COLUMN: Society’s playbook needs tweaking

There were interesting paradoxes aplenty last Wednesday morning as I visited Occupy Nanaimo in Diana Krall Plaza.

There were interesting paradoxes aplenty last Wednesday morning as I visited Occupy Nanaimo in Diana Krall Plaza.

While I was waiting for an occupier to show up to ask a couple of questions, a supervised group of four-year-olds was guided through the encampment en route to the library, all tethered to a string to ensure there were no escapees.

They looked around at the makeshift structures as though all was right in the world, their innocence and wonder a refreshing reminder of simpler times, their colourful winter jackets splashed against the ash-grey backdrop of the library’s brick and cement facade. They were happily discussing the new Muppets movie.

Just a few steps behind were four businessmen, shoes polished, hair slicked back, black trench coats all of them. They looked like the dudes from Reservoir Dogs, maybe with better ties, but only slightly.

They sneered as they passed the camp, their animosity toward the occupiers evident.

Admittedly, I’ve had a hard time finding a position on the Occupy movement. I’ve ping-ponged back and forth, trying to find a definite stance. So far, I haven’t.

I like the message the Occupiers are sending. That there needs to be a shift in financial equity, that corporate greed needs to be harnessed, resources like water need to remain public and accessible to everybody and that social inequalities need to be addressed.

The middle class, the driver of any country’s economy, is shrinking, stressing the foundation of what was designed to be a somewhat balanced wealth distribution.

According to a study released this week, the top 10 per cent of Canadians earn 10 times more than the bottom 10 per cent – the top 10 per cent earned on average $103,000 while the bottom 10 per cent earned $10,260, the widest gap in a generation.

In other words, the social contract is beginning to unravel.

As more and more people are pushed to the edge of financial disparity, governments at all levels seem to be drifting further and further out of touch with the people who elected them. At the federal level, our members of parliament have become totally ineffective in holding each other accountable for how taxpayers’ money is spent while at the provincial level, our MLAs have become virtually unaccountable. Locally, politicians have their hands full and can only function at the level of status quo, or worse.

In short, the system is coming to a slow, grinding halt, and I think the Occupiers recognize that.

In essence, we need to tweak, indeed overhaul, political and economic systems that are guiding us down the garden path. Members of society who call themselves leaders, including politicians, businessmen and industrialists, are all operating out of an archaic playbook that simply doesn’t work anymore.

But I don’t think the tactics Occupiers are using are effective, either. Further burdening an already stressed system with demands, turning public spaces into garbage dumps and wasting time instead of contributing to society like the rest of us do every day doesn’t bring a solution to the table.

I’d like to see the movement disband, reorganize and come back stronger than ever with a clear directive, solutions, and a message that people can support, because I think most want to. I just can’t see it being effective any other way.

I worry a bit about the world we’re going to leave for those four-year-olds who seemed so happy on that chilly, sunny Wednesday morning. Their carefree days are numbered.

I hope not one of them grows up to be like those clones in the black trench coats, sneering at those trying to make a difference, but I also hope they aren’t forced to camp out on cold winter nights in protest to ensure the generations after them inherit a just and equitable society.