Why I Occupy Toronto

by MW Cook

     I was at the Occupy Toronto protest these last two days. I’ll be there a lot as the weeks go on because I think it’s an important movement.

     A lot of folks are dismissive of it. Some are downright hostile. I hear some of the arguments repeated.

     I’m told that, since I live in a wealthy country, it’s hypocritical to protest greed. Our poor, some say, are on par with the rich in many countries. I’ve heard Occupy rhetoric compared to Nazi propaganda. I’ve heard the movement dismissed as a bunch of whiny middle-class white folks who wish they could be upper-class white folks.

     All this is nothing more than a complete misunderstanding of what the Occupy movement is all about.

  • We don’t want wealth. And we don’t hate the rich, either. Our problem is with the corporate-dominated system that has created global economic inequality. Real people are starving and social mobility is a myth for many in Canada and around the world.
  • We want to start dialogue and draw people’s attention to some very pressing issues. Globally, the top 1% are using corporate power to influence governments for their own benefit. Policies are put into place that keeps the poor down and boosts the wealthy up. The few are using power in a way that abuses the many.
  • We’ve been called vague and leaderless. I suppose that’s justified because we are wildly different people. We are liberals and conservatives, libertarians and communists – all united in the realization that our current, corporately-run system is perpetuating a system of global economics that is destroying lives and pushing developing countries and the lower classes down.
  • We don’t have all the answers. We are a voice that is trying to inform people of the problem. We don’t mind if people scoff and dismiss us. We don’t mind the insulting cartoons and the people calling us lazy fools and greedy hippies. We don’t have all the answers, because our movement is about starting dialogue and asking questions. Answers will come once enough people come together and see that the problem is not that the poor don’t work hard enough or anything else so impossibly simplistic.
  • While it’s true that Canada has not been hit as hard by the recession as many other nations, there are still economic problems in our own borders. Since the 1980s, the top 20% wealthiest Canadians enjoyed a 16.4% increase in median earnings while the bottom 20% had a 20.6% drop. Nearly 5% of Canadians live at ‘Basic Needs Poverty.’ And these are, globally, good numbers.
  • The global system of corporate greed mixed with politics is against the messages of love and justice of God (Is. 10:1-3, Ez. 16:49ff).

     Now, I bet a lot of you will be disagreeing with me. I bet a lot of you are still convinced that our movement is disruptive, angry and somehow Nazi and Communist at the same time. I want to invite you, instead of posting angry things on the Internet, to come on down to St. James park and visit us. Grab some free, home-made soup and a coffee and chill in our library tent. Strike up a conversation with a stranger and ask why they are there. And ask another, too, because we’re a diverse crowd and three different people will give you three different answers. Don’t take the media’s word for what’s going on down here and don’t take mine, either. Take the time to understand us and why we’re here.

     There are three things you can do in regards to the Occupy movement, as it spreads across the world. You could ignore it, and just see what happens. You could speak out against it, calling the poor lazy and the wealthy hard-worker job creators. Or you could join the talk. Listen to us and we’ll listen to you. Because, odds are, you’re the 99%, too. And your voice is important.