If only you could change the world by sitting around wearing a funny hat…
I’ve resisted writing anything in particular about #OccupyVancouver for a long time but since the city keeps delaying when it will evict the squatters from the Vancouver Art Gallery, I thought I should say my part. I mean, according to some polls, 75% of Vancouver agrees with me, I don’t know what the city council is waiting for. I probably should’ve written several posts over the course of the weeks rather than one enormous essay…but here we go anyways.
I went to Occupy Vancouver on that first day and listened for a good few hours. While I was in disagreement with some of the #OccupyWallStreet, I could see why this sort of thing made sense in America. People were losing their homes due to banks giving people mortgages they couldn’t afford, the economy was low and unemployment was high. People couldn’t afford the health care they needed while they were sick for jobs where they couldn’t afford to miss days being sick. It made sense. While their strategies to solve these problems were a little too extreme left for me, I recognize that these problems exist and that the America that prospered pre-2008 was in a world of hurt financially. To make things worse, the working class are the ones who are suffering while many of the rich get wealthy.
So let me tell you where you lost me and why Occupy Vancouver is massive waste of money, resources and time.
For the most part, none of those things happened in Canada or Vancouver. Canadian banks avoided the sub-prime lending that broke America. You can’t really get a so-called NINJA mortgage here in Canada, as we have strict lending criteria rather than just handing mortgages out like free samples at Costco. Our banks were affected because the American economy takes up a good chunk of the global pie. In Canada, for the most part, the economy has remained rather steady. Few people are losing their homes due to bad mortgages and while the housing market here in Vancouver is expensive, we are one of the most livable cities in the world and demand simply dictates higher prices one way or another.
Still, I thought if someone was really convincing at Occupy Vancouver, I might see the point. I may have arrived a few minutes late that first day but I don’t think I missed much. It took literally hours for the assembly to figure out how to speak to crowd and in the end, the only conclusion was that using a microphone was better than repeated yelling. In their zeal to include everyone in the discussion, more time was spent finding translators for every single language on the planet. While I have no doubt that the multicultural crowd spoke many languages, I have a hard time believing there were many that spoke some of the more obscure ones and not a word of English, evidenced by the lack of people that spoke up for several of those jobs. I saw a man with an enormous beard and wondered if he was clean shaven when Occupy Vancouver started.
Occupy Vancouver tried so hard to be heard that they forgot to actually say something. That about sums up not only for those first few hours but pretty much all of Occupy Vancouver.
The real issues were quickly pushed aside as the sheer lunacy shouted over them. There were all flavors of crazy up there that day including people that didn’t believe in money, 9/11 and Zeitgeist theorists, animal rights activists, and a guy that played the saxophone that was running for mayor (more on him in a second). Look, there are some parts of Occupy Vancouver that are within reason but it is by far drowned out by the Baskin-Robbins of crazy. Free heroin? A “maximum” wage?! An investigation into the events behind 9/11?! C’mon…if you want the city to listen to real issues then you have to filter some of the wackier ones.
I mean, what’s with that saxophone guy that calls himself the “Saxmaniac” (can’t make this stuff up…) running for mayor? I made zero sense of his speech up there that first day and it seemed like much of the crowd had the same reaction as he was booed off stage for taking too much time rambling on about his crazy. If that wasn’t enough, he wandered onstage at the mayoral debate shouting at the other candidates while holding a stuffed red lobster (seriously, can’t make this stuff up). But what really got me was that at the Remembrance Day parade at Victory Square last Saturday, he BOOED. No, really…this man booed someone onstage at an event that honors men and women that served our country. When he wasn’t heckling the speakers, he was talking loudly while people were speaking, asking “Is this over yet?” and other sarcastic comments. If it wasn’t already rather obvious that he won’t be our next mayor, I don’t think I could say enough in hopes of discouraging you from voting for him this Saturday.
It didn’t help that the majority of the Occupy crowd was carrying smartphones. I saw one Occupy supporter with a Marc Jacobs bag and a good number of the crowd volunteered their mobile devices for tethering when a speaker asked if anyone could lend the local media their Wi-Fi. How much does the system really need to change when 50% of the people that claim they’re being oppressed by the upper class can afford a $30 a month option on their smartphone plan? The whole thing smelled of entitlement and arts students looking for any cause at all to protest. I would know as I was an arts student myself and every single year, there are those that came to our classes to rally us for causes that most of us couldn’t be bothered with.
It also didn’t help that a lot of the people at the protests had no idea what they were protesting. More than just a few times, I overheard whispers of “So what the heck is all this about?” and such. I even saw a sign that said something like “I don’t know what this is for but I’m protesting!”. You have to admit that the whole “We are the 99%” is a brilliant stroke of advertising, giving the #Occupy movement a catchphrase that so many can relate to but the thing is, it sucked it a lot of people that are just there because it’s the protest du jour and hipsters that think they’ve found the new edgy thing to do ironically.
