I am the product of two union workers. My mom is a nurse and my dad is a lab technician at a small hospital on Vancouver Island (he’s the guy that runs blood tests and that sort of thing).
I grew up standing on picket lines with my parents when they were going through contract negotiations with the government. I brought coffee and snacks to my teachers in high school when they were on strike.
I marched down Victoria’s Government Street in university protesting increases to tuition fees, cuts to old growth forests and more. I was even interviewed by the local TV news on more than one occasion when I was protesting.
Long story short, I’m a big advocate for our right to protest. I believe it goes hand in hand with voting and writing our government representatives.
I was really disappointed on Saturday night when I heard that only 33.3 per cent of Nelson voters showed up at the polls.
As for those pitching tents for the 99 per cent in the Occupy Nelson effort, as the site rolls into its second month at City Hall I’ve become skeptical of the movement.
Supporters talk constantly of democratic rights, and how City Hall is somehow infringing on their rights by not giving them power to heat food and keep warm.
I understand there are basic human rights to shelter, food and water. I believe we have a responsibility as a society to provide for the people who have fallen between the cracks of our system and find themselves without a home because of circumstances beyond their control. But I’m struggling with the idea that City Hall is now violating their rights by not providing them with the infrastructure to continue to live outside, on the lawns of the White Building, through the coldest months of the year.
When I took to the streets to protest there was a clear message; we wanted the Liberal government to return the tuition freeze in this province or a stop to clearcutting of old growth forests.
What I’m seeing lost with the Occupy movement is the message.
As a young woman, I see the injustices of the capitalist economy. I am horrified by how the massive US banks continue to function in that country without seeing the consequences of their actions that launched a national and international economic crisis. But what’s the alternative? Communism? Great idea in principle, but in practice it didn’t really work out.
I think communities can work together to form co-ops like the ones we see in Nelson, that provide alternatives to the norm.
The initial draft document from Occupy Wall Street which Occupy Nelson has based their action on said, “Demands cannot reflect inevitable success. Demands imply condition, and we will never stop. Demands cannot reflect the time scale that we are working with.”
It’s easy to criticize, but what do they want?
Maybe I’m thinking about this horizontal movement in a linear way. Maybe I need to let go of my ideas of what should be and get into the Nelson free spirited mentality and just give in to the movement. But I believe the movement needs to propose a real alternative to the system they are protesting.
I’m curious how many Occupy Nelson supporters took time to participate in one of the most important democratic rights, the right to vote.
It’s a right that people around the world have fought for, and died for. It’s one we take for granted every time there is an election, and it seems to be that the those who criticize the system are often those who don’t bother to show up at the polls.
Don’t get me wrong. I think there is a lot that could be improved. I think there is way too much power in the hands of large corporations and lobbyists. I don’t think the best interests of the 99 per cent are considered in the day-to-day decisions that are made in the House of Commons and the Legislative buildings. I think that governments aren’t considering the environment and the sustainability of communities. But we have to look at the cards we’ve been dealt and look at how to reshuffle the deck.
We have a capitalist democratic system. It’s one that has been around for longer than you and I. Its roots are deep. Maybe we need to look at the changes we can make in the system and come up with some real solutions, and participate in our democratic society. Vote, write letters and yes, protest. But if this movement is to have a lasting impact, have a goal in mind.
Megan Cole is a reporter at the Nelson Star. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MegzyCole