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(Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
(Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

Drawn Off Topic

Writer Allan Fotheringham on the Occupy Wall Street movement Add to ...

Allan Fotheringham’s autobiography, Boy From Nowhere: A Life in Ninety-One Countries, will be published shortly by Dundurn Press.

What do you make of the Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Bay Street movement?

It’s the people who feel screwed against the 1 per cent of the population who own 99 per cent of the wealth.

The Wall Street people and the politicians are trying to justify the fact. Juggling around numbers. The whole thing is insane. You have got the kids who can’t get a job and the professional protesters, but they haven’t been able to get the middle class down there.

Because of the Vancouver riots and the G20, the cops are terrified of being considered too harsh and are down there [on Bay Street]on bicycles. I find that very amusing. The cops are afraid of being bullies now. The people who rule us are very nervous.

One of the issues being highlighted is the vast – and increasing – disparity in income between the common worker and top corporate executives. Are the latter’s salaries obscene?

Yes, of course they are. We have had a recession here in 2011. Everything is going down and the salaries of the guys on Bay Street have gone up. God damn amazing! The interesting thing, I think, is the whole Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Bay Street thing is a reflection of the Arab Spring. The poorest people in the world have inspired something among the richest people in the world.

The Arab Spring, at least in some instances, appears to have worked. Might the Occupy movement have the same momentum as the Arab Spring and build, or will it simply peter out?

The main thing is the weather. Once the Canadian winter sets in, I think the whole thing is going to dampen.

It appears almost like a class struggle, a sense of peasants with torches and pitchforks besieging the castle …

In our middle-class society in Canada, you don’t go out with swords and tear down the place; you try and do it politically correctly. But underneath is the basic fact that the buggers at the top don’t give a damn for the people on the bottom. That’s what it’s all about.

Wall Street banks were reckless and received huge taxpayer bailouts. Bay Street was more circumspect and there were no financial sector bailouts. Why target Bay Street?

We have a better system than the Americans do. It is not as absolutely disgusting. The disparity between those at the top and those at the bottom is less. But you can’t dispute the fact the tiny portion at the top dominates those great masses at the bottom.

The Arab Spring uprisings seem devoid of leaders and sprung up spontaneously. The Occupy movement seems much the same. Do they need leaders?

That’s the thing. I don’t see the politicians protesting. [We need]some leaders here in Canada. Someone with balls who will come out. That seems to be key.

The Wall Street protesters counted film stars and celebrities among them. Canada has had no such glitterati demonstrators. Might you add your presence?

All I can do is display in my columns that I support them. I work to my gifts, which are in writing, not waving swords.

Would you consider the movement a success, either in Canada or worldwide?

Only if they get more people down there and more middle-class people.

Greater numbers, sure, but what tangible results would you view as a success?

There may be a couple of thousand down there on the weekend. But 23,000 ran the Toronto Marathon.

Well, they can say their numbers achieved something – they ran 42 kilometres. What have the Occupy crowd achieved?

I don’t think they are making a big impact in Toronto, unfortunately. With the riots in Rome and Madrid, politicians have to take some regard. They know there is something wrong. You cannot persist in a situation where 1 per cent of the population has 99 per cent of the money.

Hasn’t that been the way forever? The aristocracy in the castle and the peasants living in squalid shacks at its flanks? Will that ever change?

We can only hope.

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