POLITICS CHATTER: Occupy Ottawa was a misfire… but maybe the timing’s just off.
People & Places

POLITICS CHATTER: Occupy Ottawa was a misfire… but maybe the timing’s just off.

Contributing editor Mark Bourrie ponders the timing of the Occupy Ottawa protest and deduces that we’re not quite ready for revolution — yet

“This is a process-driven approach,” a facilitator told the crowd early in the day. “No outcome is guaranteed.”
— Ottawa Citizen
reporter Tom Spears’ report on the kick-off of Occupy Ottawa

Questioning the point of the protest. Photography by Mark Bourrie

You betcha. At least on the first part. On the second part, I’m willing to take some bets.

A process-driven revolutionary political movement. They do resonate through history. Who can forget Martin Luther King’s great “I have an item on the agenda for which I seek consensus” speech? “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and seek consensus on the following item discussed earlier at the plenary session: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and, unless 10 percent or more object, we have a consensus on the three earlier motions to defer.'”

Or Lenin’s rousing “Thank you to all who braved the cold to turn out” speech upon his return from exile in 1917, in which he promised “consensus, diversity, and a pending list of demands” and thanked Colonel Walter Nicolai of the German Military Intelligence Agency for the travel vouchers and Boris for providing the free coffee.

It was so Ottawa, and it was mind-numbingly tedious. Occupy Ottawa was a misfire. It just isn’t time yet.

The Occupy Wall Street people have a lot to complain about, and every right to do it. Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac have a lot to answer for in regards to the 2008 financial meltdown. If the promoters of free market capitalism had been consistent, these companies would have been allowed to fail, rather than be bailed out.

Protesters are also right to blame the political system in the U.S. for allowing the unwinding of meaningful financial regulation. Many of those rules were brought in after the stock market crash of 1929 and the collapse of the U.S. banking system in 1933. Either Washington was bought off by Wall Street’s 3,000 lobbyists to allow these rules to be undermined, and/or was wilfully blind and completely ignorant.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters have every right to demand the repatriation of U.S. manufacturing. If corporations need tax cuts to invest, why is the middle-class taxpayer subsidizing these investments when they are made in Asia?

They can’t blame Wall Street for all of America’s ills — its slipping education standards, over-consumption of consumer goods, decaying families, and rap music. Americans did go on a major spending binge, leveraging $700 billion from home equity in the early 2000s to pay credit card debt, buy cars, upgrade to flat screen TVs, and indulge in the “home beautiful” culture. But those people, for the most part, have paid the price, which includes some 1.5 million homes that are still in foreclosure.

Collapse caused by bad investments is one thing. Outright fraud is another. Wall Street was lending money to people with no hope of paying it back, re-packing this garbage as AAA-debt and selling it to investors, and then selling credit default swaps, which were bets against these “assets”. That crosses the line into fraud. And when people finally got around to a serious protest on Wall Street, they were attacked by cops in what can only be described as a police riot.

So far, we haven’t had the same kind of financial fraud, nor has the middle class lost many jobs. Our housing bubble hasn’t popped.

I can’t predict whether we’ll see financial skulduggery exposed in Canada (though there are some stones at Nortel that should have been turned over long ago).

But there will be job losses in Canada as we head into another recession, and we’ll see some real pain here. And our housing bubble — the last one in the Western world — will finally pop. Then we’ll see a lot more people in the streets, and they won’t be spouting student union consensus jargon. But we’re not there yet.