Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Isn’t Canada’s Occupy Movement just a sham and a shameless display of hypocrisy?

[This entry was also published by Postmedia Network’s The Real Agenda blog under the title, Occupy Wall Street in Canada: The smell of hypocrisy.]

I’ve been following the Occupy movement for the past month and am no clos­er to an under­standing of what is really behind the spread to Canadian shores of this global expression of outrage at bankers in particular and corporate greed and social inequality in general.

In just four weeks, the movement has spread from a relatively small demon­stration—1,000 people or so—on New York’s Wall Street to tens of thousands spread over 900 cities around the world. While there are some common threads tying these groups together, they appear to be, at best, only loosely affiliated, with the exact tar­gets of the demonstrations differing depending on the city and the country in which the protests are held. Each movement seems to have its own local flavour.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has said the global financial crisis was the trigger. “What you are seeing all around the world, starting from Wall Street, people are showing their frustrations,” he said. But how real/justified are the frustrations of the protestors, which seem to be grow­ing into wave of global anger at perceived social and economic injustice?

In the United States, Europe and South American countries like Chile, I believe the movement will have a measurable impact.

In the United States, where they are just over a year away from presidential and Congressional elections, politicians will ignore such a wide-spread movement at their re-election peril—though some will find it hard to get behind protestors who are showing a nasty tendency toward anti-Israel, anti-Jewish sentiment. Clever pol­iticians will mine the speeches and slogans to find the “calls to action” they can use in their up­com­ing campaigns, just as Barack Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest ad­opt­ed the protesters’ “the 99%” terminology when he said, “The president will con­tinue to acknowledge the frustration that he himself shares about the need for Washington to do more to support our economic recovery and to ensure that the interest of the 99% of Americans is well-represented.” And, if the Democrats retain the White House and win back the House of Representatives, expect more re­gu­la­tion of banks and corporations in general.

In Europe the situation is more dire. There, as in Israel and Chile, the Occupy Movement seems to owe more of its inspiration to the Arab Spring. Spain’s “indig­nados”, for example, begun camping out in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square in May, and at least 200,000 people turned out on the streets for last Saturday’s round of protests. The Spanish flavour of the movement is targeting the November general election when it could help defeat the socialist party of the prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

While the Israelis targeted housing, the high cost of living and need for “social justice”, in Greece, there was a backlash against austerity measures being imposed. What Ilias Iliopoulos, general secretary of Greece’s civil-servants’ union called, “heartless economic policies.” In Greece, we have seen the most focused public anger, with strikes, work stoppages and sit-ins as well as a two-day general walk-out. And, I fear, the worst is yet to come. The country is flat broke and other European countries with more frugal and industrious populations are the ones bailing them out—yet Greek civil-servants riot in their streets.

As far as Canada is concerned, the movement, so far, has been underwhelming. The backing of major unions is, though, cause for concern. It is curious indeed that a movement that claims to represent 99% of Canada’s population should be so strongly supported by powerful and wealthy public sector unions, which represent workers who are a privileged segment of our population that has actually grown in size and, in some cases, pay-cheque since the global financial crisis triggered the recent recession with which the whole world grapples.

Rather than being part of the 99%, the several hundred-thousand Canadian public sector employees and their union representatives make up their own privileged “per cent.” They are recession proof, lay-off proof and have fat pay-cheques and generous sick-leave, vacation and pension plans. These folks are no more part of the 99% than are our politicians, the top echelons of the banks and other large corp­ora­tions. Do they join these protest groups because they hope we won’t notice how well-off they are compared to their fellow Canadians? They sure have nothing in common with the needy, the jobless and the victims of social injustice.

As far as I’m concerned, there are many people in many countries who can be char­ac­ter­ized as victims of the social order; but not so much in Canada. And, for the most part, the Occupy Movement here is a sham and a shameless display of hypocrisy.


© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
All rights reserved.
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.


  1. The protesters do seem too long on grievances and too short on solutions.

  2. The following comment was deleted in error, sorry:

    Anonymous (Oct. 19, 2011 3:15 PM)said…

    The Toronto and Bay Street chapters of the movement first announced that it was forming up in solidarity with their U.S. counterparts, Wall St. and dozens of other U.S. cities.

    Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada rightly judged that the protests can be characterized as "constructive" while Finance Minister Jim Flaherty remarked these protesters "have a point."

    Keep in mind, along with PM Harper, a respected economist successful in retaining Canada's favorable top of the G-8 status as relatively stable with thus far manageable debt and deficit levels, in conjunction with his two aforementioned colleagues, are feverishly working to point out to their global counterparts to act decisively in attempts to thwart a full scale global depression which would involve up to a decade to amend. The next scheduled meetings should register their influence as decision time arrives.

    But the upcoming EU remedial course WILL impact N. America. Job losses continue to mount. The youth in particular register the highest, now double digit numbers.

    Recognizing that the widest demographics are protest participants, ranging from former Wall Streeters, to laid off police, to high tech, investment brokers and going right on down to the deranged -- at its core it's a loss of gainful jobs protest.

    A read of their DECLARATION does include deranged demands such as demanding 'free education' policy, total debt forgiveness, et. al., but there's a middle ground which may be sought and politicians, consumer advocates, are probing their common complaints with the recognized Tea Partyers.

    In other words, there's very definitely 'common ground' to be sorted out between and among the 99 percent. The identified ONE PERCENT has a unique opportunity to pitch in and brainstorm for viable solutions. They'll find them available.

    Here's just one single fact all could digest in recognizing a problem. Consider that the average U.S. student's tuition per year is at approx. $50,000. That was the price of an average three bedroom bungalo in the 1960s with a 25 year amortized mortgage.

    Put that together with the fact that wages have stagnated at least 30 year levels and the same housing unit today is hovering around $360,000.

    Why are people unsure about the protesters' grievances??

  3. Two words will sum up the purpose of protesters.

    Dane Geld

  4. looking a the majority of these "protesters" I thought the two words would have been, socialist revolution

  5. I would expect a controlled movement to have clear demands. A mass expression of frustration takes a little bit of investigation to understand. Let's see if we can link a business model sweeping the world to concrete results most can understand and indeed have complained about themselves. Max profit margin by minimizing costs without regard to the human stuff that's important. Run from the top by numbers without the necessary context to understand the purpose of the business as something other than "our growth has to be bigger than it was last year". You want a car that doesn't let you down and doesn't kill you with unexpected expenses, it may be expressed as fix it cheap but we know what you mean. Inexperienced workers are cheaper, upsells increase revenue, install it into the corporate machine that upsells must be attempted on every vehicle to maintain high average bills. Everything has to happen fast due to customer demands and because high traffic means more revenue. Not everybody likes this but everybody needs to feed their family. Riding this horse takes a toll on morale. Enter W5 with the approach to large chain operations. Any question why the poor guys have a problem finding a basic fault that has been openly used for years to trip them up? Now a large part of an entire trade are painted as shifty crooks which I'm sure will help get better results the next time you need service. You're all complaining about the same thing in different languages. We need to stop our world from revolving around clever business school abstractions and bring it back to reality. As for the public's only smart to get into for the reasons stated but that doesn't mean they have to assimilate into the Ca...I mean Harper Government like mindless drones.