Occupy Winnipeg: My first brush with activism

Yesterday I attended the first general assembly of the 99% in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I was one of those people walking up the street in between the people with signs decrying corporate greed. It was really cool. And with the subject material I write about, it only makes sense that I should be there to stand up for what I believe in. I only wish I could stay out there through the night with those guys, but I’m working, and if I was there, then I couldn’t be writing, and since that’s where my talent lies, that’s my form of protest.

The first thing I noticed was, having come expecting police to be around, was that there weren’t any. There was a cruiser parked a little ways away, but we think that might have been a speed trap. Not that Winnipeg is known for violent protests (the Winnipeg General Strike notwithstanding.) The group was very clear that it was intended to be a peaceful and sober event.

Trevor Semotok gave a rousing speech on the steps of the Legislature building. I have a video, but it’s taking a while to edit out the shakiness from my shivering, I’ll get it up later. (ETA – video working now, no more giving people motion sickness.) There was also a First Nations contingient, and their “Princess of the North” was an amazingly powerful speaker.

One neat thing I learned about is the Human Mic. Apparently on Wall Street, they’ve outlawed voice amplification, so they can’t use PA’s to get the voices heard. Instead, they’ve come up with the Human Mic. One person, the speaker, when they have something to say, shouts “mic check!” and everyone who can hear them, shouts “mic check!” back, and they keep calling and responding until everyone who can hear the speaker is paying attention. Then the speaker starts their message, keeping it to 2-4 words at a time, and after each 2-4 words, the crowd of participants repeats their words, so that the words can be heard beyond how far one person’s voice could reach.

It was quite powerful, because not only is it a substitute for a PA, it also results in the participants saying out loud – shouting out loud, the message. Speaking something out loud is a powerful thing, psychologically. I’m stealing the idea and putting it in a novel. 😛

We marched downtown and held our first General Assembly of the 99% of Occupy Winnipeg. There was lots of use of Human Mic, and cars driving by honked in solidarity when they saw our signs. The buses were good and loud, but the cement truck took the cake for horns.

The politicians are still saying it will go nowhere though. That nothing will come of all of the protesting. That we’ll just give up and go home and submit to the policy changes that will crush the spirit out of us. The legislation undermining collective bargaining the federal government is laying down on unions, the new free trade agreement that will make NAFTA look like it was environmentally friendly and pro small business, and the abolishing of the Canadian Wheat Board that will have food prices that are already rising, skyrocket, and put small farmers out of business. They say there’s nothing we can do.

There’s an air of desperation in all of this. It’s like we know if we give up now, that’ll be it. We’re putting everything we’ve got into it now, and if we don’t succeed in forcing change now, we’ll have nothing left. I think that’s why, in some places, it’s getting violent. That’s the next step, if things don’t change. The movement is worldwide, and the demands are the same all over.

Politicians criticize our lack of a specific message. The problem with trying to put a specific message to this movement is that how can we pick just one can of BS out of all the cans that have been shoved down our throats? They want to make us choose just one thing, when any one thing is one of the many straws that broke the camel’s back. If protesting specific things made a difference, they would have heard the people every time they protested in the past. It’s too late for that now. They’ve proved that they don’t care what we, as citizens, want. Our government doesn’t represent us. It’s time for revolution. 

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Peter S. Beagle vs Granada Media

I have been following the Peter S. Beagle vs Granada Media story for a number of years, since I realized the movie was based on a book and read it when I was about seventeen. It’s finally over, says Connor Cochrane, the man who has been helping Peter through all of this and getting his carreer back on track. His most recent newsletter gave details on how it all happened:

