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Occupy movement pressing for needed change

Editor: Readers of the Optimist may have seen a commentary piece by Paul Kershaw in Monday's Vancouver Sun (Movement should change focus, Oct. 18). I would like to thank him for his "unsolicited advice.


Readers of the Optimist may have seen a commentary piece by Paul Kershaw in Monday's Vancouver Sun (Movement should change focus, Oct. 18).

I would like to thank him for his "unsolicited advice." However, as an active participant in the occupy movement I have to regretfully inform him it is extremely unlikely the movement will move in the direction he recommends.

It seems the young people involved are far too politically sophisticated to be misled into blaming the outrageous financial manipulation - and outright corruption - resulting in the ongoing economic crisis on their parents.

They are coming to understand (most do already) the sociological/demographic approach suggested by Kershaw obscures rather than illuminates the real issue: the extreme inequality in income, wealth and power in Canada and throughout the world today.

Contrary to his assertion, my generation (the so-called "boomers") did not just get lucky. During and immediately after the last great economic crisis in the 1930s our parents engaged in similar struggles to what we see now in over 1,500 cities around the world.

From sit-down strikes to mass movements like the On to Ottawa Trek, they identified and took on the real culprits, the corporate elite. They forced what has been referred to as the grand post-war compromise or social contract.

They demanded recognition of unions and collective bargaining, the creation of essential social programs like Medicare and expansion of public services.

The post-war generation benefited from their work but many of us also took up the torch and continued their commitment to social justice and reducing inequality.

We fought for pay equity, employment equity and women's right to control their own bodies. We took on racial discrimination, homophobia and sexism in our workplaces and society as a whole.

When right-wing reaction funded by the wealthy elite reared its head under Reagan, Thatcher and their Canadian clones in Conservative and Liberal governments starting in the 1980s, we put up rear-guard resistance that at least slowed them down and kept the dream of a better world alive.

Now a new generation, our sons and daughters and grandchildren, is picking up that same torch, the one that lights the way to a better future for everyone.

To use a word that seemed old-fashioned not long ago but is coming back into vogue, this is a "class" issue. When I was a machinist apprentice, one of the seasoned old-timers told me, in his thick Belfast accent, "Always remember - there are two kinds of people in the world, the needy and the greedy. And never forget which side you are on."

The occupy movement that has spread all around the globe in recent weeks is reminding us of that basic fact, and bringing this realization to millions more people. That is what scares the heck out of the elites and will be its lasting legacy no matter what changes it may or may not engender in the short-term.

In the words of Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy, "A better world is possible, if you listen carefully on a quiet morning you can hear her breathing."

Robert Ages

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