-- Download Why I Am Going to Attend Occupy Vancouver as PDF --
I am white, middle class, educated and, by all accounts, an extremely fortunate woman.
I live in Canada where my parents’ (sometimes life-threatening) health issues are covered by a provincial medical plan.
My water and air are clean, and food is plentiful.
My husband and I are employed.
I am not desperate, but I am angry; I am not sick, but I am sickened.
I know I will never be able to own a house in my home city without winning the lottery, or paying on a mortgage until I am 70.
I know that in our society I am ‘overeducated’ and, as a contract university instructor/researcher, will always be underpaid when compared to other professionals.
I know that we are killing innocent people with our invasions and occupations.
I know that, as a woman in this country I will disproportionately pay in lost income and career advancement for having children.
I know that despite the—often herculean—efforts of committed citizens organizing across the province, the federal and provincial governments are more interested in building pipelines and transmission lines and highways to export every resource we can dig, dam and cut out of this place of ours.
I know that citizen action sometimes wins, but not often enough to save our watersheds, or fish or our climate.
I am often told that I am lucky to be a Canadian, and certainly when I read the testimonials emerging from the OccupyWallstreet movement, I feel that way. But I am not alone. We here have our own stories, and the growing exceptionalist sentiment in this country is dangerous. Dangerous because we are not unique, we colonized this country on native land. We are infected by the same democratic malaise affecting people around the world. A short historic window existed where (admittedly flawed) collective institutions and public policies helped to equalize some power and some income in Canada: creation of environmental programs, Status of Women, equalization and social security, a national system of health care and progressive taxation. These institutions are eroding today, victims of a greedy class—a 1% if you will— winning a broader culture war wherein greed is good, brown is green and might makes right.
I’m tired of feeling powerless. I know that every time I walk downtown I pass men, women and sometimes children sleeping on every other corner of our streets while billions of dollars is poured in to stadiums, into war machines and corrupt business people posing as political leaders.
The Americans occupying Wall Street are not alone today, not because of some need for international solidarity (though there is that) but because their problems are literally our problems. Income inequality in Canada grew faster than it did in the US since the mid 1990s. Inflation adjusted (real) wages in this country are falling, and this while the richest 1% of Canadians take historically unprecedented growing chunks of the national pie: 32% of all income growth between 1997 and 2007, in fact. The abortion debate is being re-opened. The Keystone and Enbridge pipelines are ever closer to construction and with them comes an exponential increase in environmental destruction. I don’t have one reason to be in the streets this October, I have a hundred.
I am going to Occupy Vancouver (despite the issues with the word ‘occupy’) because we multitude, we majority, need to (re)create spaces where genuine democracy can flourish: on the streets, in our places of work, our homes and force change. We need to create places where the concerns of the disappeared women are not minimized and silenced, nor are those of our schoolteachers, wilderness advocates, farmers, health care workers, veterans and other diverse citizens. These are not the voices that echo in elite-controlled buildings in Victoria, in Ottawa, on Bay Street and Howe Street. This movement may be disjointed, it may be difficult, but it is a start of something very sorely needed in this country.
I am part of the 99%. We, together, are the 99%. Occupy Vancouver, and not just on October 15.
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47 thoughts on “Why I Am Going to Attend Occupy Vancouver”
oh this is beautiful!
(-; Thank you!
I am NOT middle class, my husband is working class, we are constantly hovering above the poverty line. We had to move out of Vancouver because the quality of housing next to the price of rents was unreasonable for our income. I am a stay at home mother to a beautiful little girl and I am OFTEN confronted with the difficult decision of whether I should get a low-paying job to help our income (which would probably JUST pay for daycare) or stay at home and hope I can manage to make a living by entrepreneurial ideas, with no help or outside care for my daughter. What do I do? I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. Undereducated, but STILL paying off school debts. Underemployed/underpaid but STILL have Canada Revenue knocking at our door with their hands open…THIS is why my family will be in Vancouver on the 15th.
i know many in that place of deciding about taking a low-paying job versus staying at home with less income. because of the nature of work there are so many jobs that wouldn’t pay more than daycare, then the family is no further ahead economically and they get the added burden of relationship dislocation.
it appears to be a crippling catch-22.
