Friday, December 30, 2011

Occupy Soup Kitchen

Estimates for Occupy Wall Street alone vary wildly from hundreds up to 50,000. Moot actually as the specific numbers are unimportant, what is important is the global participation and duration of the protests. I feel safe in saying hundreds of thousands of protesters have made themselves present for some time holding signs and chanting. Also unimportant is the specific cause or lack of cause that was the catalyst for these gatherings.

What is interesting to note is the tremendous number of “man hours” that have been allocated to protesting and supporting a cause that at the highest level is discontent on the inequality of treatment to fellow humans on our earth.

Also, I trust I am safe to suggest that the demographics of these protesters is equally as diverse as the cause of the chants and placard slogans. From the homeless to labourers and trades people to doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs all took their place to improve the human condition.

Unlike my typical tendencies to do the math to make my point, a quick calculation of the number of worldwide protesters multiplied by the number of house spent in the mobs would result in a VERY large total of “man hours” dedicated to the cause.. Maybe in the millions?

What if these millions of man hours were allocated to actually improving the human condition??. Now THAT would be an earth changing protest. That huge (even for a short period of time) access to manpower would make change, and could possibly touch hundreds of thousands of the 99%ers, rather than standing idly by complaining about the 1%ers.

The possible incredible social impact of applying millions of man hours are way too numerous to even begin to compile a list of in a simple blog post. I encourage you to take a moment to consider how even a tiny sample of 500 protesters, for a single day applying their time to reach out to the less fortunate in your community; providing maintenance in homeless shelters, raising money for general charities, volunteering for youth groups, offering help to less fortunate.  Has a much better ring to it than taking these man hours to build makeshift tents and standing in circles debating what their actual cause is.

Listening to lawyers, accountants and physicians taking their place in front of news reporters microphones detailing their personal reasons and interpretation of the “occupy” protests.. leaves me to wonder, what if these valued professionals took that time instead to offer a day of pro bono work for the 99%’s who they claim are being down trodden.

The question, would these thousands of protestors, get as much attention to their cause(s) if they were diversified out into the communities, and not standing in impressive mobs and making awe inspiring photographs of their numbers in national newspapers? I feel a massive outcry of protesters  who actually putting their money where their mouth is would gather much more public support, than throngs of people standing around a burning barrel. And more important.. who cares if they get more “impact” in the press. Is the cause of the protest “impact” or is it to improve our world.


  1. I applaud you for these statements. I am a "1%er" and I admit I don't always think of the less fortunate but I have had some moments when I did take the time to pay my own way and help out in places like New Orelans, Little Catalina NL and even closer to home in Zealand NB and surrounding areas. It doesn't take much to give a helping hand and I hope I can instill this in my children, one of which has gone with me to hurricane ravaged Louisiana and continues to volunteer in different areas in Fredericton NB. Every 1%er should take the time to volunteer and likewise do should the 99%.

  2. Thanks Rob for your comment, and it is great to see that you have found your time better spent actually doing something personally, rather than standing around in the cold demanding that someone else do something. Now if you see how a single person impacted change, only imagine if even a small portion of the Occupy Demonstrators did same. Imagine the positive press and awareness of the issues would be publicly recognized if they reached out into their communities and improved the human state. Now THAT would be a powerful statement!

  3. That's the whole problem with the OWS movement in general. "We're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore! it's time to revolt! you first!"

    They'd be much better occupying employed positions, or actually getting together and *doing* something for the betterment of people who actually need the help.

    The 1% isn't the enemy, the enemy is apathy :P.

  4. Not sure if you actually understand what was being protested. In recent times, big banks and indsustry were bailed out by taxpayers, some of that was used to pay bonuses to people who were responsible for the descisions which led to the crisis. Here is a little background for you.

    Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is a protest movement which began September 17, 2011 in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City's Wall Street financial district, initiated by the Canadian activist group Adbusters. The protests are against social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, as well as corruption, and the undue influence of corporations—particularly from the financial services sector—on government. The protesters' slogan We are the 99% refers to the growing income and wealth inequality in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population.

  5. Thanks for your feedback, fundamentally my issue is less to do with the "cause" or validity of the Occupy movement, and much more with the missed/wasted opportunity to have such a vast number of community concerned citizens. Such an opportunity for socially conscious 99%ers, to help improve the lives of fellow 99%ers.

    In regard to my understanding of this issue, I do feel I have a pretty good background on the platform, and as important to note, I am well within the 99%. However, a direct result of living in a democratic and more specifically a CAPITALIST society, means that the natural evolution of this state will result in 1% control of the economy. Maybe distasteful on occasion, but personally, I will gratefully accept the good with the bad. Capitalism allows me personally, as well as the entire community to thrive with hard work and devotion to improving ones own financial position. A society that would strive to offer equal financial footing for all (socialism) - eliminating in theory, the 1%ers.. is not something that the populous would find satisfying in the long run.

  6. No problem for the feedback, thanks for the posts. I guess where I differ is that it seems you want the 99% to do even more, I mean, weren't they saying to the 1%, "we are doing the majority of the work, taxpaying etc..." For certain, they could have made themselves busier with social/charitable work, in the end we would still have a growing divide between the have and have more. No doubt the 99% do the real work of charity.

    We are fortunate to live in a part of the worlds where these protests are a right and blogs like this are free and open. Cheers!

  7. As do I appreciate your feedback.. and we can agree 100% on one thing, is that we are extremely fortunate to have the freedom and opportunity for openly sharing our opinions here.

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  8. (accidentally posted as a reply to another post the first time - oops!)

    Darryl, I understand your point, but it is based on a set of false assumptions.

    One of your assumptions is that assembling en masse and making the point that people are angry about various injustices is not a productive endeavour - or at least not nearly as productive as scooping beans in a soup kitchen.

