Occupy Yourself

My friend Wendy asked if I was planning to use the blog to write about bigger issues. We spend a lot of time talking about this troubled world, and she’s only got so much patience for circular introspection.

“You seem to write a lot about the process of writing.” I guess she missed my mission statement in the About Me section of the blog which says its primary purpose is writing about the process of writing.

I’m writing about being and becoming a writer – with all the insecurities, failures, successes, connections and disconnections that journey invokes.

“Maybe you need another blog,” she says. Maybe I do. A blog for the important stuff. How do I do that without splintering into a million unfinished pieces?

But a challenge is a good distraction. I start to reflect on the self-absorbed nature of my project.  What can I change by writing about writing about writing? What impact will my words have? My hope is that there’s universality and comfort in sharing the challenges we face as we set out to produce anything worthwhile. But should I be writing about more “important” things?

In the course of that same conversation Wendy tells me she asked a group of her college-age art students what they thought of the Occupy Wall Street movement. One responded that he and most of his friends thought the protesters were scum.

The word shocked me. Indifference is bad enough, but blanket vilification of those trying to raise awareness about economic disparity, poverty, homelessness? How does a 19 year old come to that view of the world?

Of course insult-tossing is an easy and rampant sport. Protesters the world over are using similar and more colourful terms to paint rulers and leaders of industry. While we’d like to think it rises to the top, we know there is scum everywhere. But that’s a topic for another day.

Protesters were tear gassed and attacked in Oakland.  Riot police evicted Occupy Sydney and arrested 40 people. Across North America and around the world protesters are being told, enough is enough. You’ve made your point, now go away.

In Calgary local business people suggested protesters respect municipal regulations regarding public space, and protest from 6 am to 11:00 pm. “That’s plenty of time,” they say. Health tents, information tents, food tents, meeting tents  - just take them down and set them up tomorrow. “Respect the law,” they say. But respect is not their goal. The goal is to end the eyesore that has established itself in the heart of our cities, and make this annoying reminder of our complicity in the growing disparity disappear.

“Enough free room and board” was one of my favourite lines. According to the definition, sleeping on park benches and under bridges also qualifies as free rent. It’s as if our cities have been generously sponsoring a big party with snacks, and now the guests are being rude and refusing to leave.

But we all know: the point where enough is enough takes hold in some vague public psyche, is the point where you hunker down to stay awhile. No revolution changed anything by making a point, then going away.

Is it true that a lot of these folks have nothing better to do with their time? Of course! That's the whole fucking point. People want something better to do. They want a life that works.

Not all of us will head out to the streets to camp and protest, but we can start by occupying the Wall streets of our minds, flushing out assumptions and complacency, seeing beyond our own needs, speaking out.

The radicalization of democracy, the idea that as citizens our responsibility goes beyond voting every four years, is not only exciting. It works. Just look at what happened here in Toronto. People raised hell about library closures and a proposed theme-park approach to the waterfront. Power backed down.

But oceans of energy are needed to sustain the cacophony that will bring good change, and stop bad. It’s a burden that must be shared. Each of us needs to think about what our little piece of the noise will be.

I know that words are my noise. But what’s important, while obvious, is fluid, contextual and a matter of opinion. Maybe I can stir up trouble in a bunch of places at the same time. Regardless, Wendy will be pleased to know I’m considering the plunge into more weighty matters.




"...what's important, while obvious, is fluid, contextual and a matter of opinion." And you did a fine job stirring it all together into a blog post. Nice job!


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