Protests at Last!
A month ago, it dawned on me that there have not been large scale protests about the depressing North American economic situation. I had been reading about the Arab Spring all summer but that had a dimension beyond the economic situation in those countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Bahrain, Jordon, Yemen, and others. In many of these countries the protests were often lead by students and young adults for whom the economy was most cruel where the cost of living was high and in spite of good educations there was not enough work for the young.
There has also been protests in Europe that were less political and focused more as a protest to the economic trouble. The most notable were Iceland, Ireland, France (all earlier) and Greece, Italy, Spain,
(most prominently) recently.
Two protest movements against right wing governments that got little publicity in the mainstream media caught my attention was the student protest in Chile
, where students wanted less expensive (free) and more class equal education, and in Israel
, where middle class people protested against the neo-liberal policies of their right wing government which had made housing, food, education etc too expensive even for the middle class.
So where were the American protests. Certainly Canada and the United States has see students, the poor and many of the middle class in dire economic straits. Americans in particular have a long history of being willing to protest. Surely by now there should have been a million man march against the dire economic conditions wrought upon the country by the actions of greedy, uncontrolled and criminal banking institutions.
I had thought for a while that eventually there would be mass protests in the light of the economic difficulty, the realization that the action of banks and the inaction of government for several decades has resulted in a few people becoming very very rich and an increasingly larger group, with the demise of the middle class, getting poorer.
Immediately after the banking credit crisis in 2008 the protests were not that great and faded away. I think the election of Barack Obama left the progressive people with hope and a willingness to wait
and give him a chance to solve some of the economic crisis. Well the time of waiting is over. People have come to realize that Obama and the Congress cannot get the job done. Obama has tried but most of his efforts have been frustrated by a Republican opposition which is determined to not let him succeed at anything. They, like their Canadian cousins, the Conservative Party, (which is in power in Canada) make all their decisions on an ideological basis. For example, President Obama must be made to be an only one term President. Any program of the government trying to do something of a social nature for people is deemed "socialist". That of course is a code word for "Un-American" for some. It seems besides a lack of statesmanship there is also a lack of pragmatism, which I used to think was an American way and virtue, to analyse the problem and come up with a rational solution. The corruption of the American political system through control of government by very wealthy interest seem to have made this impossible.
Finally, there are now protests, Occupy Wall Street,
in the US with promises that they will spread to Canada. They are focused on the Banking and Financial Institutions. What began as a small youthful protest by camping our on Wall Street, which one might expect to be short lived, has grown and spread across the country. The models seem to be what happened is Israel where the protests began in Tel Aviv with students camping out in a park in an upscale neighbourhood spread to other towns and cities in the country with massive street protests of largely middle class people. This went on for over a month at least. It was so large and represented an important segment of the population, not ever the government lead by the right wing Likud Party could dismiss them and had to respond with some concessions.
The youth of Israel have been protesting since the middle of July. Tent camp cities in many cities have sustained the protests against the right wing government has developed an economy that has made education, housing, and food of even the middle class youth unbearably high. These protest have grown so that now 90 % of the populations supports the protesters.
These protests are student lead with labour groups supporting them. Students want cheaper and less class divided education.
Spain has an unemployment rate of more than 20%. These are numbers that were last seen in the Great Depression.
The Occupy Wall Street Protests are very interesting. It turned out they are not a one night stand of a few students. They have expanded across the US and are planning to come to Canada in a week or so. WARNING: Toronto has some very badly behaved police!. The protests have expanded their base from students and the usual left wing protesters to include labour unions and people who would not normally be involved in such actions. The protests are peaceful . While they are angry at the Wall Street Banking community they have not attacked the building or interfered with the workers in those banks. The only violence has come from the thuggery of the police, which has only gained the protesters more support. When will the police learn to be there not to attack the protesters but to protect them as the exercise their constitutional rights. (I long ago, gave up the wisdom I was taught in school a child. "Our Friend, the Policeman,". At best they are a necessary evil. I have read about and seen too many policemen rioting or using excessive force against citizens to ever consider them a friend. On the occasions they have had to come to my door ( a was a foster parent to troubled teen), I refused them entrance to my house unless they left their guns outside.. Many a cold winter day, I stood on the front porch to speak with them. (Sorry, for the aside. I have a personal dislike of the police) I trust the Wall Street Protests will remain peaceful unless provoked.
What do the protesters want, seem to be the question the media can't figure out. They want many things since they represent many groups. The more they stay together the sharper their point of view will become.
What brought them together was the economic unfairness within American society. While their seem to be unlimited money for the banks, the wealthy (in tax breaks), the military and security organizations in government, their is little money to meet the needs of ordinary people who are poor, unemployed, homeless etc.
"Their cause is the same as the one boiling in the guts of America's workaday
majority: Stop the gross greed of financial and corporate elites, and expel a
political class that's so corrupted by the money of those wealthy elites that it
has turned its back on the middle class and the poor."
Here is a program broadcast a couple of weeks ago that discuss this.
There are lots of solutions being written about to the problems the the Occupy Wall Street Groups speak about. I invite you to research some of this for yourself. You could start with
It is interesting that this Occupy Wall Street was an idea that came from Canada, when a Vancouver group called
thought of it a created a poster to encourage people to take up the challenge beginning on September 17. It caught fire. The time was right.
t. She is another meddlesome Canadian (I am surprised they still let her in the US) a writer and social activist with great family credentials.
I hope this protest movement get a positive response from the US government. If not the next thing that may happen is a call for general strikes in the US, which will be a worst disruption. I trust we will all be watching the developments closely.