I was in Halifax yesterday for Occupy Nova Scotia, down on the Grande Parade. Surrounded by "tall" (for Halifax) bank buildings, probably a few hundred people and a handful of cops. My friend Val and I arrived a little late, it was supposed to start at 11am and we got there around 11.30am, but in time for some of the formal speeches and then some informal speeches. We recognized one guy, Ernie, from Wolfville who got up to speak. Later I talked to another guy from Wolfville, Marke, who was taking photos.
There were Union people there, lots of CUPE flags. One kid with a purple ribbon that we spoke to said his parents work for Air Canada and they were legislated back to work, they weren't allowed to go on strike and he didn't think that was right.
They were using the Human Mic, and that worked fairly well, but sometimes I couldn't make out what they were saying. It helped to stand next to some young person with a good clear voice repeating what was being said.
Val said that today was 40 years to the day of the time she took part in an anti-war protest in Washington DC, 1971, and she felt heartened that after all this time real protest was finally, finally! happening. Worldwide!!
Marke said, This is the passing of the torch, and I agreed with him. The young people at Occupy NS were so great, and all the greyheads there were so happy to be seeing this.
At the Medical Station there was singing and dancing, there was a guy strolling with a ukelele, and another guy sitting at a spinning wheel spinning out a very fine wool thread while chatting with whoever stopped to watch. A group strung up a "high wire" (only 3 feet off the ground) and were doing acrobatics on it, to the amusement of the cops at that part of the Grande Parade. Must be kind of boring to have to watch a few hundred people milling around, a little diversion is a good thing. There was a Food Station with free food, a Comfort Station with an air mattress and lots of pillows and rugs, and maybe a dozen tents set up on the grass.
We wandered around a bit, spoke to a few folks with interesting signs and it was all just so heartening. There was this one big black cop wandering around too, chatting with folks. Two little kids were holding hands, the smaller kid, a boy, was trying to make his big sister let go of his hand and the cop came up to him and said, Hold her hand, that's The Right Thing To Do! The little boy looked way up at the big cop's face in utter awe and stopped fighting his big sister.
My friend Val made a sign that said Affordable DAYCARE, NOT Super Prisons. The cop was reading it and nodding his head. Val said, You agree? and he said, Well I'm sure not in the 1%. I asked, So what do you think of all this? He laughed and said, I'm not paid to have an opinion! Ask me another time, maybe over a cup of coffee. Then in a low voice he said, I agree with a lot of what these folks are saying.
I would have liked to have stayed for the General Assembly at 7pm but Val was tired so we went home around 5pm. It was all very cool, exciting, heartening. That's my word for the day, heartening.
I was in Paris in May 1968, and when that fell apart it was so disheartening, my first real taste of cynicism and despair. And now, 43 years later, I feel like things are finally, finally! happening. We crossed some threshold, some tipping point, and the future looks possible.
Up until yesterday I was watching Occupy Wall Street livestreaming. I got to see and hear Naomi Klein address the occupiers, live. I got to see participatory democracy in action.
Now I am watching Occupy Toronto livestreaming and that is so cool. Right now it's early morning there and some media person came and asked the guys at the livestream camera for an interview; after she left they debated the issue of giving interviews, who should do it, what they should say, and why. All the while there was a live chat going on the right side of the screen and the guys on camera were responding to suggestions and comments there. It was really interesting to see them work it through. All wearing classic Canadian revolutionary garb: toques and "Thunderbay Tuxedos" (plaid flannel shirts).
What Occupy means to me is taking back what is ours, this world, our government, our economy, our culture. "They" say it is ours but "They" don't really mean it, We do. We speak for ourselves, we occupy what is ours. It is no longer any one issue, any one political party or any one class of people. Everything is connected, social justice and the environment and the economy is all connected and we don't have to work for one at the expense of the other. Naomi Klein talked about the myth of scarcity, there is no scarcity just really bad distribution. There is enough for all and enough to make it all work, not just for humanity but for the whole planet.
My friend Val brought along some reading material for the trip into the city, and one of the articles was one about Canadian billionaires. Among other things, they are rich enough that they could easily have paid off the 2010 Canadian federal government deficit with only 20% of their wealth. And their much touted charitable giving---in the millions of dollars---is actually a pittance; that a single mom buying a $2 chocolate bar as part of her kid's school fundraiser is contributing more of her wealth to education than any of those wealthy givers lauded in sycophantic business magazines.
You can go on the internet anywhere now and find those horrific statistics about just how rich the rich really are so I'll shut up about that. And as Harper says, folks in Canada are by and large better off than those in the USA. But that's not good enough. The USA is so far off the bottom of the chart that comparing ourselves favourably to that country now is silly. And our government would very much like to follow the USA off the bottom of that chart, so, 'nuf said.
One of Val and mine's favourite signs at Occupy NS yesterday was We Can Do Better Than This. On the ground someone chalked, This Is Where We Start.
The photo is from the Halifax Media Co-op, someone there took our photo at Occupy Nova Scotia on the Grande Parade.