The potential of the Occupy movement lies in its ability to inspire, engage and empower people to create ways of living and working together independent of the systems that oppress us. While the energy and momentum of Occupy is exciting and has great potential, we want to build on its analysis of capitalism by discussing phenomena at the root of capitalism that maybe overlooked in the Occupy movement.
To be proud of being a Canadian is not to be proud of a lineage of freedom, equality or peace. We can’t forget that indigenous peoples lived on this land long before Canada existed as a nation. From Wall Street to Bay Street, North America is indeed “occupied” territory.
Canada as we know it is a product of colonialism– the process by which the original residents of these lands were systematically murdered, divested of their homes and way of life, and violently assimilated for the purpose of accumulating wealth. As they were the first folks to come into conflict with the nation-state as it first developed here some 500 years ago, Indigenous struggle is a starting point for all resistance to the current system.
In terms of the global economy, the standard of wealth, privilege and access to food, shelter and medicine that most residents of Canada enjoy makes us part of a global minority. Just as Canada exists a product of colonialism, it could not exist without the exploitation of the land and labour of the billions of people manufacturing our technologies and growing our food.
In order to get to the roots of capitalism, we need to look critically at the injustice propping up our own nation and look beyond the borders drawn by empires in their own interest. Solidarity means coming together based on shared values, not shared borders.
The Law and the Police:
Obedience to the law is not about community or respect for those around us. Most of us don’t need laws in order to treat each other with decency. Laws are created by those in power for the purpose of managing and regulating the behaviours of those that they rule. The state has a vested interest in criminalizing the methods we use to resist their power, and indeed, protest tactis like peaceful assembly, marching, occupying public space, and have all been illegal at one time or another. There comes a point where groups of people have to do what is right for themselves, whether or not their actions are within the bounds of the law.
The police are indeed workers, but their job is to keep social order and “peace” intact and ensure our compliance with the capitalist system. Because police violence disproportionately affects marginalized groups like the poor, people of colour, and sexual and gender minorities, many of us have the privilege of having never experienced their brutality directly. When we take to the streets, the police’s job is not to protect us, but to contain, subdue and or/disperse us when we become threatening to the power they protect.
The police are employed by the state to protect its interests. We can’t afford to risk trusting those whose job it us to keep us compliant.
Those in power won’t give up their power and privilege and monopoly on resources without a fight, and if we are serious about challenging their power, we need to take that fact very seriously.
Civil disobedience (ie, law-breaking) vandalism and property destruction are tactics that were all put to good use by social justice struggles rights struggles like the Civil Rights Movement. Non-violence is simply one tool that is available to us. When we hold it up as the only paradigm for dissent we ignore a vibrant history of resistance
You may not like the way some people express their opposition to the systems that oppress them, but it makes no sense to silence or criminalize each other. Let’s not do the police’s job for them.
Resistance can mean saying “NO” to forces of oppression. It can mean actively taking back power, being a voice of dissent, or putting our bodies on the line to protect what we love. When we get at the roots of capitalism, we start to see all the ways that our agency and autonomy are controlled or taken from us.
Resistance can mean not just modifying systems of domination, but disrupting and dismantling them. Let’s work together to make Occupy Toronto a place where all forms of resistance are able to flourish.