This man wants to occupy your mind

The so-called “occupy” movement commands a lot of column inches and sound bites, whatever medium one happens to prefer.

The so-called “occupy” movement commands a lot of column inches and sound bites, whatever medium one happens to prefer.

Predictably, those smugly comfortable enough to identify with the 1% or nervously civil enough to abhor confrontations of any nature tend to criticize the occupiers. Nevertheless, despite the toilet humor and other slurs, these are not simply “tattooed freaks, hippies, druggies and losers.”

To be fair, some figures from the left of the political spectrum have commented on the courage of the occupiers, comparing the indignation of the occupy protesters to the efforts and ideals of the civil rights marchers and draft card burners of the 1960’s.

Similarities between the two groups are not far-fetched. The protesters are dominantly young (although certainly not exclusively so—96 year-old Pete Seeger, the old folk singer of the Vietnam era, participated in the New York protest just the other day). As such, they have (and had) a greater stake in the future than their elders do.

Both groups exhibit legitimate grievances. Although in the 1960s youth were financially probably better off than any generation before or since, the society they were inheriting was immensely flawed.

Various and vicious forms of racism vividly illustrated a nation’s hypocritical unwillingness to live up to expressed ideals of human rights.

The Vietnam War, including the usual wartime corruption (rigged contracts, vast appropriations to the military-industrial complex, etc.) was just another way to die for your country rather than live for it.

Tied to these were the newly publicized issues of ecocide, made vivid by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, industrial pollution of rivers and streams and irresponsible manufacturing practices highlighted in Ralph Nader’s consumer classics Unsafe at Any Speed and The Chemical Feast.

These were real grievances, and it was the courage and determination of protesters, as well as the analysis and participation of intellectuals like Nader and Martin Luther King Jr. that led to such landmark legislation as America’s Civil Rights Act, the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Clean Air Act, as well as a host of similar legislation in industrial countries around the world.

So, what are the grievances of the occupiers? First is the nearly fantastic growth in economic inequality within society, most evident in the United States but also clearly problematic in Canada and Europe. Even conservative think tanks, as well as publications such as The Globe and Mail comment on this trend with concern.

What are we to make of a society in which average income for the top .01% of families is over $27,000,000 per year and the average income for the bottom 90% of families is just over $30,000 per year? How fair is a society in which the richest 10% control 2/3 of the country’s net worth (the top 1% controlling more than the bottom 90%)?

Young people in the US have watched as bankers and corrupted politicians have gamed the system, creating a world in which fraud is rewarded and hard work may lead nowhere but to unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcy.

In Canada, ongoing changes to the tax system continue to generate higher capital income (dividends and capital gains) for those already wealthy, an opportunity less affluent Canadians simply cannot take advantage of. (People tend to pay their rent and eat before buying stocks.)

Housing continues to rise in price at a faster rate than the wages available to buy it. Adjusted for inflation, real average incomes in Canada have risen about 5% since the 1970’s, but housing prices have risen over 75% (nearly 150% here in BC).

Environmentally, politicians throughout North America blithely ignore such ominous warnings as incipient peak oil and ongoing climate change, apparently content to transfer the rising costs of these challenges to the next generation. Few young people in their right minds would not object to “the system” as it now operates.

In large measure, the grifters have created the “system.” No wonder there’s rage against the machine. It will be instructive to see how this plays out.

Al Lehmann is a teacher living in Terrace, BC.

 

Just Posted

First Tears to Hope Relay Run to Terrace for MMIWG

Over 50 participants are running the Highway of Tears from both Prince Rupert and Smithers

Antique window destroyed during latest break-in at George Little House

“I feel like I let the house down,” says manager

First dedicated rugby field in northern B.C. opens in Terrace

The Northmen Rugby Club held the ribbon-cutting celebration

Terrace’s first licensed marijuana store opens

KJ’s Best Cannabis will sell cannabis, pre-rolled joints and oils for customers

Under pressure: SD82 takes heat over principal reassignments

School district hears demands during packed board meeting in Terrace

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Crews fight wildfire along Sea-to-Sky Highway

A cause has not been determined, although a downed power line is suspected

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

B.C. couple who has raised 58 children turns to community amid cancer diagnosis

Family who raised, fostered and adopted many kids hoping to gain some precious together time to fight cancer

Canucks acquire forward J.T. Miller from Lightning

J.T. Miller, 26, had 13 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning last season

Most Read