“All along, Peter and Connor had known that Granada Media was a subsidiary of a much bigger company — a huge European media conglomerate called ITV. What Connor noticed was that ITV had recently gotten a new CEO, a man named Adam Crozier, who came in from outside the company and had a mandate to pretty much completely clean house: get rid of things that weren’t working, make marginal properties more profitable, etc. To put it bluntly, this new CEO had no reason to cover up for anyone’s past bad judgment or mistakes and every incentive to make good new business happen. So, after some internal discussion, Connor sent a letter directly to Adam Crozier himself. The person at ITV who was tasked with responding was the company’s Group Legal Director and Corporate Secretary, Andrew Garard. Andrew really took the situation seriously. He dug in, did his research, met with Peter and Connor and Richard Mooney in New York City last November, and ultimately came to the conclusion that we were was right — (a) Peter wasn’t getting his due, and (b) if we stopped fighting and started working together, The Last Unicorn could be even more successful than it already was. Settlement details were worked out at a second meeting, this time in Los Angeles, and finally, last August, the settlement paperwork was signed.”

I’m glad things worked out for him. What makes me sad is that for things to work out, what had to happen is some corporate power decided not to be a dick.

The ultimate resolution to the conflict was not the law was upheld (it was, but that’s hardly even matters in the system anymore) it was the people with the boatloads of money stopped manipulating the law to make the little people’s lives miserable. Which means there’s nothing at all stopping this from happening again.

I commend Andrew Gerard for his moral behavior. But this should never have gone on so long that it took a management change to resolve. His predecessors should have been forced to uphold their contract years ago. This doesn’t set precedence in law for corporations to be held accountable for greed and unlawful actions.

This is exactly what the Occupy Wall Street movement is about. Protesting corporate greed, and the way our political systems force the poor and the working class to follow the law, but not corporations, because corporations, when their actions are challenged, will throw so many lawyers at it that will manipulate the system to drag things out so long that no one but another corporation has the money to follow it through.

I’m dealing with the same thing with my husband’s insurance company. He’s been sick and unable to work for three years, but because it’s a Syndrome that has long been marginalized, and some doctors (who all work for the insurance companies) will still claim that it’s psychosomatic (all in his head). While he has a medical diagnosis, and no medical professional involved can understand why he’s being denied the insurance money he’s owed, the insurance company is making us take them to court for it. It’s immoral and illegal, but they’re doing it anyway, because they have so much money they can get away with it, and they don’t want to pay up. They’re hoping we’ll just give up. Now they’re offering us a fraction of what they owe us, and we’re so tired of dealing with it, it’s tempting to take it. Tempting to take the scraps and run away with our tails between our legs. But we couldn’t bring ourselves to do it.

*sigh* We need a revolution.

Occupy Wall Street – These are the times that Chinese curse Talks about

While I support the brave people out participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement, I have to confess a certain morbid fascination with the current events of the last few weeks, and even months. Government and Big Business is pressing it’s thumb down on the working class – in Canada, the “Harper” government, as it’s styled itself, has legislated ends to two strikes and is now interfering with yet another, undermining worker’s rights to Union negotiation. This stuff is happening all over, in times when the disparity between rich and poor has not been greater for over fifty years.

I’m fascinated because this is the sort of experience that I build stories from. Even the most painful struggles of my own life create fodder for words that will one day go onto paper.

Sometimes I think I should stop being so terrible to my characters, and I could write about utopias where nothing bad ever happens, then I could have happy things happen in my life…..Yeah, I didn’t think it worked that way either.

Also fascinating is the way the media is treating the entire movement. They are doing their best to ridicule and illegitimize it. They are making the protesters out to be a bunch of pot smoking hippies, finding the radicals in the crowd, and picking those people to interview. They’re making fun of them.

A post on reddit had some advice: get a haircut, and wear khakis and polos to protest. It’s important right now, for the protesters to convey that they are not the radicals that the media and the Corporatocracy wants the general population to believe they are. They are people just like you and me, who have been screwed out of jobs. They are the Everyman and Everywoman, and their misfortunes could be yours. They are also young people – college and university trained, and new to a workforce that doesn’t need them, doesn’t want them, and won’t pay them. This is the next generation, the leaders of tomorrow, and the people in power would like nothing more than for them all to disappear. These people need to make it clear that they are not going to disappear, and their government has a responsibility to them.

On that note, I plan to swing by Occupy Winnipeg at some point, to show my support. Hold together, all.