By Mark Taliano and Tori Crispo
Every once in a while, real democracy breaks out. It was conspicuously absent during the most recent provincial election, but it raised its head on Saturday, October 15, for the debut of “Occupy Toronto.”
Three thousand protesters from every demographic peacefully assembled at King and Bay Streets in the middle of the towering financial district, and then marched along Jarvis Street to St. James Park, where some will be camping into the month of December.
Some might suggest that there is no clear leadership, and no clear message. But the message lies in the well-researched signs, and the leadership is horizontal, rather than hierarchical. Everyone has an equal voice.An underlying theme is “Corporate Greed”, which has many faces. The prism through which many see it looks something like this: Every corporation depends on taxpayers for its survival but the corporations take the profits, while the public is invariably burdened with the risks. It’s not a fair deal, and a redistribution of wealth and power is in order.
As an example, during the recent financial crisis in Canada, the risks were transferred to and insured by the public domain. According to CMHC, $340 billion of public funds were needed for this bailout. Mainstream corporate media conveniently suggests that there wasn’t a bailout of the financial district, but there was, though it took on a different face than the U.S version.
The telecommunications industry also depends on the public domain. Taxpayers fund the military, and it is the military which does the lion’s share of the Research and Development for private corporations. Mobile phones, G.P.S devices etc. are all military/taxpayer funded inventions.
Other bailouts are more transparent (i.e the auto industry), but almost every corporation enjoys publicly-funded subsidies.
A significant problem is that these publicly dependent corporations, which have accrued enormous legal powers, are greedily devouring their base: the middle class in Canada is quickly disappearing, and society is being re-structured along third world lines, with a very small minority of rich governing a huge mass of poor (thus the protesters referring to themselves as the “99 %”.) In a strong democracy, public policy drives corporations, not the other way around.
Canadian unions, a hallmark of democracy, are being dismantled, and income disparities are growing rapidly. Sixty-one people in Canada own two times more than the “bottom half”. These are not vacuous slogans; the information on protest signs is well documented.
The myth of “scarcity”, convenient for corporate and political propaganda, is also false. If the public domain gains its rightful place, money and power will be redistributed so that public institutions (i.e hospitals) can fence out corporations and regain their health and competence, for the benefit of all, including the rich.
Redistribution also means re-negotiating trade agreements such as NAFTA, which currently disfavours about 70% of the population (this according to a New York Times article published AFTER the deal was ratified.).
It also means that our country’s harvests should not be discarded in the oceans and elsewhere so that we get a better price for remaining products. Too many people are literally starving worldwide for such capitalist excesses.
It behooves us to restructure this self-devouring economic model, and support Occupy Toronto. Our democracy demands it.
Mark Taliano and Tori Crispo are residents of Niagara and contributors of commentaries to Niagara At Large.
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