Monday, November 07, 2011
The Occupy Movement and the Marginalized
I see the Mayor of Vancouver is using a tragic drug overdose to justify evicting the city's Occupy protesters.
"I have directed the city manager to expedite the appropriate steps to end the encampment as soon as possible with a safe resolution being absolutely critical to that," Mayor Gregor Robertson said Saturday night.
Even though everyone knows that a similar death could happen anywhere in Vancouver. In any other park, in a cheap hotel, in a squalid alley. Because it happens ALL the time.
And everyone knows that excuses are a dime a dozen, when every Mayor has a different reason, but the same goal : It's time to clear those "undesirables" out of OUR public spaces, and if the Canadian winter won't do it, we will
It's depressing, sadly predictable, but it does focus attention on an interesting phenomenon, the influx of homeless and marginalized people into the Occupy camps all over the world. From Vancouver, to London, to anywhere in America.
Homelessness is not a side issue unconnected to plutocracy and greed. It's where we're all eventually headed – the 99%, or at least the 70%, of us, every debt-loaded college graduate, out-of-work school teacher and impoverished senior citizen – unless this revolution succeeds.
Since the occupation began on Oct. 15, the tent village that sprouted has been a choice refuge for Montreal's itinerants. Beside the free food, clothing and occasional shelter, they receive a kind of welcome they're not used to getting.
"What they really need is attention; they need to be heard," Marceau said. "Even if it's just to joke around, there's always someone here to hear them."
I can't imagine an Occupy movement that wouldn't welcome the homeless and the marginalized, because how can you build a kinder, gentler, world, if you reject our poorest, most vulnerable citizens? City officials may use them against us, but how can we not embrace them?
I have been moved by the respectful, patient way the other occupiers have treated them. And by the sight of all those most humble of Canadians, speaking to a crowd and telling others how THEY feel, for the first time in their lives.
But it's also true that accommodating the demands of such a diverse group of occupiers is using up a lot of precious energy.
I don’t mean to suggest that the park isn’t full of political conversations, that leaflets aren’t being frantically exchanged and slogans and concerns painted on cardboard and carried about for hours a day. The camp is a spectacle of signage – my favourite scrawl: Justice Is What Love Looks Like In Public.
It’s just that the formal structures of the protest, as they exist right now, the general assemblies and committees, like those of Occupy Wall Street, are less concerned with policy demands and manifestos than they are with the pragmatics of feeding, marshalling, protecting and march-planning.
And I can't help wonder whether whether people are becoming too concerned with occupying a physical space, rather than occupying the world of ideas. Because you can demolish a camp and arrest the occupiers, but you can't stop an idea whose time has come.
But what do I know eh? I have to admit that this wonderful baby movement has made me unusually humble. It turns out I don't know everything. Damn.
So I think I'll save any further thoughts until after I visit this camp a few more times this week...
In the meantime, as winter closes in, the camps are still standing.
It's inhabitants are still arguing over how to make a better, less violent, and less greedy world.
And in its own unique way, the peaceful revolution continues. In the camps.
And in the streets...