Occupy where, and for what?

After leaving its humble beginnings in Vancouver to make a splash in the Big Apple, the Occupy movement returned to its birth country last week, hitting large Canadian cities with full force. Crowds defying any demographic classification filled streets and parks across the country to join what has become a worldwide phenomenon.

As pundits surveyed the Canuck addition to the protests, two questions were raised over and over again. First: aren’t people only upset at Wall Street, not Bay Street? Surely the problem lies in the global effect of America’s corporate beast, and the world is reacting. Second: is the movement’s message a cohesive one? Everybody is angry, but can anybody agree on what exactly they’re angry about? Yet these questions have already been answered. Let’s take ‘em one at a time.

Wall Street may be the ugliest worm in your dinner, but it’s not the only one: the whole dish is spoiled. The system that contributes to the wealth of the few—and the struggle of most—spills far over American borders, and is globally kept in place by international elites. Canada, often proud in the past of being the only legitimate social democracy outside of Scandinavia, looks more and more like its southern cousin. While its income inequality is, mercifully, still much lower than that of the United States, it’s catching up, and fast. CBC announced last week that Canada’s income gap is getting wider at a faster rate than America’s. Furthermore, in 1976 the average Canadian income was $51,100. Despite inflation, that average has made a slow increase to $59,700. Frank Groves, the President of Ekos Research Associates, has told CBC’s The National that “nobody but a narrow caste of very rich people are moving forward.” In the same interview he mentioned that “what’s shocking about Occupy Wall Street isn’t that it occurred, but that it took so long to occur.”

Sitting next to Groves at the time was Charlotte Yates, Chair of Social Science at McMaster University. And in my opinion, she effectively tackled the issue of what the protestors want:

“Although the demands of that group are very diffuse, there is a very clear message: we’re angry about the way capitalist society is organized. Too few people have too much. This is a backlash against corporations.”

Her statement needs some nuance. Brands, companies, and their leaders are not universally despised. The tragic passing of Steve Jobs, and the outpouring of affection for all things Apple, is a case in point. Rather, it’s the position of manipulative power which many corporations are allowed to be in that spark outrage. Especially when that power is purely mediated by the bottom line figures at the end of the month. Add a host of entrenched economists who only see when their neo-liberal glasses are on, and you’ve got legitimately fed up people. Their demands are many because the injustices are many.

As the Occupy movement evolves, it should continue to be subject to much talk and more scrutiny. But the media  should not patronise it by asking questions that have already been answered. The movement’s ultimate efficacy has yet to be seen, but you do not have to strain your eyes to see its causes.

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