Thank you for posting Tanis! I really appreciate your comments and am so heartened to hear you are joining. See you on the 15th…
sadly due to budget limitations (hah!) we will not be coming to vancouver, on the bright side, there are meetings on the island, Victoria, Nanaimo and now Courtenay. 🙂 I hope to meet some terrific people down at the Nanaimo event on the 15th. Thanks so much!!!
Thank you for your writing. I will be out on the 15th as well. I am saddened by the direction our leaders are taking in this country to put their support behind those elites who want to add more to their pocketbooks.
I am also worried that those in power today do not see they have a responsibility to look out for the disenfranchised in our society before continuing to pour money into keeping us in the many wars that do nothing but kill innocent people. Shame!
I’ll see you there!
Occupy Vancouver is a nice idea, but the lack of a goal or clear ideology is troubling to say the least. Protesting for “social change” is vague to the point of meaninglessness, and asking for something when you don’t appear to know what you want isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Look at some of the world’s great social change movements: the suffragettes, civil rights, anti-Aparthied, etc. Those were clear movements with clear goals and they stopped at nothing to achieve their ends.
If your only clear goal is “something different” then what exactly is the end result going to be? Frankly, I don’t trust the people involved in this to be responsible and clear-headed agents of social change. This seems like protesting just for the sake of having a protest.
i think the goal and ideology of economic justice for the non-hyper rich is reasonably clear.
in new york, they spent the first week working up consensus on their demands. embarking on an exercise in democracy like this only after arriving at a final assertion of goals ends up excluding all those who actually show up.
i know at tomorrow’s planning meeting there will be talk about goals/demands/assertions, but any attempt to finalize that tomorrow would seem premature.
trust is something that comes from observing people in action. tomorrow’s planning meeting will represent the tone of the movement. once the occupation begins, the behaviour of actions will give people something tangible to evaluate whether or not the movement is trustworthy.
what have you seen so far that makes you conclude a lack of trust in people; which people aren’t so trustworthy? tomorrow i expect dozens of people will be “responsible” for organizing it all.
also, i don’t think this is a protest as much as a manifestation of democracy.
I think I was pretty clear that there are a number of specific policy issues that need to be addressed, and not some amorphous ‘social change’ (as reasonably as one can be clear in 600 words). I also think it is pretty clear that one person and one group should not be defining for everyone else, and asking them to march along-we have a few words for those movements, and they are not democratic. As I said, this movement, for me, is to create links and networks, public spaces and mechanisms so that we all, together can push for the changes that we want to see in the world. It is not a ‘nice’ idea; it is necessary for many people’s survival. If you want to contribute to defining what those specific issues should be, come and join us.
How unclear is the message: Tax the rich, save the environment?
I’m more than a little bit troubled at some things that I’ve observed tonight:
– Apparently, the group organizing the protest has reached out to the VPD as part of the planning process. Additionally, it appears the Vancouver business community has also been talked to.
– There’s apparently a consensus that this is not a protest (I understand the argument of ‘manifestation of democracy’, but then you’re really protesting a lack of democracy, no?) and that it is not political (this may be more a definition of ‘nonpartisan.’)
– The coverage in the media seems to refer to those involved in the movement as defining everyone who participates as Canadians working for Canadian rights, or language close to that. I understand the appeal to a common basis of understanding, but in reality, appealing to ‘Canadianism’ is just as excluding as any other category.
I support the idea of the occupy movement (even though we’re already on Occupied Land) and I like the idea of nontraditional political movements.
I’m troubled by what appears to be an internalizing of state discourses aimed and delegitimizing protest and quashing dissent being manifested in the organization of a Vancouver instance of an interesting and impressive protest.
i think the goal of pre-emptively discussing things with the police is part of a desire to maintain a non-violent presence. we’ll see if that ends up discussed at the planning meeting today.
i like your exploration of the non-partisan concept here.
i agree that the media spin has been to frame the movement in some already-known context, like something people can relate to. the corporate media is doing an awful job of understanding the #OWS occupation because its process and purpose is so new. it’ll take some time to train the media that this is a new form altogether.
do you know how the new york occupation has dealt with internal desires to remain non-violent?
