The last place that comes to mind when I think of global revolution is Canada. I lived in the Province of Ontario for two decades and I came to think of Canadians as generous, fair minded, decent and – forgive me but I must not tell a lie – boring.
Naturally, Canadians thought of me as “volatile.”
I was much younger then and I was fired up about all kinds of things. Social injustice was one of them. Jamaicans don’t take kindly to injustice. We tend to sharpen our machetes when we experience it.
Those boring Canadians didn’t even have machetes. To fight injustice and change society, they used a much less deadly – but even more effective – weapon: the ballot box.
So you can imagine my surprise when I learned that the Occupy Wall Street movement was ignited by a Canadian group.
In an analysis of the worldwide revolt against the massive concentration of wealth and disenfranchisement of ordinary working people, Juan Cole writes:
Estonian-Canadian activist Kalle Lasn and his anti-consumerist colleagues at the Vancouver-based Adbusters Media Foundation…. sent out the call on Twitter in the summer of 2011 for a rally at Wall Street on September 17th, with the now-famous hash tag #OccupyWallStreet. A thousand protesters gathered on the designated date, commemorating the 2008 economic meltdown that had thrown millions of Americans out of their jobs and their homes. Some camped out in nearby Zuccotti Park, another unexpected global spark for protest.
Talk about “the mouse that roared”!
As Cole reports:
The Occupy Wall Street movement has now spread throughout the United States, sometimes in the face of serious acts of repression, as in Oakland, California. It has followed in the spirit of the Arab and European movements in demanding an end to special privileges for the richest 1%, including their ability to more or less buy the U.S. government for purposes of their choosing. What is often forgotten is that the Ben Alis, Mubaraks, and Qaddafis were not simply authoritarian tyrants. They were the 1%, and the guardians of the 1%, in their own societies — and loathed for exactly that.
It is entirely possible that the spirit of reform that ignited the Arab Spring and fills the streets of American cities with protesters could inspire a global revolution. People everywhere are realizing that they’ve been had. They’ve been sold a bill of goods by slick con artists.
Juan Cole explains the con game this way:
In the “glorious thirty years” after World War II, North America and Western Europe achieved remarkable rates of economic growth and relatively low levels of inequality for capitalist societies, while instituting a broad range of benefits for workers, students, and retirees. From roughly 1980 on, however, the neoliberal movement, rooted in the laissez-faire economic theories of Milton Friedman, launched what became a full-scale assault on workers’ power and an attempt, often remarkably successful, to eviscerate the social welfare state.
Neoliberals chanted the mantra that everyone would benefit if the public sector were privatized, businesses deregulated, and market mechanisms allowed to distribute wealth. But as economist David Harvey argues, from the beginning it was a doctrine that primarily benefited the wealthy, its adoption allowing the top 1% in any neoliberal society to capture a disproportionate share of whatever wealth was generated.
The Republicans are still beating that old drum. They’re counting on the Friedman message of tax cuts for the rich, corporate and environmental deregulation and privatization of essential services to bring them victory in next year’s general election.
But, as Tuesday’s elections in Ohio and elsewhere demonstrated, Americans are getting wise to the scam.
And as the crowds swell in America’s streets, protests are spreading around the globe. The system that has enriched the elite and brought the world’s economy to the brink of collapse has been exposed as fraudulent.
As they were in the movie, “Network,” people are mad as hell, and they aren’t going to take it any more.
The world may be on the threshold of a new age. And a group of “boring” Canadians would be – at least in part – responsible.