Monday, October 17, 2011

Last Saturday, after a sun-filled brunch at the Waldorf Hotel, I entered the body count that is Occupy Vancouver. Not sure what I was expecting as I made my way west from the library parkade, though the three young men in front of me, one of them in the throes of his own open-to-outcome curiosity, had me reflecting on last April's hockey riot. Everything this guy saw was a source of wonder. "Fuck man, a fire hydrant! Fuckin' fire hydrant, man! Just poking out of the ground like that! Fuck!" He applied a similar sentence structure to a bicycle rack and a stop sign.

No sooner had I arrived at Howe Street when I saw a crowd gathered behind a Scientology banner. Then a parade of animal rights activists. Only after crossing the street did the numbers that have become so familiar to us appear with any frequency -- a sea of ones and ninety-nines. Amidst them, an orderly row of tents; and on the art gallery's north-facing steps, a public address system that had, according to Wayde Compton, momentarily lost power.

After milling through the crowd I sat down on the lip of the gallery's fountain, turned off in honour of the occupation. Overall the crowd seemed happy, many of them, like me, trained to look for someone in charge. Maybe that is what is so particular about an event like this: the lack of such a person.

Over the past couple days I have heard endless (corporate) media reports downplaying the Occupy project, accusing the non-Wall Street version of lacking focus, egged on by financial analysts such as our ex-premier's brother Michael Campbell who have been ridiculing Canadian Occupistas, gleefully reminding us that Canadian financial institutions have been more responsible than their U.S. counterparts, and that occupations like Vancouver's are "unnecessary."

But I disagree. I think there is a focus. Whether or not that focus has been articulated is only a matter of time. What is at stake here is not the ends (what Michael Campbell likes to call the "bottom line") but the means; not what will happen but how it will happen. Seems to me we are living at a time when the issues have less to do with who has the material wealth, and who does not, but the values that have allowed for such disparities. That is what I take to be the focus of the Occupy project. Values -- and who shares them.

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