“When we sit for peace we are sitting for self empowerment, freedom, coexistence and justice for all. When we sit for peace we are sitting for self liberation, compassion and mindfulness.”
It’s Day 14 of occupy Windsor and the camp at City Hall park is growing with about 20 tents and anywhere from 10 to 25 people at the daily general assemblies held at noon and 7PM. Spirits are high and even thought the weather is turning colder, I can say from experience there that we are determined to stick it out and continue to create a new community within a community. Why? Because, even though we have different backgrounds, there is agreement that we want to see a changed agenda, where the needs of real people are the basis of an economy rather than the further entrenchment of corporate rights with more free trade deals. Towering over the park is the gleaming Caesar’s Casino, and it stands in stark contrast to the old Grace Hospital site that looks like a bombed out building. It’s supposed to be the site of much needed long term care beds. How is it that casinos, aquatic centres, and arenas can pop up with ease but public services vital to the well-being of citizens seem to be a big mystery? It’s becoming clear that the agenda setters have their priorities and the people – the 99% – have another. It’s this chasm in equality that has prompted thousands of people to vacate our comfortable homes to camp out in city parks engaging with anyone who wants to about issues of equality, peace, co-operativeness, and political and economic democracy. The best way to find out more is to come down and bring a friend or two and see what you can take part in.
Terrance Travis is a member of Occupy Windsor and he came in to the studio to talk about his planned Sit 4 Peace tour and how it has been woven into the Occupy movement. Terrance will travel through Occupy sites in various cities in Ontario, Quebec and finally the east coast and Africville in Nova Scotia.
In the second half hour we spoke to Joe McGuire with Occupy Detroit as he participated in a march protesting cuts to public services in that city.
Chris Crossroads: Stand Up and Be Counted! @ 34:53
What can I say so far about Occupy Windsor? It has brought together about 100 people – a rough estimate and a number that ebbs and flows – who are working to build a community within the larger one that can stand as an example of how to run our affairs cooperatively rather than as a free for all that leaves too many out in the cold. So we stand in the cold with them. General assemblies are held twice a day at Occupy Windsor, and when contentious issues have arisen we have found a way to resolve them at least temporarily. You may say, sure, but that goes on all the time anywhere and I’d say look again. For how much say will we have as the Harper government signs off on another free trade deal, this time with the European Union that is sure to negatively affect the lives of millions of workers. What deals will the politicians cook up in Toronto that we have no say in now that the elections have come and gone? What about city council and the theft of neighbourhood assets that continues with the possible early closure of the main branch of the public library? No – we have no say in the dominant society, but we do in the park and we’ll continue to work to show why more people should be involved.
The global power elites have conducted a quiet coup while we labored to keep our heads above water in an economic system designed to enrich the few at the expense of the many. It’s time to get together and make change together and stand in solidarity with those already far worse off than we are right now. As I understand it, we are standing in solidarity with the world.
We had a great conversation with Mohammed in the studio, and Joe McGuire and Destiny in Detroit. Thanks to Chris Crossroads for the great anthem, and to Moses Frimpong for the in-studio photos.
Media coverage of Occupy Windsor and the national scene:
There is a growing movement in solidarity with Occupy Wall St and On Oct. 15 thousands of people across North America occupied pieces of their city in an effort to redefine how we relate to each other and how we fit into the current economic and political reality that shapes our lives – controls us really – and what we can do to reorient ourselves and make change. In Windsor there will be a gathering at City Hall park and as we spoke there was a coming together of Detroiters as they confronted the difficult circumstances of life in that city.
This is a solidarity movement that has the potential to bring people together across lines of race, gender, wealth and poverty, boomers and post-boomers. It is a coming together to recognize that it is the current global capitalist economic system – undemocratic, exploitive, and reliant on violence and coercion – that works for the few at the expense of the many and destroys local economies and livelihoods. We welcomed Yusef Shakur to the program in the first half hour to speak about his journey toward activism for change.
In the second half hour we spoke with Tyler Sommers, a coordinator with Democracy Watch, a “… national non-profit, non-partisan organization, and Canada’s leading citizen group advocating democratic reform, government accountability and corporate responsibility”. We wanted to talk about the recent election in Ontario; an election in which less than half of eligible voters participated in. If we could mark our ballot as ‘none of the above’ and they were counted as such, in the current circumstances, the power elites could not ignore such a vote of non-confidence. In the meantime occupy movements are springing up all over the world to send a message that now is the time for bottom up political and economic change.
