Occupy Ottawa - Addendum

I was asked to expand on my thoughts regarding the protests, so here we go:

I think they're undermining their movement by hewing too closely to stereotypes people have about protesters being nothing but a bunch of hippies (drum circles, 9/11 conspiracy theories, etc.) and by hewing too closely to the Occupy Wall Street narrative when many of the things being protested in New York aren't anywhere near as serious here.

It's hard to sympathize on a lack of jobs when unemployment in Ottawa is 5.6%, among the lowest rates on the continent. It's hard to sympathize about corrupt bankers when our banks weathered the credit crunch mostly intact thanks to strong regulations implemented over the past 20 years, though the amount of consumer debt Canadians carry is somewhat concerning.

That's not to say there's nothing worth protesting in this country. We've got a government that routinely ignores scientific evidence when it disagrees with their ideology (long-form census, Insite, omnibus crime bills, etc.). They legislate unions back to work, effectively nullifying their right to strike and damaging their ability to participate in collective bargaining, while ignoring the biggest criticism of unions: that they give poor employees far more job security than they deserve. I may be wrong on this, but I don't believe our electoral system has changed much since Confederation - advances in technology mean we can and should be able to move to a more representative form of governance, but we don't because no one with the power to change it has any incentive to do so.

I think that the Occupy protests have as much likelihood of effecting real change in this country as my voting in elections (which is to say not much at all), but it certainly isn't any more futile than trying to effect change from within the system. And unlike voting, which is a one shot and you're done affair, these protestors have demonstrated persistence, and it's entirely possible that they'll grow in numbers and support as time goes on and they show their resolve. With that being said, they need to do a better job of telling the public who they are, what they stand for, and why they deserve to be taken seriously.

There's a great article by Douglas Rushkoff outlining why these protests haven't fit into the traditional media narrative, and I agree with him that this is a different kind of protest, but it's one that's taking place in a world that still largely works by the rules of traditional media. I think the Occupy movements need a concise, accurate, and actionable description of their intent and objectives, because while they may not need one for themselves, people who could potentially support them do, and in the absence of one they're going to be assigned whatever the media feels like saying.

Pardon my cynicism, but that may not be flattering.


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