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Signs in St. James Park, Toronto.Reuters

The Occupy protests are starting to get more serious. Cities across North America are growing tired of having a bunch of folks clogging up their parks, and the police are starting to react. It's all fairly predictable. And most people in North America – read the silent majority – really don't get it.

They don't understand why people are willing to endure the squalor and the cold to try to change the system. And that's because for most older middle-class people, life has been good. They don't understand what there is to complain about. I understand. I'm an old hippie and I understand that the Occupy protesters are basically fighting the same thing the hippies did. It's called the Establishment – at least that's what we called it back in the old days.

And it's big government and big business and big wealth and big power. It's everything that makes ordinary people feel impotent and powerless, and it's all around us. Back in the 1960s, the Establishment was just getting its footing, just starting to entrench itself in our societies. Today, it's everything and everywhere.

It's what sets the price of oil. It's what starts wars where poor people fight it out. It's what causes big banks to collapse so the little people can pick up the pieces. It's so powerful that governments bow to it and bail it out when it gets itself into trouble. It's the Establishment, plain and simple.

And while the silent majority sleeps soundly on silk sheets and down pillows, the Establishment continues to lead us into deeper and deeper trouble, all in the name of greed and profit.

There were those of us who actually bought into the whole hippie thing. We thought we could change the world and make it a kinder, gentler place where people would treat each other with dignity and respect. We thought that was what the world was going to look like as we moved into the future.

Instead, we've created a truly evil place where brother will fight brother and father will fight son – all in the name of greed. While we're playing with our toys, the Establishment is destroying the environment, destroying the economy, destroying the planet.

And that's what the Occupy movement is all about. Its members are people who can see the future and who want to change it. Just like the hippies, who were like the canary in the coal mine. When they died – and die they did – we should have seen the so-called writing on the wall. We should have known there was poison in the air. But we didn't get it. And the results are all around us. If you don't believe me, take a look.

Our young people are killing themselves while our old people are golfing. Meantime, a shrinking middle class is holding the whole thing up. I don't know about you, but I'm sick and tired of watching the privileged rich and famous live in a type of decadence and opulence that boggles the mind. It's indeed a strange and sad place where some feast while others starve, and there's no security for anyone. How have we let it come to this?

I'm convinced that a thousand years into the future – if we can stagger that far forward – our current era will be known only for its barbarism, both economic and physical. It's a time of great darkness, regardless of the apparent gains in technology. The Occupy protesters can see that – just like the hippies did more than 40 years ago.

They're not political movements – they're harbingers of a future we're all part of.

John Gardiner is a freelance writer based in Wallaceburg, Ont.