    If the rest of us were to follow that logic, then the Civil Rights Movement never would have existed. Your wife would not have the right to vote. Women in general would still be barred from professions such as law and medicine. Black people would still be required to use separate water fountains and schools. And so on down the line. Clearly, assembling en masse and petitioning for a redress of grievances can be a very fruitful endeavour indeed. This is why the freedom to do so is explicitly protected in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms - protest is essential to the proper function of any democracy.

    Your next assumption is that the activities of Occupy protesters amount to "[building] makeshift tents and standing in circles debating what their actual cause is." I take it that you haven't actually spent any time at Occupy protests, correct? I have, and as such am quite certain that they did more than just camp and try to figure out what their grievances are. Occupy's primary tactic to spread knowledge of and information about the movement was to stage sit-in protests, which is a time-honoured method of protest (used extensively, again, by the Civil Rights Movement, and even by many other groups right here in Fredericton that got much less media attention). You seem to be confusing the tactic of setting up a sit-in protest with the goal of the protest. They are not the same thing.

    You also wrote: "...a direct result of living in a democratic and more specifically a CAPITALIST society, means that the natural evolution of this state will result in 1% control of the economy." I have two responses to that:

    1. The issue isn't just that a very small number of people control the economy, but that they also control our government. Surely you've noticed that our government is far more receptive to the wishes of big business and the wealthy businessmen who run them than it is to us "common folk." If you don't agree with that assessment, let me ask you this: do you think our government is as likely to listen to you as it is to, say, the Irvings? Clearly not. It follows, then, that our society is not functioning like a proper democracy, because in a democracy, people are not allotted power based on their material wealth. That is a characteristic of a plutocracy.

    to be continued...

  9. 2. It actually isn't true that a small group of people will inevitably end up controlling everything. There are measures that we used to have in place to prevent such things from happening - most notably, we used to tax the rich at a much greater rate than we do now. As it stands today, billionaires usually pay a lower percentage of tax than you and me, for a number of reasons, including the fact that most of their income tends to come from capital gains which is only taxed at a 50% rate, they hide money offshore, they hire accountants to find loopholes that they can exploit, and they hire lawyers to sue the government in order to pay lower taxes (just look at how many times Irving Oil has sued both the provincial and federal governments for just that reason - it's ridiculous). We used to have an Estate Tax in Canada that helped to prevent the formation of dynasties, but Trudeau's government got rid of that in 1972. We used to have stronger antitrust laws to prevent corporations from acquiring too much and lording over us. And so on.

    The ultimate proof that democracy can thrive and not degenerate as you describe is that so many other countries make it work properly. Just look at any Scandinavian country. They score better on every educational measure than we do, they have better health care systems, their level of economic inequality is much lower, their governments actually tend to be pretty responsive to the people (Iceland is a great example of that - the people pretty much rewrote their own constitution after the 2008 crash), and so on.

    Canada has a lot of problems, Darryl. We can do much better. I'm glad we have people who are willing to speak out and do what needs to be done to effect positive change.

    1. As with all responses to my articles, I am thrilled that you have taken the time to add your opinion and thoughts, especially yours, as they are clearly impassioned and well thought out.

      As per a previous response of mine, I am less making observations on the "cause", and more so observing the tactics and the potential to take this vast effort and numbers to achieve making your statements and tangibly improving the state of our human condition. Of course taking a protest, away from gathered masses, and relocating these masses into volunteer work - under the umbrella of the protest movement has never been attempted. I suggest that it would be a very powerful message and demonstration to the commitment to the cause. Tens of thousands of people infiltrating social support programs, with a clear message that they are doing this to protest the 1%'s.. would certainly be press-worthy.. and very powerful.

      You have also provided opinions that I respect (of course) of the nature and reasoning of the protest movement. Again.. was not the intent of my article to wade into.. but as you have taken such time and attention to expressing your thoughts, I think out of respect for your time, I will add my thoughts on the movement as well. (I know one of my replies above started the ball rolling on this).. It really comes down to (gulp - I know that this will be a hot one) - is socialism vs. capitalism.

      We as Canadians (I assume you are Canadian) love the freedom to pick and choose of what capitalist traits we like, and what socialist traits we like and demand a government, and laws to support this desired state. I do not close my eyes to the power that Irving Oil may have politically and economically.. but they gained this strength in a free economy. Ugly maybe that they can influence government policy.. but what is MUCH uglier, is a government that stifles such free market growth. I as a 99% embrace the opportunity that this free market offers me. If others have succeeded within this environment far beyond anything that I will ever reach.. then I cannot protest their success. As they, and I, have the same opportunity. Thankfully.
      If we desire a government to throttle back the power that the 1%'ers have earned, then we also must be willing to pay a much larger share in taxes, and endure much tighter government control in a more Socialistic State. I don't for a moment, feel that the 1% pay enough taxes - we agree on that 100%. Nor do I agree with the tax loopholes that they take advantage of. Again we are on the page. BUT, is it possible that BECAUSE they are able to (fair or unfair) reduce their tax contributions is precisely why they are so vast is size and power. And large, financially strong companies employ a massive number of people.. all that pay taxes and feed into an economy. So, the 1%'s may be evading a fair share of taxes.. but resisting the growth, and harnessing the expansion of these "super" companies could very easily cause a huge hit on employment. It only takes a moment of listening to federal economists to clearly understand that the success of our economy rests on employment levels.

      I do have to comment quickly on your grouping in this protest of economic state with the women rights movement, and human equality.. in short, I do not see these in any way related or of equal injustices.

      Of course - this is an extremely complex issue in regards to political and macro economic aspects.. which make this a wonderful debate.

      Again, thank you for your interest and look forward to any further observations you may have on this or any of my other articles.