Tag Archives: Occupy Wall Street

Column: Change calls for more than talk

In this week’s The StarPhoenix

A couple of years ago, I found a video documentary series posted on YouTube by actor Sam Slovick.

He was living on skid row in Los Angeles and decided to film some of the madness he saw daily. There are knife fights, other violence and drug deals interspersed among stories from police, former drug dealers and people trying to make a difference. If you want to see it, search for Sam Slovick and skid row on YouTube; it’s well worth viewing.

At the end of the series, Slovick asks what can we do about it? His solution is: "We can talk about it, write about it, blog about it, chat about it, pray about it, call your representative."

That’s it? There has to be more than talking about it. Is the problem so big that we can’t do anything other than talk?

As the Occupy Wall Street protests move into their second month, they show the protesters’ frustration and rage at the top one per cent whom they feel controls the world. A recent survey of the protesters on Wall Street shows that many are dissatisfied Democrats.

Many of these protesters believe that civil disobedience and violence are ways to achieve their goals of wealth redistribution. To achieve these goals, they feel the best strategy is to camp out on Wall Street and chant slogans at police officers. I’m not so sure.

The movement has spread across United States and the world. Occupy Saskatoon protesters are a diverse mix of people protesting against everything from lack of food security to the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board to high student loans. They have chosen Friendship Park as a base to occupy for a week, but I am still not sure what it is accomplishing.

Again, does just talking about a problem solve much? Like most protests, it is a realization by some that the future doesn’t look good. They feel powerless to change things through traditional channels, so people protest.

There has to be a better option than awareness. In Canada we have always changed the process from within. It’s how our country was founded. I’m not saying that democracy is perfect here and money does speak loudly. However, so do our votes; but for some reason we seem less and less inclined to use the ballot box.

In 2009, we elected city councillors and our mayor with only 27.3 per cent of voters turning out. I am sure the 72.7 per cent of you who didn’t vote thought that it doesn’t make a difference, but nothing touches our lives like civic politics.

Recently, city council decided to change the nature of my neighbourhood by acting to calm and change traffic patterns. Later in the meeting councillors decided to change the look and feel of the Montgomery area with the installation of a tall wind turbine.

One meeting. Two pretty big changes. Those votes do matter.

It’s not just our votes. There are other ways to get involved that give direction to the city. Local Area Plans – documents prepared by the neighbourhoods and Saskatoon city planners – set out a long-term plan for a neighbourhood. For those of you who are cynical about the process, check out what Riversdale has accomplished.

The process, which started in 2004, has helped start 30 projects that have improved the quality of life in the neighbourhood. There is a long way to go, but it’s been an impressive start. The 180-page reports list more than 100 individuals and groups who contributed to it. Their neighbourhoods and Saskatoon are better for it.

If you don’t think voting and neighbourhood consultations are enough, run for elected office. Political history shows that many candidates run from outside the establishment circles and go on to win. Who predicted that Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi would win?

At the start of his campaign I wonder if even he did.

Mayor Don Atchison came from behind to win in 2003. Anything can happen during a campaign.

If politics bores you, look at the work of a local charity named Nashi, which was organized around a kitchen table in 2004 with the intent of helping those caught up in the sex trade in Ukraine.

Seven years later, this group has purchased, renovated, and expanded a safe house in Ukraine, and helps countless women. Nashi is also building what could become a national organization to fight the trafficking of women and children.

I want to be supportive of the protesters on Wall Street and at Friendship Park, but the solutions aren’t going to be found in occupying the problem but in implementing the solutions.


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