Occupy Vancouver has lost credibility

Written by Brian Revel on November 5th, 2011

I am really disappointed and angry that I must even have to write this entry.

After a heroin overdose at the Occupy Vancouver site earlier this week, today marks a death, apparently from another overdose. The first turn of events underscored my own tepid support for the OV movement. Defiance of the request of the fire department to clean up the site made my support that much cooler.

This death signals the end.

The Occupy Wall Street, or OWS, movement is one that is firmly based on the economic and political injustices that the current corporate structures and systems are waging on ordinary people.

The OWS is the start of an unstoppable awakening that is taking place across the United States by Americans that their government, their economic system, are at odds with them. Especially in the United States, no matter where you turn, no matter how you try to limit your exposure to big business, corporate interests have either skewed or else completely corrupted the system.

There is not a single sliver of American society and its economy that has not been touched by a corporate agenda, corporate interest, or even corporate largesse.

There has been a withering plaint from Wall Street that these ‘ruffians’ have no cohesive message, that they have no specific demands. The simplistic conclusion is that they are capitalist-hating socialists. While there may be a few dyed-in-the-wool socialists among them, most- if not the overwhelming majority of them- are actually capitalist. What else do they truly know?

My guess is that they want the current corporate structures and systems dismantled so corporate actors have as much sway on public policy as religion, or the environmental movement, or even the ballot box- if you can imagine!

Quite honestly, in principle, they are not asking for much. There was a time when corporate interests were just another piece in the jigsaw puzzle. That time was before Charles Erwin Wilsons infamous 1953 quote, “Whats good for GM is good for America“.

How hard would it be to simply go back to a time when corporations were actually accountable to the society they were created to improve? If you ask me, it is indeed possible to establish Rousseau’s Social Contract between society and the corporations. The OWS is a focal point in the awakening of the American consciousness to achieve that goal.

And from the OWS movement in New York City, came dozens of Occupy movements across the United States and others in foreign lands too. While things arent quite as bad in other places, such as the U.K. or even here in Canada, there is still plenty enough to lament and hence to protest.

Significant protests have grown across the globe. In London, senior clergy have resigned at St. Paul’s Cathedral because of harsh reactions to protestors peaceful actions. Protestors effectively shut down the port in Oakland California during their general strike this past week.

News of physical clashes with police are becoming commonplace- if you know where to find the reports- underscoring that the establishment is getting both weary of these pesky gnats endlessly demonstrating as well as beginning to understand that these same demonstrators are out for long-term and significant change.

The stakes are getting higher with every passing day and with every violent confrontation instigated by security forces, acting in defence of the status quo.

And then there is the protest here in Vancouver.

The Occupy Vancouver version was particularly symbolic, in part, because Vancouver is the birthplace of Greenpeace- the Mother of all Occupy movements. More importantly, it was here in Vancouver that the whole idea was floated. I so wanted the Occupy Vancouver protest to be worthy of Kalle Lasn’s Adbusters call to action.

But on the OV’s first weekend, on a sunny Saturday, when thousands of people came together to stand up and be counted, wanting and wishing this to be the moment for change, I couldnt help but look over the list of speakers and feel a sense of derision. Yes, there were some very credible voices in the line up- among them, an old grad school friend of mine, Seth Klein of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

But almost the rest was a shopping list of pro-drug activists ranging from Marc Emery protégés, to screechy blow-hards like Betty Krawczyk.

Honestly, if that is the best that we can produce in Vancouver as high-profile speakers at a moment when change is in the offing, then clearly, when Mr. Lasn called for 20,000 people to descend on Wall Street, even he knew it was pretty futile to expect that kind of traction here in Vancouver. And sure enough, the thousands who turned out for the OV weekend in October are gone. They’re gone because the protest does not represent them.

I do think that this protest has been different from many we have seen in the past. Yes, homelessness is a long-standing issue here. Yes, there is the question of the permanence of food banks and why they are necessary. Yes, we have seen a significant decline in the quality of life in the region in my lifetime. And Ill even admit that yes, there is a need to do something different regarding the laws around marijuana and services to overcome addictions.

But what good will, whatever kind of message, or messages, the protesters were trying to advance here in Vancouver, they were all undermined by the heroin overdose. They were utterly wiped from the consciousness of the city by the death.

I do not presume to be able to pronounce exactly what the protests are aiming to achieve but I can say this: Whatever the point of Occupy Vancouver, anarchy is certainly not it. Personal self-destruction, or the enabling of such action, is most definitely not one of its goals. That the Occupy Vancouver movement has not distanced itself from drug abuse is a serious flaw.

Then enabling the behaviour by saying that it was good the first overdose took place at the OV site rather than in the DTES, is so wrong on so many levels.

In reports following the first overdose, the medic who saved the persons life apparently had the gaul to say that the person was safer in the camp than in the DTES because help was at hand. This kind of justification-after-the-fact is appalling.

It turns out that the INSITE clinic is in the heart of the DTES.

Taxpayers have paid millions both fighting and defending the clinic. To the consternation of conservatives everywhere, the burgers of this fair city overwhelmingly support its existence and its goals. It is there, in all its glory, in the DTES, so that people dont overdose and if they do, there is someone there to get them to safety.

So to that medic: Do not even try to guilt Vancouverites over the overdose… and you’d do best by keeping your mouth shut over this death.

That one overdose not only undermined the OV movement, the person responsible for the overdose, and that would be the addict- nobody else-singularly destroyed the credibility of the occupation. The medic merely added yet another layer of guilt onto the addict’s emtional pain, and managed to insult everyone else in the process.

And now the death. After some petulant adolescent temper-tantrum defiance over the fire department’s request to remove tarps for their own safety, after the enabling drug use in the camp we now learn of someone else dying, by her own hands, of yet another overdose.

And because of this, the Occupy Vancouver movement is dead. Anybody with a brain will move on. There will be other times.

Meanwhile, Occupy Wall Street, with its high goals and aspirations, with its focus of purpose and its presence of mind, will prevail. It has already made the financial world stop and watch it play out in Liberty Square Park and it will inspire successes worldwide.It will achieve a change in the dialogue between world leaders at the very least. But sadly, it will go on without the Occupy Vancouver movement.

I desperately wanted this not to be just another quasi-loser-anarchist squatter-fest on the steps of the Art Gallery manifested by a bunch of misguided idealists suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and fighting for the wrong side of humanity. But despite the efforts of a few focused activists whose intentions were right, that is what it has become. That is all this is, here in Vancouver.

And by the way, where are those focused activists now?  And where are the thousands who came out on that sunny October weekend to make change happen?

We can’t even get our protests right.

This is no time to score political points, Suzanne Anton. The less you say, the better.

By the same token, we dont need the police to clean this up: juse shut off the power, Gregor Robertson.

By next Friday, except for a few die-hard stragglers, they’ll have simply packed up and left.

 

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