Category Archives: Voluntary Simplicity

The Occupy Movement Has Changed the Narrative, But We’re Not Done

Recently, with the WEF spending the last few years acknowledging global income inequality is a problem, I’ve declared a kind of victory for the Occupy Movement: getting the lexicon on the 1% and inequality on the tongues of the sly gazillionaires who rule the world, and into mass consumption.

Now we see that the CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest cancers of neoliberal capitalism and a prime mover of the 2008 crash, has admitted that income inequality is a problem and a destabilizer. Sadly, though not surprisingly, in this interview he also trotted out typical neoliberal “realities” of globalization, making the economic pie grow [but growth and decline lead to unequal distribution], outsourcing and winner-take-all-capitalism. And repugnantly, he lamented [sniff] how “if there was a lever to pull and a button to push…” then he continued with a babble of phrases and jargon, but what he was implying is that we’d just pull that lever and fix it all. But he also implied there is no lever/button.

But guess what, Lloyd Blankfein, there is. Wait for it…just redistribute income.

He even said in the interview that economies need to grow [not so, say the Steady Staters, including me] and they need to distribute the income properly. But how does one make a market/economy distribute income properly? It’s NEVER been from the voluntary goodness of the 1% or their compradors.

We’ve had to fight for it, either through social movements, unionization or government regulation. We’ve had to take it from the rich.

Here’s the lever, Mr. Blankfein: raise taxes. Raise them on the rich, on the corporations, on the $1.5 trillion, yes TRILLION, in cash that US corporations are just sitting on. Raise them to generate some income to create some public goods: a robust public education system, a public healthcare system, subsidies for green energy and transit development, a stronger welfare and unemployment insurance system so people can live in dignity. Arts, culture, solar roadways, home retrofitting, organic food development, funding a gap year for volunteerism, providing amnesty and language/job training for illegal immigrants. How about that, for a start?

Then increase the minimum wage to a living wage.

How’s that for addressing income inequality, Mr. Goldman Sachs apologist spin doctor?

Well, he’s a smart guy, but instead of suggesting all these OBVIOUS undergraduate economics solutions, he said there is no lever or button.

What a liar.

Now that we’ve got these liars talking about income inequality, but trying to spin us into believing there’s nothing we/they can do about it, let’s get busy.

If you scroll back up to the top right corner of this webpage, you’ll see that 85/116 people voting [albeit, a self-selecting non-random sample], felt we should reboot Occupy Vancouver. But it’s really 84 because I voted twice, each on a different browser. Sorry.

And if 10% of those 84 people joined us in rebooting Occupy Vancouver, along with building our affinity network starting with Occupy Ottawa, we can move to the next phase of the Occupy Movement highlighted by the 3 month Wave of Action: actually DOING something about income inequality. And if you wonder what we CAN do, see my list, above. But there’s so much more!

So if you’d like to catch up on the Occupy Vancouver reboot, and [as a bonus] if you’ve already dumped Facebook, we’re looking at the Wave of Action platform to do our organizing. And you’re free/encouraged to join us!

The platform feels a bit like Facebook, but it’s owned by everyone and we have control over our privacy. Once you get in, search for Vancouver and connect up so we can see where to go next with the agenda of doing something that the lying spinning 1% want to convince us we can’t do: fix income inequality and get more economic, social, political and environmental justice in the world.

The 1% Has More Solidarity Than We Do

In Davos, the 1% rule the world. Literally. They also have the guns.

The 1% are claiming we have it out for them; that if we don’t tone down the rhetoric and stop calling them names like “the contemptuous rich,” we might end up starting a class war. But they already know there’s a class war, and it’s been going on for generations. Today, the rich are winning because they have more solidarity than we do. The year 2014 is a battleground and the currency is solidarity. If we don’t start organizing together, quickly, and far more effectively, the contemptuous rich will continue to come out on top.

