In 1908’s New Worlds for Old, H.G. Wells examined a nascent movement that he supported avidly. He wrote,
“The early Socialist literature teems with rash, suggestive schemes. It has the fertility, the confusion, the hopefulness, the promise of glowing youth. It is a quarry of ideas, a mine of crude expedients, a fountain of emotions. …topics were ventilated–were not so much ventilated as tossed about in an impassioned gale.”
Reading through the demands of Occupy Vancouver put me in mind of Wells. In this lengthy laundry list of social cures, we see little more than an impassioned gale. Before the old master’s words occurred, my less elegant metaphor was going to be about how artists, adding too many pigments to a mix, turn intense colours into muddied browns and greys. The art gallery denizens started with a series of dramatic issues but they’ve mixed these into an anarchistic muddle.
A set of demands wanting more white collar criminals jailed but all non-violent criminals released from jail, that “soil vitality be a priority” and corporate control of “collages” be ended cannot be taken seriously. Even the idea that one group in our society should issue demands to other groups is wrong, faintly reminiscent of totalitarianism. I aspire to live in a democracy and that would preclude anyone issuing demands that I think as they think. Of course, instead of demands, we should make arguments aimed at convincing others of the changes needed to make this nation a better place.
Bill Tieleman at The Tyee offers a smart critique of Occupy Vancouver’s present strategies. Judging from reactions in comments, Bill seems to have touched raw nerves of at least a few leftists. He notes many real issues that justify protest but argues that the Art Gallery encampment is now counterproductive to those of us who thirst for political and economic reform.
“Instead Occupy Vancouver has turned into a sad parody of a revolution — with absurd demands and no recognition that a squat on city property does diddly-squat to build support for the real change that would curb corporate control.”
I agree with most of Tieleman’s article. There is a set of ideals that needs to be discussed with our fellow citizens and many of them sure need education. I see evidence of thoughtlessness among my acquaintances, otherwise honourable people who do not bother to inform themselves of important issues. They prefer to trust the establishment in the hope that existing comforts will be preserved. It is easier to turn on TV for news of Avril Lavigne’s bar fights or the latest Kardashian exclusives.
Learning about politics, economics, philosophy and moral issues takes so much more energy and intellectual application. The Occupy movements throughout North America are or could be important vehicles to stimulate discussion of corporatism gone wild but, as Tieleman says about Vancouver, when the medium of protest became the message, it was lost.
How are we going to discuss real issues when the agenda is hijacked by people who can only say,
“Hey, Let’s Put On A Show!”
Categories: The Tyee