An Outside Opinion

(It’s both funny and sad how an ostensibly progressive movement like OccupyTO can create such divisions among progressive minded people. Even here in the offices of All Fired Up in the Big Smoke there isn’t what you’d call solidarity on the subject. But our disagreements are mild compared to those some of our readers have with us. Some are so eloquent and persuasive in their disagreement, however, that it would be wrong to keep them relegated to our comments section. After all, we are not so convinced of the rightness of our views that we can’t listen to differing opinions.)

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[from our Nov. 16th post.] “My question is, where was all this high dudgeon when the indigent alone called the park home? The drug-addled, the ne’re-do-wells and other various down-on-their-luckers who now mix uneasily with the social justicers living in their midst. As long as they weren’t too bothersome or threatening, we accepted their presence in the public realm as just part of living in the city but when others show up, pitch a tent and point out such unpleasantries, that’s unacceptable and untenable.”


If anything, I would argue the reverse is true – it has long been unacceptable and untenable for the homeless to camp in our parks and no one outside of OCAP has ever seriously argued that the solution to chronic homelessness was pitching a tent in Queen’s Park and letting squatters move in. Perhaps we would see more support for Streets to Homes, managed-risk treatment centres for intractable addicts and affordable housing if Toronto’s homeless occupied Yorkville instead of winter camps in the Don Valley.

But when a largely white, largely affluent, largely articulate, employed and politically savvy (as Occupy Toronto insists – contra the “get a job hippies” cant – that they are) group moves in with tents, squatting in a public park becomes, as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association argues, a vital form of expression that ought to be Constitutionally protected.

Furthermore, note that despite their rhetoric, Occupy Toronto’s actual response to the homeless who customarily frequent St. James Park has been to police them lest they “harm the movement.” They are as guilty as every other citizen in marginalizing and averting their eyes when it comes to the problem of chronic homelessness and the addiction that so often is both cause and symptom of homelessness. If Occupy Toronto speaks for the city’s desperately underprivileged it seems they would rather do so from a safe distance.

Occupy Toronto may rail against the inequalities of our society but they speak with all the benefits, protections and privileges of their class. There is a hypocrisy to the continued encampment (and a certain blowhard gutlessness to their location discretely away from the institutions they wish to overthrow – close enough to be visible but not so close as they might be daily asked to put their occupation rhetoric to the test) and their demand that their right to their chosen form of political expression be upheld above all others. In my mind, a vital test of the legitimacy of Occupy Toronto’s continued presence in St. James Park is whether or not the same toleration would be extended to another group. I can only speculate that an Aryan Bikers for a Whiter, Christian Canada camp-out in High Park would not be welcome. Nor is anyone offering reparations to the Tamils for violating their Charter rights of Expression, Free Assembly and Political Association when they were gently but firmly removed from the Gardiner Expressway.

It is possible to call for a better and more just world, to reject inequality, and to demand that the wealth of our society be shared more equitably and find Occupation Toronto tiresome, the Josh Matlow of political actions – focused on optics, obsessed with “concensus” and generally unproductive.

Where you see the beginning of a movement, I see a flash in the pan – at least in Toronto. Christ didn’t give the Sermon on the Mount, hand out some bread and fish, and call it a revolution. Taken as a historical document, the testimony of the Gospels is an account of a social movement that succeeded in changing the world, one based on tending the poor, the sick, and the outcasts of society, including the insane and the demented – the people Occupy Toronto would rather not trouble their new Utopia on King Street. You cannot create a more equal world if you are not willing to make a place for those less fortunate among you.

So just as the Hippies turned into Yuppies, and then from Yuppies to Republicans, so too will Occupation Toronto senesce into more and more debased forms until all that will remain are the demonstration tourists and the professional activists. As I said yesterday, the world is changed by those that do not those that talk about how we can all agree that it should be done. In the end, someone always has to clean the toilets.

Even among Occupy Toronto, they’re having a hard time finding more than a single volunteer.

— submitted by LifeonQueen