Occupied

Is a state of mind …

One by one the Occupy camps are coming down and I, for one, will be sorry to see them go. They were a constant reminder that there are things we need to fix in this world. Without that reminder, chances are they’re going to stay broken.

The Occupiers have a lot of complaints. Well, don’t we all. But their central grievance is a pretty big one: the increasing disparity between the 1% who are taking nearly a quarter of all pre-tax income and the 99% of us who share the rest. What’s in your wallet?

Interesting word, ‘occupy’. The campers occupied public space and the public’s attention to ask some tough questions. Are we too pre-occupied even to hear them? There are lots of people whose occupation it is to sound off about these things. Do we let them do our thinking for us? Or does ‘occupy’ refer to our state of mind? What happens when we hear only one story all the time from everyone from political leaders to opinionators, and there is no time or imagination left to question what we’re being told?

For example, our leaders and editorial writers are nearly unanimous in saying that it’s time for the Occupiers to fold up their tents and go home. They sound like weary parents who have indulged wilful children long enough: ‘You’ve had your fun, but it’s time to stop now. You’re breaking curfew.”

But there is something troubling about boiling down a major issue like structural inequality into compliance with vagrancy by-laws. And it’s more than ironic that laws aimed at keeping homelessness out of public view are being used to disband protests against the things that cause (among other ills) homelessness.

Listen. We’re being asked by our sons and daughters to pause and look at what we have wrought. Their mirror is a tent city filled with people who know what the world looks like from underneath. What is our answer to them? Judging by our rush to remove them from our mind’s eye, our reply is Ebenezer Scrooge’s plea to his ghostly visitors: “Show me, no more.”

© David McLaren, November 2011

Some photos from a very peaceful and civilized occupation at St James Park in Toronto …

CTV was shooting an episode of 'The Listener'. Do you think they were?

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About David McLaren

David McLaren is an award-winning writer. He has worked in government and the private sector, with NGOs and First Nations in Ontario. He is currently writing from Neyaashiinigamiing on the shore of Georgian Bay and can be reached at david.mclaren@utoronto.ca. In February 2015, he won the nomination for the NDP to represent the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound in the 2015 federal election. See that page for writings during the campaign.
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