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Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

I'm glad the OWS protests are still going on. Reading about politics drives me insane, so any knowledge I have of current events either trickles down through Punknews or comes to me in highly flawed format via Facebook/word of mouth. As a result, it usually takes me a while to hear about something, gather all the information on it, and formulate a relevant opinion, so I sometimes end up getting bored or missing the boat on stuff (read: London riots). I wrote something about the Occupy Movement a couple of weeks ago, but decided to scrap it because it wasn't up to par. I'm glad it's still around, because it's worth commenting on properly.

At first glance, it would be easy to dismiss the Occupy Protests as a left-wing temper tantrum akin to the right's Tea Party Movement-- a textbook case of entitled reactionaries demanding somebody fix their problems for them. It seemed amusing to me that people would use the slogan "We are the 99% (sic)" when they live in a country that pretty much ensures they're part of the 62 per cent that have access to a bathroom that ensures hygienic separation of human feces from them and their water supply; let alone the 20 per cent that live on more than 10 dollars a day.

But then something dawned on me. I'm a very fortunate individual, even for the first world. While still firmly planted in the 99 per cent, my family did have enough money to pay for my education, so I won't have any student loans to pay off when I finish school. I'm also fortunate enough to have grown up without anything happening to me or my family physically that would impede my ability to function as a member of society, and even if something did, I live in a country where recovery from accidents and disease doesn't include dealing with the price tag. I understand not everyone has these luxuries, and saying "well, at least you have clean water," would be like saying "let them eat cake." And hell, when you're struggling to pay off student loans/medical bills/a mortgage, it's got to be a little insulting to see your government take your money and give it to billion dollar companies, just to watch bosses of said companies fly around in private jets while your country's economy shits it's pants. I get it; where there's smoke, there's usually fire, and for some people, this fire's burning pretty hot.

But the problem with OWS and the subsequent Occupy Movement is that even the biggest plume of smoke won't do anything to put the fire out. Especially this plume of smoke, which is rather opaque in that it has no clear directive, motive, or message aside from "fix our problems for us." And let's face it, the government isn't going to do that, especially for a bunch of people sitting in a park without billion dollar corporations and hired lobbyists to stand on. The way to get our voices heard has to be through a paradigm shift.

One of the earliest pictures I saw from the OWS protests was one of a man holding a sign that read 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised', (presumably) a reference to a Gil Scott Heron poem of the same name. If you asked that man what the slogan on his sign meant, he'd probably tell you something along the lines of "the only way to fix something is to take action, sitting at home watching TV does nothing" which is undoubtedly true; but there's a deeper meaning in Heron's words. The revolution isn't something you could put on television if you wanted to. Revolution starts as a small change in attitude, and by the time you realize it's hit, the change has already been made.

When OWS ends (as it inevitably will), it won't be because Obama demands the bailout money back, or because Wall St. CEO's altruistically make it rain with their million dollar Christmas bonuses. No when this is over, Time Magazine will have some pretty pictures to print for their 2011 year in review, someone will have some explaining to do for weeks of missed work, and that's it. Any time spent between now and then in some park somewhere is time wasted. Don't get me wrong, I'm as down to smash the state and create a better world as the next guy, but if we want to do actual damage, we have to hit them where it hurts, their pockets.

Doing this (without resorting to some weird, doomed to fail bank default scheme) means changing our lifestyle and attitude to be much less dependent on the billion dollar corporations we decry. It will be a hard fight, but there's no other option. If we don't stop supporting notorious outsourcers like Wal-Mart and Nike because it's cheap and convenient to do so, our manufacturing sector will continue to dwindle. If we don't stop blindly medicating ourselves with FDA approved products instead of taking care of ourselves physically and mentally, the pharmaceutical industry will continue to have a disruptive hand in everything from healthcare reform to sensible drug policy. If we don't teach our kids that knowledge, work ethic, passion and life experience are far more important than a piece of paper from a "prestigious" school, we'll continue to have outrageous post-secondary tuition and banks eager to collect interest from duped, jobless students. Most importantly, if we don't stop valuing superficial traits like wealth, image and popularity over knowledge, life experience, and love, we will never truly be free.

The Occupy Movement is not enough. It's not even a start. It's a warning shot, a sign that we're ready for a change. The thing the protesters and supporters of the movement have to remember is media hoopla and political attention do not equate to change, action does. In other words, the revolution will not be televised, my friend.

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