20 November 2011

Occupy Discussion

Typically, I avoid political discussions. Most issues are far too complex to fully understand with the little time I dedicate to learning about them, it's not that I'm not interested, I'm just busy. I like to think about things, process them and listen to a variety of opinions. I'm not afraid to admit that I flip-flop on my views on subjects as I hear both sides, and sometimes arriving at a decisive opinion doesn't ever happen. Sometimes, empathy is all I can resolve myself to.

Listening to polarized debates where there is no outcome other than the spewing of one's one-sided convictions angers me. There is no advancement on either side, the participants feel justified in their rants and do not enter into the activity with the purpose of finding a solution. This is massive waste of time and is typically all I see on TV news programs. One of the many reason's I've stopped watching TV altogether.

It seems as though the discussion has been replaced with strong opinion. Don't get me wrong, we need strong opinions to help form the discussion, but it seems as though these opinions themselves are what is being followed and not the articulation of the actual issues. It's easy to side with a strong opinion, you don't need to be informed, you just have to like what you hear.

Maybe this has always been the case and my idealistic views on how we - as members of society, as political leaders, as business owners, as friends and neighbors - discuss topics has slowly been eroded to the point where I don't wish to participate as I see no positive outcome other than listening to regurgitated rhetoric.

When I first heard about Occupy Wall Street I discounted it as just another group of pissed off people trying to force an agenda. I was cynical but kept my ears open. What I heard from the news and from critics of the movement was very much the same; 'the occupy movement lacks organization and a central message'.

The lack of a cohesive, single-minded message is what makes the occupy movement so dynamic and so interesting. If there is a central message, it's that people are pissed off with the current state of things. This is no revelation however, I think this is coming through loud and clear.

The lack of a message is not a result of poor organization or a lack of understanding of the issues. Occupy means something different to everyone. The current state of things has effected every citizen differently and every person protesting has their own story, their own protest. These stories are now beginning to striking a chord with others who share similar views and all these messages are beginning to coagulate and spread around the world.

I was fortunate enough to see Occupy Wall Street first hand, see the camps, the signs, the protesters, the barricades and the police. A few weeks later I happened upon a large Occupy San Francisco rally and got a much better sense for what it's all about. Just being in the United States and seeing how the economic fall-out has effected so many people is disheartening. So many people displaced and disillusioned.

Our country has not gone unscathed, but we certainly did not get hit as hard as our friends and neighbors south of the border. I walked through the mess of tents in our city's Occupy encampment, there was nobody outside of their tents and no messages on the outside of the tents. So, I'm not entirely sure if it's in support of the movement in the USA or if they are protesting similar economic disenfranchisement in Canada. Winter is here and there is pressure on politicians to clean it up - many citizens see it as a giant homeless camp rather than a protest. It's hard to dispute.

The fact that these protests have been going on for over two months reinforces a singular message for the media, people are still pissed off. After much consideration I happen to side with the movement in general - serious reform of our economic system is in order. For years, smart people have been saying that the middle class is crumbling, something that nobody wanted to admit because they felt they were the middle class and moving up quickly.

When will a critical mass be reached? Will the protests be the tipping point?

I really do hope change comes from this 'occupy' movement, by spark or by fire. Change doesn't have to be abandoning capitalism entirely, and change doesn't have to mean granting parity to the point of communism - that didn't work either. If people can step away from their polarized points of view, they may find some common ground. Small change can be big change.

And, change does not have to be that hard to enact, does it?

The biggest challenge that I can see is getting the people to stop believing emphatically in the current perception of wealth as part of the American Dream. Converting a nation full of 'inconvenienced millionaires' will be difficult when the notion is so engrained. Nobody wants to tax the rich, for fear that they may someday be in that tax bracket. This stance is promoted by the political right to protect the wealthy at the expense of the masses by perpetrating the dream of each person's ability to be in the 1%.

Granting tax immunity to the largest tax base residing in the 1% to place the burden on 99% of the population and sacrificing social programs and health programs that effect the well being of citizens astonishes me.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the 99%, that's what occupy is about. It's not until people fully realize their place in the 99%, when they abandon the remote chance of being in the 1%, that they can see clearly. Sacrificing the dreams of the American people is not what this is about, making the dreams more accessible and realistic by not handicapping the process is closer to what the change needs to be. In that, a change in perception of what those dreams are may need to happen for the change itself to take place.

People are pissed off. Inequality is the current condition for those that were promised that all were created equal.

After 2 months, it may still be too early to measure change. But, I think the tides are turning, for us, being the frog in the pot as the water boils, we may never see the change actually happen - there is no wall to tumble, there is no effigy to set ablaze, there is no central figure to take down.

Does there need to be a central figure for a central message to enact change?

I believe the change will come from many messages and affect many establishments and be enacted by many people. So, my sincere apologies to the major news networks, this may not be the lead story on some weekend broadcast. Overtime, the water will boil and you won't have noticed, you'll miss out on your precious sound bytes but change will have taken place.

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11 November 2011

Eleven Times Three

Well, it finally arrived. It came, it saw and it... passed.

11:11 on 11.11.11, the date that Nigel Tufnel has been waiting for his entire career.

Nothing significant, other than a handful of superstitious folks grasping at '1' shaped straws, getting married on a once in a lifetime date or holding parties like it's the end of the world.

November 11, 2011 is a sui generis date, sure, but aren't they all though? I mean, every date is unique, that's what helps us tell them apart. The fact that they all line up as ones can only happen once, and it can only happen in our lifetimes, which I suppose is novel. It even prompted me to write about it, so it's not that insignificant. I would, however, say it's forgettable.

Tomorrow, nobody will care about the date. Well, except for maybe the people who got married in haste. I'm pretty certain that nobody will be celebrating the unique nature of November 12th with such fervour.

What seems to be overshadowed by this anomalitic date is the fact that it is Remembrance Day here in Canada (and other parts of the world) and Vetran's Day in the US.

Today, many people are participating in parades, ceremonies and taking time out of their day to think about and remember the people who sacrificed their lives in the many conflicts around the world leading up to today. There are many people with loved ones and friends that are currently serving overseas putting their lives on the line. As a former soldier, Remembrance Day is particularly significantly to me.

Each November 11th my thoughts are with the men and women I served with, remembering fondly the friendships and times we shared in the military. 25 years later, some of these people are still serving. I am proud of them and think of them often.

For me, Remembrance Day is not overshadowed by the fact that today's date is neat. And, I am happy that our nation acknowledges our veterans on our coins (a move so bold it was thought to be a spy tactic by the US, LOL) as a reminder to everyone.

So, please take a moment today, if you haven't already, to remember our great-grandfathers, our grandfathers, our fathers and mothers, friends and neighbors that put on the uniform in the name of our country and for the sake of our freedom.

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