Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.
In the last 18 months we have seen millions of people around the world stand up for what they believe in streets, parks and plazas around the world. In some countries the results have been fatal, up to 20,000 people have died in Syria alone since 2011, including 500 children. In Egypt, there were 846 people killed and over 6,000 injured in that uprising that successfully removed President Hosni Mubarak from power. While the millions on the streets mostly were peaceful, they were passionate and determined to see their demands met.
For the most part, in Canada, we feel far removed from this turmoil. Since the local authorities took down the Occupy camps last fall, the streets have remained mostly clean and clear, and life goes on for us essentially as it always has. Here in Vancouver we have a perfect bubble, seemingly impervious to the problems of the world. Real estate prices are high, unemployment is relatively low and except for the constant rain and clouds, life is ideal.
So why should anyone in Vancouver be concerned about this global chaos?
Well because it has come home to us! In an effort to shore up Canada’s economy against this global meltdown the Harper government has decided to sell Canada to the highest bidder on the open market. Essentially Canada has been sold out from under us all. If you have any doubts, note that PetroChina is to build the Great Pipeline to China and Harper already promised the global economic elite that the people of Canada and First Nations will not interfere with this agenda.
“We will make it a national priority to ensure we have the capacity to export our energy products beyond the United States and speciﬁcally to Asia,” he said. “In this regard, we will soon take action to ensure that major energy and mining projects are not subject to unnecessary regulatory delays—that is, delay merely for the sake of delay.”
–Steven Harper. World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland January 2012
Now unlike some, I would like to avoid demonizing Steven Harper, in his worldview, he is doing what he thinks will protect Canada. However if you think fracking the Sacred Headwaters, risking an oil spill into the most dangerous navigational region on earth and turning Vancouver into a Oil Tanker Traffic Zone is not in the interests of us in BC than you need to speak out and take action.
While these are just three local issues, the current Conservative budget, bill C-38, will strip our environmental protections, silence our environmental watchdogs, and damage our economy.
Taking a page from the playbook of G.W. Bush, the Harper government has suggested either you support the “economic development agenda” (read sell out) or you are against Canada. Consider how Canadian artist Franke James was blacklisted in a report that placed her environmental art alongside suicide bombers and the war in Libya.
View what the fuss was about -
So, what is a regular person to do? Tens of thousands of Canadians are signing online petitions and even more posting these issues on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and elsewhere online. However we must ask ourselves – it that enough to change things? If you look historically at any successful social movements from the formation of labor unions, to the civil rights movement, they only achieved their goals though mass protests and civil disobedience.
In 1930 when Gandhi marched over 388 kilometers to make salt as a symbolic act against the British control of India it resulted in 60,000 protestors being arrested, and eventually forced the British government to negotiate with Gandhi in 1931. This protest has often been considered the turning point in Indian Independence Movement that led to its eventual success in 1947.
Right now in Montreal, we find protests taking place on the scale of what we have observed globally, with tens of thousands regularly on the streets. Although these protests started around tuition fees, many Montrealers joined once the provincial government made protesting and freedom of assembly (essentially) illegal.
Yet, protests remain distasteful to most people here in Vancouver. Many think of them as groups of unkempt, drug using, people yelling and disrupting order in a way that the average person does not support. However, often they are family-friendly celebrations of freedom and hope, like the upcoming Vancouver Walk for Peace promises to be.
Also Lead Now has started a new type of strategic protest, directed at “changing the national conversation”. Listen to my interview with Jamie Bigger, Executive director of Lead Now to understand what they are doing and why.
In summary, regardless of what your opinion is, if you want your voice heard you must do 3 things:
- Get informed on the issues that concern you, so you are educated and can understand the context and not get misled by those more informed than you are.
- Connect with a project that gets you off your computer and into the real world.
- Take Action. Only though the shared experience of working in physical proximity to others who share your dreams will you ever realize those dreams.
A true warrior is always armed with three things: the radiant sword of pacification; the mirror of bravery, wisdom, and friendship; and the precious jewel of enlightenment.
-Morihei Ueshiba. Founder of Aikido