Too occupied to occupy

Guest post by Tara Ouchterlony (Kapuskasing and Ottawa Ontario, Canada)

When the whole Occupy Wall Street movement started back in September, I was intrigued by what I gathered was some kind of spontaneous protest against banks and big finance. Eventually, media coverage of activists with their protest signs stirred pangs of nostalgia for old school days when we’d debate globalization over beers—we questioned each other endlessly. Then, in 2001, we went to Quebec City, and questioned everything.

[Then we went back to school. We graduated. We got jobs.]

Tara and her daughter chatting with a cop during the 2010 G20 protests in Toronto.

By October 2011, tens of thousands of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators were staging rallies in 900 cities around the world. This was no Quebec City. What was it??

I meant to read all those articles with the catchy titles. “Occupy Wall Street: The Most important thing in the world now!” I saved every one. I meant to read them.

On the last day of our fun fall trip to New York City we even meandered down to see the real deal; but Zuccotti Park, was as jam-packed with information as tents. I knew so little about the movement, I felt like a guilty voyeur joining them for just an hour…

Back here in the nation’s capital, I’d bike past Confederation Park every work day and think: ‘as soon as work slows down I’m going to stop by on my lunch breaks and see what’s up.’ …I was working on a big event at work—“The November 22nd event”—and after that I’d have waaay more time on my hands.

November finally rolled around. It got colder and I stopped riding my bike. I could still see the colourful tent tops through the steamy bus windows though… I knew the people were there. As soon as November 22nd passed, I’d head over…

The news coverage on Occupy had also turned cold. Even seemingly-would-be-supporters-and progressives were denigrating the movement and dismissing it as “vague,” “unorganized,” “uninformed” and even irrational. I was all at once super peeved and disappointed and even more fired up to contribute in some way, shape or form. I spent my bus rides stewing in solidarity.

I may not have done much reading or analysis of Occupy Wall Street, but I felt I knew enough to know it wasn’t a bad thing and it sure wasn’t meant to be all about the protesters—their hippyness, their “envy” of the rich or their “hypocrisy.” Maybe it wasn’t even a protest at all. Zuccotti Park had felt more like an open space—bringing together people who just wanted to create change. I don’t think they care what the rest of the world thinks they’re about, or should be about. They just want something different. See:

And so did I. But I missed it.

From the Ottawa Citizen news, November 23, 2011: “At about 2a.m. ET police moved in on Occupy Ottawa in Confederation Park to enforce the eviction issued by the landowner, the National Capital commission…”

As I stood at the edge of the park wondering if there might be some thing, or someone left on the inside, I was approached by an officer, “Move along please, you don’t want to be here.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

So I guess my advice is to think about the things that matter to you and start doing something now. Not tomorrow when you may or may not have more free time, but now, with the time and the energy that you do have.

And also, that change is possible if we don’t give up. I read that the Civil Rights Movement proceeded for decades before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus in 1955, and then it took another nine years for federal civil rights bills to pass. Physically occupying parks long-term isn’t really sustainable, but it’s brought attention to the huge inequality between the wealthiest 1% and the rest. This is a moment in history that may not be repeated for generations—let’s not give up.

About Tara: I’m one of those, “a daughter, a wife, a sister, a friend, a new mom”–types, but I’m trying to be more intentional about how I use my time, money and energy to do some good in this world. It’s a work in progress. (Check out Tara’s blog!)

Got a lesson you learned from one of life’s absurd moments that you want to share? Click here to submit your story.

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Funny stories. Good advice. Check out my books, “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” and “Balancing Priorities and Prioritizing Balance”. Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.

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