Occupying Sympathy

Jonathan McLeod

October 27, 2011 | 1 Comment

Except for Kate’s re-cap of her visit to Occupy Ottawa, things have been a little quiet around here on the topic of Occupy Canada. But don’t take that silence for disinterest, I’ve been visiting Occupy Ottawa semi-regularly over the past couple of weeks (and you can read some of my observations at Examiner.com), and I’m quite sympathetic. Sure, I’m not going to agree with a lot of the prominent political positions of the movement (today, one of the Occupiers asked me if I was a communist), but I’m in agreement with a lot of the underlying principles. 

I hate the term social justice, and I tend to be repelled by any movement that throws around that semi-vacuous phrase. Ditto, inequality (to a lesser extent). Too much is made of the wealth gap between the rich and the poor. Similarly, the increase in that gap may be undesirable, but it’s probably not worth trading prosperity for equality. But to a great extent, that’s all beside the point. I’m not worried about the gap between the rich and the poor so much as I’m concerned by the fact that there is the poor. I don’t care what your political philosophy is, or what you think the best way to help the poor is, if you’re not concerned – at least a little bit – that there people starving and sleeping on the street, you’re seriously lacking in the being human department.

The protesters may be overplaying their hand when it comes to corporate greed. Sure, it might be fun to hate on Gordon Gekko (though it’s fun to watch that movie and root for evil Michael Douglas), but in real life corporate self-interest alone isn’t going to destroy society. No, government overreach and political-corporate alliances are the real demons, and this, when you drill down, is what a lot of the protests are about. Bailouts suck; rent-seeking makes us all poorer; regulatory capture is a real threat to our liberty. You don’t have to be the stereotypical left-wing hippy to see that. Conservatives, libertarians and whatever-the-hell-the-Liberals-are should all stand up in opposition.

I know some of our readers might object to the Occupy movement on an aesthetic level. The protest culture isn’t for everyone (you don’t see me camping there), and the sloganeering can be quite a turn off (they definitely lost me a bit when I saw signs declaring “Glass-Steagall or Die”), but in the end, there is something pretty great about a group of citizens coming together to highlight injustice (yeah, I just used that word) and try to make things just a little bit better.

To that extent, I’m in their corner.


One Response to “Occupying Sympathy”

  1. R. Mowat
    October 27th, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

    Hell, I think everyone is concerned about the poor. It’s human nature. I think the problem here is that these folks think that I should be *as concerned as they are* about it. And they are *mightily* concerned, I can tell, since they are, you know, sitting around in a park. And, if sitting around in a park don’t get things done, well, then you don’t know my Grandpa Joe who sits for four hours on Sundays (in the summer) in the park. He feeds the poor, all right. The poor pigeons.


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