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. ūüėõ

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.¬†

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.

Californian Students Protest Racist Admission Policies with Bake Sale

A Californian University is proposing new admission policies that would make racial background a factor for student admissions, favouring minorities. The students have responded with a Bake Sale.

On the one hand, yes, it’s more difficult, and often prohibitive for members of racial minorities who tend to have lower incomes, to attend university. So one might argue that the University is doing a cool thing, no?

But the students have a valid point too. What if a white male, equally deserving, has a low income?

Their point is that it’s wrong to base laws and policies on the assumption that how much someone can afford to pay is based on their race. How much someone can afford to pay should be based on how much they can afford to pay. Now, a policy taking into consideration household income as admission criteria would be reasonable, not racist, and be sticking up for the ethnic groups that tend to have lower incomes.

But that’s not what corporate and government policy is about in the USA – policy in the USA is all about distracting the lower class so that they fight one another rather than attacking the government and Corporatocracy that’s screwing them.

So now they have low income Caucasian males and minorities up in arms against one another, which is exactly their goal. They’re taking something that’s not about race, and making it about race. Because the race issue divides, while the low income issue would bring solidarity between low income minorities and low income¬†Caucasian¬†males. And that’s insidious. As long as the Corporatocracy can keep it’s people fighting one another, these people will be too busy squabbling to unite against their real oppressor.

Lamenting the Death of Print or Why I Don’t Have an E-book Reader

There’s been a lot of talk about the death of print and the rise of electronic books. Many say that authors need to get with the times and go electronic, and then others say they like the feel of a book in their hands, and will never buy an e-book reader, and the people like them will keep print alive, if only on a smaller scale.

I keep saying I’d love to have an e-book reader, because it would make buying books easier, and if I got the sony one, I could do copyedits on my fiction on it. Someday when the credit card is paid off, I’ll get one.

Then I read this post, from Seanan Mcguire: http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/390067.html

And there it is. That’s why I don’t have an e-book reader. I can’t bloody well afford one.

The library was my place, right from an early age. My dad took me regularly – it must have been every two weeks, because that’s how long you were allowed to keep a book back then. I went through books like nobody’s business, right from the time I learned to read, which was pretty young – my dad read to my brother and I regularly, and he would point at each word as he read it, so that I started to pick up patterns pretty fast. I would read anything I could get my hands on. When I’d read all the children’s books in the house, he must have started taking me to the library when he saw me reading the backs of cereal boxes for the lack of anything to read on the table.

When I graduated from picture books to chapter books, it was to Thornton Burgess, and his books about forest animals. When I got to longer books, it was because I was in love with horses (what teenage girl isn’t? (well, except for my mother…)) and got into the Black Stallion series, and Marguerite Henry and her Chincoteague ponies. I read every book in the library that had a horse or a unicorn on the front.

When I got into science fiction, that was how it happened to. It was “A Swiftly Tilting Planet” by Madeleine L’engle, and I went back to read the first books in the trilogy first, because I’m neurotic that way. But it had a unicorn on the front, with bonus wings, and I had to read it.

So then I started cleaning out the library of their science fiction and fantasy, eventually moving over to the adult section. This would have been thousands of dollars worth of books, easily. I would go through one a week at least. Lets see, one book a week, for a year, at, say 10$ a book, we’ll be conservative, even though a lot of those we probably 30$ hardcovers, would be around 500$ a year. And I’m not even counting the non-fiction I took out. Which tends to be more expensive. I educated myself on all kinds of things, just browsing the racks to find interesting things.

It’s like a bookstore! Only free!

We do need libraries, and our libraries need funding. As the gap between the poor and the wealthy widens, opportunities disappear. Libraries have always been a haven for enlightenment, and when public schools are losing funding, and teachers are overwhelmed with class sizes, students with the desire should always have the option to initiate their own learning opportunities.

(as the concepts of intellectual property and information ownership and the rights of the poor to access them creep into the setting of my next novel….)