Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Toronto: Just Vote, and Everything will be OK.

Reading through Facebook posts and comments about Occupy Toronto, I came across this comment under a friend's post:

"I would like to know how many of the estimated 3000 protesters voted on May 2, 2011 and on October 6, 2011."

This is one of the right-wing's tactics: to portray the Occupy movement simply as a group of unemployed, disaffected youth who have no right to complain because they didn't vote. In fact, a friend of mine came across a SunTV "reporter" trying to push exactly this angle at Saturday's Occupy Toronto launch. My friend engaged the SunTV rep and challenged her on the smear attempt, and the resulting conversation almost came to blows; the story should be appearing on my friend's blog soon.

The truth of the matter is, democracy and voting are hardly relevant here, and to try to boil down the Occupy movement to voting both ignores the real problems and shows a clear lack of understanding of the movement. The reason for the lack of simple demands in these protests is that there is not a single protest, nor is there a single solution.

Here are some of the societal problems being protested:

• Lack of pay equity
• Growing disparity between employee and executive salaries
• Bonuses for executives in charge of failing companies
• Bonuses for executives at the same time workers' wages are cut
• Shrinking and stolen pensions
• Lack of health care
• Lack of senior care and housing
• Rising tuitions
• Student debt
• Existing jobs requiring graduate degrees
• Dearth of jobs for qualified graduates
• Lack of affordable housing
• Lack of education spending
• Classroom overcrowding and quality of education
• Cuts to social services
• Protection for the environment

This was what I came up with just off the top of my head. Some of these problems are interrelated; others require unique solutions. Some can be dealt with through government action and legislation; others require voluntary reform within businesses and industries. And implementing solutions to all of it would be nothing short of revolutionary.

Remember when the HST was proposed in Ontario? We were told that it would simplify things for businesses, which would save money and eventually pass on savings to the consumer. Are you enjoying all the lower prices now, and all the money you are saving?

The point is: government and businesses don't act on these things without a push - and anyone who thinks it's just a matter of voting in liberal/democratic governments to save us from conservative policies is naive. As quality of life worsens for people all over the world, these protests will build and continue.