Friday, November 4, 2011

These Cats Know What They Want, Dignity and a Better Life for All

"Living Signage"
C. McLean
collage from photos taken during October 15, Occupy Toronto protest

Letters to the Editor
The Londoner
Nov. 10, 2011

Protest Deserves Support
C.L. McLean, London, Ont.

Sheryl Rooth and Gord Harrison (in the last issue of The Londoner) addressed the Occupy London protest each leaning in somewhat opposing directions. Rooth refers metaphorically and with some humour to the cats being the pampered 1% while the dogs (hamsters and goldfish) do protest. Perhaps it is the protesters who are the real cats of this scenario. Having had several, I find cats typically determined, patient and dead on accurate when pursuing a goal. But unlike some cats, the cats, in our park are neither pampered, overfed nor lethargic. Listen to the arguments of the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy London “folks” and you will find participants of all ages and occupations active in the movement who are critical thinkers, well informed on the issues and willing to educate others.

Gord Harrison writes that job loss and lack of employment are just two good reasons for many to stand up and be heard. He questions the validity of what the comparatively high 9% unemployment statistic in London really means.. “does anyone know the percentage of people, young and old, who only earn enough to scrape by and are unable to save up funds for an uncertain future?” What about the other 91%?

Some of the protesters have undergraduate and graduate degrees and loans averaging upwards of 25,000 and are expected to pay back debt accumulated for their education from what they earn from marginal jobs paying minimum wage. For the young men and women and the others middle aged with families who have been quietly laid off, had pensions slashed, who find work that is often sporadic and occasional, who must work short term contracts without long term security or benefits, the Occupy London and worldwide protests are an opportunity to focus attention, once again, on the human needs within our community and around the world.

On Occupy Wall Street, lack of organizational skills and discord was suggested by Rooth as a possible criticism of the movement, however, in very short order, since September, the movement has grown to include over 900 cities worldwide. The demonstrations (on the whole) have been spirited and harmonious, democratic and uniquely leaderless. Rooth wraps up her column asserting that when it comes to advocating for change and the occupy protests, the cushiony one percentile may ask these individuals, “What’s in it for me?” Having edited two recently released books on citizen empowerment and social change, I have witnessed illustrative examples of the transformative power of participative action in international community and cultural change projects. The efforts invested by our youth and people of all ages and occupations, by labour, healthcare workers, citizen groups and others who are part of this movement represent the embodiment of hope for our city and our children’s futures. This occupation can and will make a difference. Every one of those determined individuals in Victoria Park making themselves known, gathering together to discuss and debate the reshaping of our society, hunkering down on cold nights in tents , is out there working for us, doing our job to help make our society more civil, participative, equitable and accountable. The Occupy London protesters deserve continued citizen support and respect as this movement evolves. These cats, the 99%, are making their point by way of example and they know exactly what they want. Dignity, justice and a better life for all.