You, me…WE ARE THE 99%; like it or not you are more like us and will never be one of them (or as likely to be struck by lightning). This is not a revolution to change policies; it is a revolution to change the process.
I have just returned from the Occupy Howe Street event. I have been surprised how the market media has been handling the whole “Occupy” movement. There have been a number of analogies to the ‘Arab spring’ hitting our own shores. Many of the commentators are struggling to understand what it is the protesters want. Unlike the ‘Astroturf’ Tea Party, there is not central structure, no simple message…or so the pundits say.
What they fail to see is this moment is not about resolving any single grievance. Some are against the FEDS…others corporations…some BIG oil…this is not a movement about issues but about process. It is a movement that is taking to the parks…the streets…to every city in the world…it is taking the message that the system is broken, democracy is broken and we are mad as hell and we are NOT going to take it anymore.
In the past politicians would find an issue the people cared about and then formed policy around that. They may or may not believe in the issue (after all politics has long been a job and not a calling) and would put a left/right or center spin on it. The primary point is the politicians would get their marching orders from the people. They would have to convince people the issues they cared about would be solved by that party’s solution.
Now our democracy has been high-jacked by consumerism and the moneyed elites.
Now a small cabal of lobbyist – who’s intent is to protect the wealth and privilege of the 1% – create policy…create law, and through the lubricant of political contributions get our politicians to adopt these prefab policies.
Political contributions have become the mechanism for this abduction of our democracy. Contribution that comes in the form of dollars – direct campaign contributions, material support – use of private facilities for fund raising or personal trips, or manipulation of mainstream media – through corporate control of the editorial content of highly concentrated media or the evisceration of the CBC (I think it no small coincidence that popular control of politics parallels the decline of the CBC…a decline directly caused by the concerted efforts of consecutive governments to defund the once pride of our nation).
Having been purchased, it has now become the job of the politicians to sell the people on these prefab policies…using the same political contributions to at first distract, and then devalue and ultimately disenfranchise the people. It is much easier to govern a disinterested and impotent populous than an engaged empowered one.
So our politicians evade on the BIG issues…the important policies and instead distract us by micro-target issues to ‘key’ demographics to win timely support…we worry about gun registries, military in the arctic, apologies for past wrongs… and while we focus the small important issues we no longer see the elephant in the room that the core policies politicians actually enact while in government are against the very interests of society…the interest of the 99%.
Recently we had elections in nearly half of the provinces/territories. The common feature of these is near record low turnout. Federal elections in the 60s had over ¾ of the people vote, now its little better than 1 in 2 voting. Historic lows in ‘democratic’ participation with less than 1/2 of Ontario voters bothering to show …bothering to help shape their government…bothering to care about their communities.
It is not that they do not see or feel a crumbling infrastructure, roads in need of repair…increased user fees for health care…decreased government services…increased fees for driver’s licences/passports…reductions in employment insurance …increased tuition…decreased research spending…increased costs for you and me while decreased investment in our country. Governments bailout corporate greed (70$ billion to support bad bank investments) and corporate incompetence (GM, Chrysler) while letting the rest of us suffer (EI reductions, Education funding gap). Pundits say that we need first-past-the-post (winner take all) voting system to ensure politicians are accountable to their constituents; yet what we see is a disregard (or apathy) about the needs and wished of the people they are supposed to represent. Party discipline to ensure political patronage…political power…their jobs…become supreme…partisan loyalty run amok!
While Rome burns, our elected officials continually increase the cost of being a citizen. There are increases in transit fees…there are GUARDS at Skytrain to ensure no one sneaks a free ride.
A new ‘fare-turn-stall’ system is to be implemented into our mass transit system at a cost of $170 million to prevent $7 million loss due to working people not getting a ticket. Work it out; it will take 24 years for the system to pay for itself…assuming it works perfectly. London has a system like this but must spend millions year to pay for guards to prevent people ‘hopping over’ the turn stalls. The only one to profit from this is the corporation installing it, the only one to lose are you and me who use the system and the only ones who don’t care are the politicians who have kept their donors happy – do that and the electorate will follow.
What about the free ride defense minister McKay enjoyed from his private camping trip…a ride provided by an air-to-sea rescue helicopter costing you and me thousands of dollars. It has come to light this is not an exception but standard practice. The politician gets perks while real people must live the letter of the law.
Why don’t people vote?
Tommy Douglas, the father of Medicare, had a good parable about the democratic land of Mouse-ville. Every four years they would hold an election to vote in a new government…every year the mice were offered cheese by the black cats…every year the mice voted for a black cat government. The government was fair and just and confronted important issues of the day…such as speed limits for mice; regulations to ensure paw-sized entrance on mice homes. Well, as you can bet, the mice were appalled by this and come next election they voted out the black cats…and voted in the white cats. This continued until one day a little mouse quested why government had to be run by cats? Why not elect mice?
(My addition to Tommy’s story)
When one mouse tried to run, he was told it could cost more money than 1000 mice made in a year…that he would have to rely on cat owned media to present his platform…and that the first-past-the-scratch-post voting system mean he had get more votes than all the other competing cats. The mouse saw why few (if any) mice were ever elected; it was not the issues that prevented the mice from having a voice it was the system. The next day, the mouse began a movement…Occupy Mouse-ville.
So we have an election and we kick out one set of politicians only to have another set do the thing…remember they are all at the mercy of the 1% to get elected. Our first past the post system simply ensures those at the front of the line, the 1% and their lobbyist; always elect someone who can work within the system…their system. Elections have become a way for corporations…the 1%…to ensure the loyalty of their political puppets – “mess with my lobbyist and I will throw my support behind your opposition; they will not be so uppity; they will know their place”.
We no longer have a democracy, it has been stolen and replaced by the ghost of democracy past or the image of democracy but lacking it’s substance…it’s power…it’s meaning!
The system does not understand what the Occupy movement is…they cannot see it because it has not existed before. We have taken to the streets…we have taken to the internet…we have taken it into our hearts that the system as it is will not address our needs, our concerns, our existence as free people. It is no longer in the hands of the politicians (who fear us and use state power to harass and suppress us) where the people go. Our demands may be many but our message is a singular one – THIS IS OUR SOCIETY AND THE TIME HAS COME FOR US TO TAKE CONTROL AGAIN! Stand in our way if you must, but know WE ARE THE 99%, if might makes right, we are the righteous!
Some for all the people, not all for some!