How about that election on Oct 6th? What election you say? Well the provincial election with a voter turnout of 47.6% that elected a minority liberal government. The liberals won in the two Windsor ridings while the NDP took Essex. Provincially the vote looked like this: 37.6% for the Liberals, 35.4 for the conservatives and 21.7 for the NDP. So once again we’re left wondering if the low turnout is apathy or a form of protest. We must ask the question: have elections lost their legitimacy because not enough people are voting? Perhaps the only order of business for any parliament is a national consensus building exercise to reform our electoral system because a good argument can be made that no politician in this country has a real mandate to do anything!
A couple of weeks ago I came across a report criticizing Elections Ontario for not having a “none of the above” option on ballots and while I am not sure if that would be helpful, it would indicate that people were protesting rather than simply not voting. And protest is where it’s at. For clearly a large proportion of the population is indicating the political system holds nothing for them. But people are showing up by the thousands in cities all around the world to protest what I call the current global order and the dreadful effects it has on local communities. In New York it’s Occupy Wall St., in Greece and Spain strikes to protest cuts to essential public services and the targets are big banks and corporations which have basically created the global order working people are saddled with. This system of free trade and “financialization” has devastated our ability to create local jobs, hang on to public services and the like because an inherently flawed capitalist global order is collapsing under its own weight – right on top of us. In Canada the general consensus is that we ain’t seen anything yet – the worst is yet to come. The Harper government is committed to the existing global order and its reliance on war and the suppression of collective rights to maintain order. All over the world working people, students, retirees, and so on are coming together to find out how to continue mobilizing in order to create change. In Toronto, Detroit, and perhaps Windsor, efforts are underway to join in solidarity with Occupy actions to grow this global dialogue among the world’s disenfranchised – not powerless – who are simply left out of a scheme that siphons wealth from the collective for the benefit of that 1% of humanity that thinks it is better than everyone else. Mike Shane spoke with us about the challenges in activating an Occupy Detroit movement.
In the second half hour Kaitlyn spoke to local activist Tam Espin about plans for an Occupy Windsor movement and the call out for interested people to meet at The Milk Coffee Bar, 68 University Ave. at 6PM. In our discussion we mention the New York General Assembly’s Declaration and here are links:
In less than a week we’ll have a new provincial government – well maybe the old one with a new mandate. Election campaigns are staged affairs becoming known more for what people and candidates can’t talk about. An approved discourse seems to always run along the lines of tax cuts and the promise of jobs. Take a look at the 2011 election debates – prearranged questions take precedence over any real discussion of alternatives. The media plays a big role in deciding who can participate. On top of this if candidates don’t like a particular issue, well, they just don’t show up to the debate. The economy is key with everything rooted in it. While everyone talks about political democracy – arguably something we don’t have – what about economic democracy?
What say do workers have in what work is available, who’s going to do it and for what wage. For example, what wages, benefits and pensions do workers expect at the Samsung plant? Why do we leave matters like this to the managerial class and their political allies? Why can’t workers identify our needs and then organize ourselves to meet them? Last week we talked about corporations and their role in the economy. When was the last time we voted for a CEO? There’s elections we should be having. But what if we could vote ourselves into economic management? Would we want to? John Restakis is the Executive Director of the British Columbia Co-operative Federation and writes and speaks about economic democracy. He has a new book out : Humanizing the Economy: Co-Operatives in the Age of Capital. Instead of election debates being around the mechanics of the existing economic model, what alternatives are there we could explore?
Peter Cameron, Co-Op Development Manager with the Ontario Co-Operative Association in Guelph, also spoke about the role of co-ops in society and the transformational role they can play in democratizing the economy. His organization advocates for better government relations with the co-op movement to further help people use a co-op model, and also recognizes the huge challenge such lobbying has with governments which are deeply connected with the current economic status quo. ( See: A White Paper on Co-Operative Development in Ontario)
Another intriguing aspect of the co-op movement is social co-ops, pioneered in Italy according to John Restakis, which we only briefly touched on. You can read more on that here.