I Occupied Toronto
What is Occupy Toronto? Wait there is something called tent city? What do they want? Why are they here?
I found myself asking these were questions after hearing that there were protests happening in my own backyard. If I was asking these questions, then chances are a great number of others were as well. Let’s begin with a little background on yours truly…
For years I had convinced myself I was born in the wrong decade and knew my time here on earth was meant to be spent making a difference. I have always known I was to become a revolutionary and the best (or worst depending how you look at it) tool my 9th grade teacher ever gave me was a copy of George Orwell’s 1984… I was hooked, I was obsessed and over the past few years I have watched this book unfold. You name the conspiracy theory, any theory at all, and I have researched it, digested it and strategically placed it in my mind as to never forget it. I am that nut… someone has to be.Naturally this movement got my juices flowing, I NEEDED to know what this was about and shortly thereafter I NEEDED to be a part of it.
I found myself over at tent city with an open mind. I had heard about all the homeless unemployed hippies whining day in and day out, and I thought to myself “there must be more to this whole thing…” I was right. This was not a band of homeless individuals squatting and disturbing the peace; this was a group varied in age, ethnicity, education and beliefs. Everyone had a story and everyone was there for a different reason. I wish Rob Ford or Bill Blair would have taken the time to see that this is not a group of black flock anarchists doing drugs and hangin’ out. This was a functioning community with donated food, a library, a rehabilitation center, workshops, a yoga space, and counselling. They had daily cleaning of the park, and had a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol and drugs. This was a peaceful and happy place for all to come together and share their opinion, no one was discriminated against. This was a safe space for the less fortunate, and an opportunity to be heard. This was a group of professionals, students, parents, unemployed workers, activists, voters, professors, and the underrepresented who are asking to separate money from politics and improve the country’s infrastructure, improve healthcare, education, the environment and the economy.
I have never walked into a crowd and felt so much passion. Everyone is welcome and everyone is heard. The public’s general argument was that there was no clear message. To that I must agree; everyone that had taken part in OccTO was there for a different reason, women’s rights, native rights, the disappearance of the middle class, expensive schooling, or the oppression of the poor. But if you look at these issues as whole it stems down to one big problem— that the system is not working. What do these people want, you might ask. They want to be heard; the oppressed have been forgotten about and are reaching out and saying “Hey! I’m struggling here, please help me!”
This group of protesters are seeking and working towards drastic changes to economic systems that they believe are destroying business, social liberties and the environment. What is the point? The goal is to send a message to the financial sector that banks are here to serve the people not the other way around. They also believe that the banks practices of speculation and fractional reserve landing have created inequality and should no longer be considered valid systems. If no one talks about it, it doesn’t exist right? WRONG, this movement is showing you that these issue are real and that these issues are painful to many.
A lot of these individuals have been alienated from society whether it was due to mental illness or where/how they were brought up. These individuals have felt included for the first time in their lives. They have found fellow outcasts who have felt the same way and were able to build a community and create friendships. I think this camp was to be seen as an act of public service, and I believe that we really have no idea what a negative impact evicting this support group has made.
I was there myself, I painted pictures with strangers, Learned how to hoola-hoop and participated in drum circles, I practiced yoga in a Mongolian yurt, donated vegan options and helped out in the food tent. I felt that it was necessary to talk to those living here and I am so glad I saw it for myself. Do I agree with everything being protested? No, but that does not stop me from supporting a group that needs to be heard. Agree with it or not, these Occupiers have made us all think and rethink what we believe in, have made us question our system, and that is what is important here. We are all so busy that we forget about our role as a puppet in society. SO next time you bash a complete stranger about their involvement in the movement, think to yourself, “What if my opinions were deemed unimportant, and what if my right to fight for myself was taken away…” Chances are you will have something a lot nicer to say…