The Occupy Wall Street movement, much like many other horizontalist anti-state movements, discuss ground rules of nonviolence and limits of acceptable action, and then the responsibility is on the community to establish and communicate its agreements on what takes place and where.
It’s why there’s typically an agreement on whether or not to observe diversity of tactics at actions, or to have ‘zones’ where levels of action are permitted.
You don’t typically hold a protest and invite the police to come in and enforce what they want.
I will point in the direction of Alex Hundert who is not allowed to express opinions on the internet because the police have decided that’s illegal.
The VPD’s media releases on this protest state that they welcome protest that is “legal,” the problem is that THEY get to define what is legal. Technically, staying in the park after it closes is illegal. They VPD argues that tents are illegal.
The creation of “free speech zones” where there are defined areas where protest is permitted is a way that the state/police enforce their boundaries on dissent. Inviting them to a GA where this can be done explicitly and openly is even more problematic.
Why not just have the GA establish ground-rules for the action? Why invite the VPD to the GA?
I’m really troubled by this.
one of the best stories I have read… thank you..
Observed on the facebook boards? I think you should bring your concerns to the organizing meetings. I think that there are a lot of differences in tactics and experience between the hundreds who have been participating in the online discussions, but that I’m tired of movements eating themselves before they even begin. If this is ever going to turn into something that a large number can engage with I think it is safe to assume that some are going to consult with cops and contact businesses to find washrooms for people (the reason I saw), they’re probably coming from a different place of experience with these groups from other people in the movement. Maybe I’ve missed something, but I’m not sure how dissent is being quashed. I think that how the media spins things is not the same as what people actually said, but that framing and accessible clear language is tricky. I love Stephen’s idea of not having spokespeople, but having published consensus-based resolutions and letting individuals speak for themselves.
One, I’m physically unable to make the trek (2+ hours) into Vancouver today for the meeting, and apparently the only way to contribute to the meeting is in-person.
Two – the VPD has a history of intimidating and harassing community organizers and activists. I agree with you on movements eating themselves before they begin, but here we have a ‘movement’ inviting the police – who actively harass and intimidate activists – to the meeting. And apparently the onus would be on those harassed by the VPD or intimidated by the VPD to stand up and explain why the VPD shouldn’t be involved in organizing a protest against the state.
But then, according to the Occupy Vancouver twitter account, this isn’t a protest, nor is it political.
There’s a ton of other reports that I’m reading today, where the organizers have apparently suggested that the participants should citizens-arrest anyone who breaks rules, etc. I dont’ know what to think about that.
And – if you’re inviting the DVBIA to a protest that elsewhere is nominally protesting business and capitalism, I’m puzzled.
Just to clarify, I was assuming you were posting a response to my piece about my reasons for attending on Oct 15, not issues with today’s organizing meeting. I wasn’t aware of the VBIA and VPD being invited to the meeting today (but had been following debates online about their involvement in the broader picture). I agree that inviting them was a troubling move, and share your concern. It did, however, seem that these decisions are going to involve a lot more people from now on than they were over the last week (which is as it should be). Sorry you couldn’t make it today.
Hope to see you soon,
Let’s understand one thing – you are hoping to have a large number of people in a relatively small area, in a city which recently experienced a riot. In that riot were trouble makers who were not at the venue to enjoy a hockey game, and people who made the situation worse by not leaving, but staying to view. Some viewers became so caught up that they also caused damage.
For this event, having the police involved early on is a troubling move … why? Are you hoping for an event built on self governance, and a lack of oversight? If you were asked to pay a license fee for this event,and if you were liable for damages incurred as a result of your gathering – would you pay? Would you run the risk?
I am all for making things better, and equalizing things for everyone, but anytime I see someone want to do it ‘their way’, fearful of any regulation, I think something’s rotten in the planning if not in the intention.
I am not fearful of regulation; I would love if regulations would apply equally to all members of society and the fact that particular people are targeted and harassed by security forces makes this more than just one of simple ‘consultation’. I was, however, concerned because prior to the GA meeting there had not (as far as I know) been a consensus on when or where or how to involve the police. And that is the venue I thought we should make those decisions, rather than prior to that.
