#Occupy Movements 2

Photo from Calgary Herald

Yesterday I wrote about how I agree that much of the #occupy movement in Canada is slipover from the US situation.  Although I stand by that opinion I think that there some legitimate reasons for the #occupy movement to exist in Canada and to leverage whatever support it can for a new conversation about wealth, taxes and the collective good of Canadian society.

The #occupy movement is credible movement and has brought insight to a national and international dialogue about the rights of corporates and the rights of citizens.  It is frustrating to hear political pundits and mainstream media outlets portray OWS protests as disorganized and “not sure what they want”.  The reality is that protesters are not confused about their message – the media just has a difficult time summarizing the several points of conflict into tidy, 3 minute sound bits to sandwich between Boobs McGee doing the weather and JockStrap Johnny giving the latest Flames scores.  This is a problem with mainstream media’s inability to provide comprehensive and nuanced coverage out of fear of “losing their audience”.

There are many points of dialogue that OWS raises.  I’d like to bring 4 of them to the forefront:

  1. The Redistribution of National Wealth – In an interview on “The Current” from October 19, W. Brett Wilson suggested (as many others have) that a call for a redistribution of wealth brings us back to a regressive Marxist call to a communist state.  This is a complete overstatement.  Rather, it is a call to the government to respond to a financial situation that systematizes an inequitable taxation that doesn’t tax enough from the wealthiest 1% (not just in regards to personal income tax but more so to corporate tax amounts). Inequality that is evidenced by low corporate taxation rates, unnecessary incentivization of resource extraction, and taxation loopholes that allow for “legal” tax evasion among other things.  There is also a desire to see taxation revenues to be more ethically redistributed throughout all of Canadian society in ways and manners that benefit the common good of all citizens such as major investments in lifelong education, health care, public infrastructure (roads, transit, parks, cultural venues, etc), support to the unemployed and underpaid through raising minimum wages, fair compensation and workers rights (collective bargaining, wages, safety, etc).  It is a call to become a more egalitarian society with the resources that all Canadians contribute to our coffers.
  2. Anti-consumerism Voice – There is also a more personal and esoteric call for a movement away from rampant consumerism as the engine of our society (financially and socially).  Unfortunately this is an easy target for both the protesters as well as the 1%.  The protesters take aim at a consumer culture as the marketers of faux-necessity and the originators of greed and narcissism through the constant promotion and advertising of products and lifestyles that are financially unattainable and emotionally cripplingly.  The 1% and media point out (at times right so) that the same products the OWS protesters are railing against are also the products that allow them to protest so efficiently (hello iPhones, Facebook, Twitter, internet, tents, sharpie markers, IKEA cardboard boxes).  This anti-consumerism bent has a strong association with the Adbusters Media group that first suggested the idea of OWS.  It touches a legitimate emotional nerve amongst a population that knows it’s addicted to consumerism but rather than doing the hard personal work of sobriety they instead are exclusively targeting the dealers: ad agencies and corporations.  The anti-consumerist voice is correct in pointing out manipulative marketing procedures like: marketing to children, school sponsorship, public infrastructure projects brought to you by Coca-Cola, and advertising designed to elicit negative self-worth or self-esteem (hello beauty products and fashion magazines).
  3. Ecological Economics – This broad theme comes out in regards to a general environmental sensitivity to conserve and protect our natural resources like forests, fossil fuels, fresh water and minerals. Protecting them specifically from overproduction, environmentally degrading extraction techniques and ecologically unsustainable development that causes greenhouse gas emissions, an increase in environmental pollutants and the unethical use of national and aboriginal land.  In addition to the direct resource/environmental concerns there is a human concern about the creation of products (or byproducts) that have negative affects on the human body (carcinogens, obesity, respiratory illness, lack of quality food productions, etc). Ecological Economics – the Triple Bottom Line -calls us to build a model of economic stability that keeps the environment, financial and social needs to a nation in balance, something that is not currently happening.
  4. Encourage a Production-based Economy – This is connected to many of the earlier themes but there is a call to bring increased significance and investment in model of economic growth that involve the creation of real products and services – rather than a bias towards monetary voodoo associated with banking, financial services, hedge funds and the global money market.  Much of the economic collapse of the past 3 years has been due to “Enron-ish” usage of intangible resources (liquid capital?) for the creation of other imaginary capital (fraction of a percentage of money?)  This money market (mis)management has created a debt crisis, poor legislation and a series of card houses all in the process of collapse.  If we move to an economic model that gives higher priority and incentive to production-heavy businesses – businesses that produce a specific product or service like homes, tools, technology or commodities – than we’ll have a more stable market and more viable investments.  We’ll have all the modes of production available for employees to participate and it will create jobs, investments, income and products for the national and international markets.
As I mentioned in the first post, much of the protest movement is geared towards decidedly US-based issues.  Not to say that other nations do not have systemic biases to the top 1%, but I will suggest with a high degree of confidence that it isn’t quite as dramatic or nefarious in Canada as we’ve seen in the US.  We still need to be vigilant to change, articulate about our values, and engaged as voting citizens to hold our current administration to account for our priorities and to vote in representatives that will value and fight for the 99%.  Let’s voice our desire for an equalization of taxes so that the rich and poor (personally and corporately) pay fair taxes.  Let’s advocate and petition for better use of our tax dollars for education, health care, and house over prisons and planes.  Let’s be politically engaged at all levels of government and enact legislation that is needed to allow Canada to continue to succeed and grow while protect the rights of the citizens and the workers.
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