For centuries, the 1% were the nobility, the aristocrats, the old money, the patriarchy. Then Adam Smith pitched capitalism in his 1776 book Wealth of Nations, and liberated the entrepreneurs to join the blue bloods. Today, every January, corporate and government leaders from around the world – the people who literally rule the world – meet in the winter-wonderland of Davos, Switzerland, to launch the annual World Economic Forum. There, they plan the global agenda. This year’s sexy new idea was advancing “social entrepreneurialism.” That sounds so kumbaya, just like public-private partnerships, but it’s just spin for privatizing social services.

The World Economic Forum is just one of the most recent venues where the global elite show their solidarity with each other, and plan how to maximize shareholder wealth and minimize global social, economic and political equality. Beyond Davos, our rulers have also created a roadmap for undermining the democracy of nations through secret trade agreements like NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and CETA (the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement). These agreements are designed to give right-wing governments the excuse to deregulate industries, privatize public services, and elevate shareholders’ and investors’ “right” to profit above the needs of society.

How does this translate in Harper’s vision of Canada? April Fool’s Day this year marked the end of the 10-year Canada Health Accord and the beginning of a 12-year fiscal plan to cut $36 billion from federal Medicare funding. This manufactured disaster is textbook Shock Doctrine, designed to impair the public health care system in order to drive more demand for private alternatives.

THE RISE OF THE 99%

The Occupy Movement helped us understand the 1% and the 99%. One of the movement’s critical failures, however, was its inability to frame its core message in the face of a hostile corporate media, and a well-coordinated network of police and intelligence service agencies working together to discredit, mock, beat, arrest, and terrorize the Occupiers. The Occupy Movement’s message was, and is, merely equality: a demand for political, social and economic equality, plus, a healthy environment. This simple message manifested itself in dozens of demands, but whose message won? The 1%. After all, they own the guns and the corporate media. But, there is hope for the 99%.

On March 19, for instance, 650 people gathered in the Maritime Labour Centre to formally kickstart the Metro Vancouver Alliance, a solidarity catalyst if there ever was one. Its birth was inspired by the Industrial Areas Foundation community organizing model, active in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Australia and the UK. The MVA is a coalition of labour, community and faith-based organizations who share common progressive goals.

On April 4, the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, the Occupy Movement rebooted itself in a worldwide “Wave of Action.” Its goal is a three-month rolling wave of activism at former Occupy sites, designed to reinvigorate the solidarity started in 2011. And there are other solidarity catalysts in Canada, including the Greater Edmonton Alliance.

These coalitions are fantastic, but they risk irrelevance if they can’t evolve to the next level of solidarity. These alliances need to grow more intense, both inwardly and outwardly.

The member groups of progressive coalitions need to find ways of connecting their individual members to better support each other. And the coalitions themselves need to support each other. I believe such an effort at deepening and broadening solidarity has, so far, been lacking. Meanwhile, the 1% are deeply well-connected, from community chambers of commerce right up to the World Trade Organization. They’re all spouting the same spin and rhetoric on their members’ behalf, while we, the 99%, can often not get past “letterhead coalitions,” a term introduced to me by Amanda Tattersall, one of the founders of the Sydney Alliance in Australia. What good is it to have a coalition when the extent of union, or faith, or community organization activity is merely a letter of support?

We need to seed more alliances in Canada. And we need to help union members themselves understand why unions matter. Labour campaigns like these can only help: the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) campaign, Together FAIRNESS WORKS; the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) campaign, Unite for Fairness; and the National Union of Public And General Employees (NUPGE) campaign, All Together Now.

We need to then connect union members with social change coalitions, like Occupy Version 2 and the upcoming Peoples’ Social Forum in Ottawa (August 21 to 24). Our window is opening again. It’s time to leap through and convene the big gatherings.

This piece originally appeared in Our Times magazine.

Occupy Vancouver Reboots Tonight!

CoV_GrandviewParkOccupy Vancouver reboots tonight to join the worldwide #WaveOfAction that began on April 4 and runs [at least] to July 4, 2014.

We will meet in Grandview Park on Commercial Drive in East Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish territories.

615pm is the start time, though honestly, I’ll be there a bit early. With my Occupy Vancouver sign taped to my hockey stick. In some convenient part of the park, since there will be a May Day march arriving there for a rally at the same time.

Things to consider:

Continue reading Occupy Vancouver Reboots Tonight!