Julie, while I fully support your right to free speech in our democracy, I trust you understand that the “protest” you & your ilk are planning is going to cost downtown businesses a LOT of money in NECESSARY security: http://www.news1130.com/news/local/article/286189–riot-wary-downtown-shops-brace-for-occupy-vancouver-protest
I’m curious how much money you’re planning on donating to the Downtown Vancouver Business Association to cover these costs that YOU are forcing upon them? Or are you just going to go around to all the businesses you find extra security abound and give them each $20 or so?
Short answer: no. I’m not planning to pay for their security. Small businesses will have many people buying food, coffee and goods for as long as we are there. My ilk and I have a few other issues to deal with beyond that.
Julie, what’s the difference whether it’s a small business or a large business that is forced to incur security because of you? If I go up to a McDonald’s or Starbucks and smash their windows, you’re saying that I’m not responsible for the cost of the replacement simply because they’re a large business?
As for “extra” business occurring for anyone, I think you’re reaching in order to justify your guilt for the monetary damage you now know you’re going to be incurring for all businesses, be they small or large.
Here’s an interesting read from what your comrades in NYC have been doing: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/08/nyregion/occupy-wall-street-begins-to-chafe-its-neighbors.html?_r=1
i think you [and shawn above] may be working from a presumption that this is a violent occupation bent on destruction.
it also doesn’t help authentic dialogue when you start putting words in others’ mouths: “in order to justify your guilt for the monetary damage you now know you’re going to be incurring for all businesses.”
it’s best to work with what people actually say.
here’s a general comment for all those commenting on this piece [and all others].
i sure appreciate your passion.
dialogue is a good thing. but so is civility and not putting words in others’ mouths.
please try to stick to what people actually say.
attacks are not welcome.
i’ve deleted a whole series of comments in the queue. they are rude, insulting, and/or generally attack people for being unacceptable citizens in the eyes of commenters.
at the same time, a number of these comments actually had some non-offensive content.
there are now no other comments in the queue that are not rude [etc.]. if yours hasn’t shown up and you think you had some valid content in it, feel free to post a comment again, but do it more politely if you want it posted.
and a final word here. there seem to be some people whose comments i’m deleting who are seemingly genuinely enraged at the arguments in this piece and the comments. there is a tone of hate and verbal assault in some of them to the point that it makes me spot the irony that some of the comments suggest that the 99% movement is one of violence. that’s just really sad.
I put up a couple of comments that made valid points. I was not impolite. I stated facts and points of view as I saw them. You just didn’t like what I had to say.
Don’t hide behind your sensibilities, be honest, you just don’t want others to read things you don’t like.
That is rude.
I will never come back here to a place that sensors reasonable debate.
i actually accept what you had to say, despite disagreeing with parts of it.
in reposting the comments you think are valid, i wonder if you could do that while leaving out words that attack others, like juvenile, and commenting on people’s failure of existence. how is that designed to engage in civil dialogue when you are insulting people’s right to be a part of that dialogue?
and i am all for reasonable debate. that’s why we should all use reasonable words that are not designed to demean, insult and thereby alienate people. disagreeing with people while respecting their dignity is really important.
The hipocrity of this and also in the comments is astonishing.If the colonization of the country is so bad, you can always move back to the old country. If the income disparity is bothersome, remember if the man stays home he loses as much as the woman does. Also you are passing by all those people(men, women, children) you are PASSING THEM BY. Why don’t ypu drop a toonie in their hands, why don’t you go to the Salvation Army soup kitchen. They are always looking for volenteers. There you would do more to help than your silly protest will ever do.
decolonization is not the same as moving back to the old country. it is a process of addressing past [and tragically, current] colonial behaviours in a way that 2+ cultures can move forward. it isn’t about isolation and segregation.
in canada, women working full-time earn on average 72 cents for every dollar a man earns. this has barely changed at all in the last generation or so. so all are not equal in choosing or having to stay home.
how do you know who or who doesn’t donate money to the homeless or assist aid organizations? one of the best parts of the general assembly organization meeting the other day was the start of a dialogue of including the homeless in our communities because, in a sense, they occupy vancouver all year long.
