuries. For the middle class, this experience is new.
A monumental shift occurred when governments embraced the Thatcher/Reagan free market ideology. This ideology extended new rights to markets at the expense of the middle class. This ideology compels governments to focus their attention on short-term market demands at the expense of any issue of concern to society and at the expense of the health of the environment that sustains us all.
Change of the kind sought by Idle No More is not impossible, but it is a tall order.
If it does come about, it will not have been brought about by politics within current realities. The kind of change Idle No More has in mind may not occur until climate change, pollution, and above all the price of energy have imposed a harsh new reality on us all.
If British Columbia’s Liberal Party succeeds in getting enough cash from Calgary’s oil industry elites to buy itself victory in the next provincial election, the Enbridge project will have been approved by the end of the year.
Political leaders will continue to promise tax cuts and greater efficiency in the delivery of health care and education.
As for the rest of us, I fear that we will continue to leave politics to politicians as we idle some more.
Andre Carrel is a retired public sector administrator living in Terrace, BC.