And it REALLY didn’t help that there is just so much hypocrisy surrounding the whole Occupy Vancouver movement. I’m not just talking about those decked in Abercrombie talking on their iPhones while chugging a frappuccino. I’m talking about those who say they’re standing up for free speech while rudely interrupting others while they’re speaking. Or maybe since the movement criticizes the media for misrepresenting facts, misleading the public or just plain lying when they themselves do the same thing. A speaker last Saturday was telling a small gathering of occupiers that the police were afraid of them so they brought in the police chiefs and fire chiefs from other nearby municipalities (“big wigs” he said) to put out the “sacred fire”. The Occupy Vancouver people have blown things out of proportion themselves in order to make themselves seem more significant and controversial to get more attention. “Look at me! I’m so badass the police are after us!” like a 17-year old trying to impress a girl.
I mean, I can’t think of any other reason why anyone would claim that two occupiers were kidnapped by a black, unmarked van with no evidence other than “trusted sources” and tell me that I can’t prove her wrong because I have no evidence that says two people WEREN’T kidnapped. This is the kind of logic that seems to flow around Occupy Vancouver that just boggles my mind. For a movement that criticizes mainstream media so much, some sure seem to model themselves after another publications that cites “trusted sources”, The National Enquirer.
And then there’s the drugs. I’m not going to argue with you about marijuana as it is so accepted in Vancouver that I sort of expect it everywhere and Occupy Vancouver isn’t an exception. However, when people start overdosing and dying, then we have a problem. Occupier like to say that this happens in the DTES often and that John and Jane Does found dead on those blocks of Vancouver don’t make the news every day. True but we aren’t looking to the DTES for leadership either. I’m not asking people with needles in their arms how they think Canada should be run because all they’ll end up with on their demands list is “Free heroin.”…oh wait…
My point is…I don’t know how you expect us to take you seriously with all this going on. As far as I and many others are concerned, Occupy Vancouver is a failure. You can say it started conversation and awareness all you want but the fact of the matter is over half a million dollars of taxpayer money went into this along with what must be hundreds of hours of city workers cleaning up and police keeping the peace at all hours. For what? What’s been done since a month ago? We don’t even see a list of demands. The movement has no focus. How can you expect change in society when you don’t really know what you want? With no leadership, the city has no idea who to negotiate with or how they could even get started on getting anything going. They don’t have to look at any of the issues you raised since you didn’t raise any in particular so they have all the time in the world to think up how to get you out of there. Evidence? How much of the political debate these days involves whether or not to evict Occupy Vancouver and how much is dedicated to the issues OV raised such as what REALLY happened on 9/11?
Occupy Vancouver has wasted our time and money. Some businesses in the surrounding area (such as the Re-Up BBQ food cart) have either seen a decrease in traffic and sales while others simply don’t want to deal with their unruly neighbors any more. I was sitting in the A&W getting a root beer on Saturday when an Occupier strolled in holding a large Tupperware container of food and demanding that the service staff let her use the washroom, shouting it while walking in. When they said there was already someone in there and that she would have to wait until that person got out, the woman stormed out, shouting “#*%& YOU!” at the surprised people behind the counter.
That sort of sums up Occupy Vancouver and protesters in general…the sense of entitlement they have that other people need to give them something they somehow deserve. A&W was in no way obligated to allow that woman to use their washroom when she hadn’t purchased anything and even then…they weren’t denying her the washroom, just that she had to wait, but still, that simply wasn’t good enough for the Occupier. I’m not part of this ultra-rich 1% but at the same time, I’m not mad at their success and I don’t feel like the rich owe me anything. I don’t want them to pay my way through school or contribute toward my debt. I try to figure out how I can get to that 1% rather than crying about how unfair it is. I don’t think most rich people are rich by accident. They’ve made decisions, gotten necessary training and are good at what they do. Yes, there’s injustice in how the cast of Jersey Shore is rich since I’m almost sure at least half of them would be dead by now if they weren’t on TV…but I’m not going to hate on the success of the Jobs, Gates, and Buffetts of the world who have earned their place in the world. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has done more for the developing world than all the weekend hippies in Vancouver combined. The real 99% are those who worry about having food and clean water every day…not those who complain they can’t afford an Xbox because they have to pay off student loans.
Alright, so maybe not everyone there is like that but the entitlement comment stands. Protesting in itself is just that to me, especially something like Occupy Vancouver. It says to me “I don’t want to do anything but sit in this tent all day until YOU change something that I want changed.” That’s all a protest is…it’s a temper tantrum until they get what they want. If Occupy Vancouver really wanted to make a difference, they would put together some leadership and form a political party…preferably without people like the Saxmaniac at the helm. Think about what sitting around at the art gallery does…do you really expect anyone to say “Maybe we should listen to the guys sitting in those tents all day.”?
It seems in recent days that someone at Occupy Vancouver has woken up and attempted to filter out the nutjobs, denounce drug use and try to put something that resembles a list of demands together. I think it’s great that they’ve taken advice and sorted their stuff out but it just might be too late. I thought it was silly and doomed from that first day that took four hours before anyone brought up something that wasn’t translators or human microphones. You’ve had your fun, Occupy Vancouver…it’s about time we got all this silliness packed up before Vancouver has another embarrassment on it’s hands.