There will ALWAYS be the cynical, negative folk who believe that voices will not be able to make a change. If this becomes a global movement, then we have a chance. Why not try coming out on the 15th, instead of hanging back to criticize.
Decolonization means packingup and leaving. Your meaning is called intergration or even asimulation. As for the 72 cents average that has been disproven, even by women writers. Besides,you don’t compare a dayschool worker making 8 dollars an hour with a welder making 25+ an hour. Women have always chosen jobs that pay less than men. That is starting to change, but they will always make different choices than men. Even in the same job. Who gives to money to homeless or charity or not is none of my business, just don’t brag about it. Last, when you occupy Vancouver demanding that the evil corporations be brought to heel, don’t use your Iphones, Blackberrys,Twitter and all the rest of the tech,manufactured and supplied by the corps that you hate. Eyeglasses, hearing aids, pacemakers, artifical kidneys,knee replacements and all the modern convienances that enable you to survive should be trashed.
Maybe some guy making 5 million a year offends you, but look at the number of people he employs, the taxes he and his company pays, the rules he has to play by made by the GOVT. if he breaks the rules he pays a fine or goes to jail. If you think he doesn’t blame the GOVT for not applying them.
thanks for your comments. can you provide links to documents indicating canada has gender income equality?
here are some supporting the inequality.
even the right wing conference board of canada: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/details/society/gender-income-gap.aspx
yours is one definition of decolonization. canada’s experience of integration and assimilation have resulted in the residential schools example of systemic abuse, rape and cultural genocide. this is a colossal failure.
the un declaration on the rights of indigenous people is a global template document for just interaction with indigenous people. http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html
sadly, canada is one of the only countries in the world to not sign it. this is likely related to the residential schools disaster.
other definitions of decolonization come from the un declaration. the crown’s 1763 proclamation recognized that indigenous people have title to their land. since about 95% of bc has not been ceded to the crown by purchase or treaty, that’s the basis of lots of the decolonizing efforts in bc. in fact, this proclamation is part of canada’s constitution, which as a government, we’ve abrogated:
aboriginal title was also entrenched in canadian law in the delgamuuk decision: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delgamuukw_v._British_Columbia
so decolonization can include attempts to seek a just solution [for all] to a case where for almost 200 years others have lived in bc without seeking crown title to the land.
your comment about what rules corporations must abide by that are set by the government misses the key component of corporate influence/control over government policy…in their favour. government is not some neutral body of independent, unbiased individuals. the corporate lobby is a dominant power in canadian legislation.
the number of times that corporations violate laws and receive no punishment or insanely low fines [less than annual business licensing fees], leaves no deterrent to criminal behaviour. it’s just the cost of doing business.
asbestos is a good example. it’s illegal in canada, but the canadian government subsidizes and pimps for our domestic asbestos exporting corporations to sell it in countries where it is legal, in part, due to canadian lobbying and threats to keep it legal. if that’s not absurd, i don’t know what is.
in general, the occupy movement isn’t about eradicating the global economy and all the goods and services it produces. arguably, the growth of the fair trade coffee and chocolate movement actually helps people.
the movement is about what our economy is for: to make the 1% insanely rich or to provide decent, safe work for people and to produce goods and services in a responsible way without economically enslaving politically vulnerable people or destroying the planet.
I take personal blame for my lot in life. I thank the system for the minimal benefits I need from it,
I don’t ask society to pay for my lifestyle choices, or children.
I am Canadian. I am happy with how our system has managed to give us a better life than the other 99% of the world population.
how do you feel about the inequalities in the world that make the 99%, as you calculate it, worse off than canadians?
and how do you feel about the poverty level conditions that grip millions in this country?
I suggest that the people who show up to “occupy” Vancouver vote in an election instead. I also hope that our civic institutions hold individuals accountable for any actions they may take during the “occupation.”
I do not share many of the concerns expressed in the article, will not be showing up to the “occupation”, and I hope that others will also stay away.
A protest march seems quite futile because after it’s over it will be forgotten.. and the poor and losers will continue to suffer.
I suspect that most who go on such marches are themselves on a massive guilt trip over their fortunate situation, and once they have paid their penance they will feel better about themselves.
