I support Occupy Wall Street because, apart from the basic right to assembly and freedom of speech, I believe this is a just and righteous idea. You don’t need to look far to see how corrupt and broken our financial system is. Our education, health-care and environmental policies are failing us and future generations. If you believe it’s our responsibility to leave this planet a little better off than we found it, then it’s time to pay attention.
It would be far too careless to write off the Occupy movement as some socialist, anti-capitalist campaign or another hippie movement destined to fail. And it’s no more an Orwellian Animal Farm search for utopia than it’s a revolution spawned by communists. Yes, you will find anarchists, anti-capitalists and college kids having sex in sleeping bags outside your local city hall, but you’ll also find nurses, firefighters, professors and war veterans. The misconceptions are as diverse as the people protesting.
Most of the people I’ve spoken to at these rallies are not against success. They don’t resent an individual’s right to work hard and make a living. The collective frustration is due to a lack of transparency and accountability by the people and politicians who drove us into this chaos. As far as I’m concerned, membership in the 99 per cent simply requires a heartbeat and a conscience. Watch the documentary film Inside Job and tell me that your blood doesn’t boil and that you can’t relate to the demand for justice that the people in these tent cities are fighting for. They’re advocating for you, for me and for our children and, for that, I’m thankful and indebted to this movement.
After marching on Oct. 15 and spending time at a tent city in Los Angeles, there’s no question that intentions are good. There’s a powerful spirit and passion emulating from these assemblies. Knowing you’re doing something virtuous is intoxicating.
Checking in with friends at different Occupy sites across North America has become a daily routine of mine. Each day is more exciting than the next because Occupy provides possibility. By no means am I deluded in thinking that I’m on the front lines like the people actually living in Zuccotti Park or any other tent city. I see myself as more of a Monday-morning quarterback.
For all its success and momentum, the movement has come to its crossroads. Sustainability is about to challenge it. This is not a slight to the determination of the occupiers but more a statement on the movement itself. Yes, the weather will take its toll, as will concerted efforts by city councillors to “clean up” the parks and town squares. The Scott Olsen incident in Oakland (the Iraq war veteran suffered a fractured skull after being hit by what’s believed to have been either a tear gas or a smoke canister) has increased tension between police and protesters. Supplies are limited and becoming scarcer by the day. My three sons and I recently delivered 10 cases of water to the occupiers in Los Angeles; it lasted about 10 minutes.
But the real obstacle has nothing to do with blankets, batteries or bread and more to do with reimagining the construct that Occupy was built on: impartial consensus.
U.S. comedian Bill Hicks once said the next revolution will be one of ideas. Well, we have the idea – what we need now is leadership to prove that this idea’s time has come. The Occupy movement can no longer survive as a list of demands written on the palm of our hands. It needs a few intelligent, tough, ambitious leaders to step forward and take this revolution by the horns. Someone needs to guide this movement into the next chapter.
It’s been interesting to watch high-profile figures such as Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney and New York Attorney-General Eric Schneiderman publicly support this movement. If people like them agree the system is broke and are willing to help create change, then it’s time to use the system to fix the system. I’m sure this sounds like blasphemy to some of the hard-core occupiers, but the truth is that, until now, this is only a movement. For Occupy to be a revolution, we must engage on all levels. We got the streets. Let’s go get the courts and those fancy offices with the private washrooms.
Raine Maida is a singer, songwriter and activist.