On their own the masses are incoherent, but with a charismatic leader they can channel their discontent into something viable.
Do you see a messiah waiting to be recognized?
i’m not sure what march you are talking about. the occupation is about maintaining a presence. marches will occur out of the occupation. ultimately, the point of a march is not merely its memorableness. i think the 1963 march on washington and gandhi’s march actually are quite profound examples of events that changed history.
guilt trip? yeah, i’ve heard of that analysis before. “white guilt,” “upper middle class guilt.” but it could also be just a concern for social justice. i also know many not-so-privileged people who have none of this hypothetical guilt to work out.
and in the end, even if guilt is a motivation for wanting others to have a living wage and less crippling poverty, is that a bad thing? after all, what did i do to be born in a comfortable suburb in canada instead of a sprawling slum in somalia?
yeah, leaders certainly can help gel mass sentiment. i wouldn’t call the masses incoherent, though. that’s a risky proposition.
a messiah? not at all.
“I know that in our society I am ‘overeducated’ and, as a contract university instructor/researcher, will always be underpaid when compared to other professionals.”
Vast amounts of education in a field that interests you but doesn’t pay well (or at all) is a hobby.
Not all professions are created equal – why should the renumeration be?
certainly nhl hockey players, who represent the pinnacle of financial compensation [aside from the corporate class], are a classic example of how money is not a valid measure of those who contribute to social good.
but when i compare marshall mcluhan, pk page, jean swanson, terry fox, frederick banting, charles best, john ralston saul and their contribution to humanity, they make sean avery and michael vick look like not so much.
1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation
1. i don’t think it’s quite that black and white. i haven’t heard anyone arguing for a basic annual income of $100k for anyone. the living wage in vancouver this year is $18.81/hour, which is just under $38k. less with benefits and pension and a robust social safety net. http://livingwageforfamilies.ca/calculator/
2. yes. you’re absolutely right. this is part of my definition of a civilized society with a broad social safety net with high quality free public education, healthcare, water and other human rights. and such as we have it in canada, despite the privatization of such public services, medicare and k-12 education require others to pay for it. but an illiterate and ill population have not been deemed in the social or economic good. so we fund those.
3. yes. if there were no taxes there would be no medicare or free education, or libraries, or community centres, or public health inspectors, or those awesome folks who ensure our drinking water isn’t contaminated. do you see this as a problem or a goal?
4. i don’t understand that in any tangible way. is our goal as a society merely wealth multiplication or quality of life? the wildly unequal distribution of income gains in the last 2 generations indicate it’s the first. the 99% movement is after more of the second. and when the right wing conference board of canada starts exploring reasons why the super-rich have incomes that have risen disproportionately in recent years, we know it’s not just a convenient left wing conspiracy theory: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/hot-topics/caninequality.aspx#anchor4.
5. that’s an interesting theory that is largely disproven by the consistently high economic competitiveness of the scandinavian countries with an even more expansive social safety net compared to canada. even the notoriously neoliberal, right wing WEF consistently ranks denmark, sweden and finland in the top 10 of the most globally competitive nations, a metric favoured by neoliberals [they also score high on economic and social equality]. http://www.weforum.org/issues/global-competitiveness one of the reasons is because things like public healthcare means less compensation costs for employers. so it seems really high personal and corporate taxation in those societies doesn’t cripple them economically. i don’t consider that the beginning of their end. so for your theory to make sense, you’ll have to explain why the scandinavian countries keep showing up at the top.
Ah well, William, I will take your place, then, if that’s OK.
“Around January 2002, the average price of a detached house in Metro Vancouver was $390,000. That has since nearly tripled to $1.1 million.”
“This July, the MLS listed only 24 two-bedroom condos for sale under $300,000. That’s the maximum mortgage available to a household earning the median family income; Vancouver proper has about 30,000 renter households in that category. The story of real-estate affordability here can be told in that one stat: in a city of over 600,000 people, two dozen bottom-of-the-barrel starter condos available for sale to the middle class.”
vancouver has become a city for the rich. this is part of the concern of the 99%.
Hi Julie, I would like to share some thoughts with you that I collected in my 75 journey’s around the sun. And there is much more, if you’re interested.