Fire Away: Why the Occupy movement should be occupying more minds

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

  • Occupy Guelph has taken over the downtown square

    Occupy Guelph has taken over the downtown square

Written by Stephanie Rennie

In the past two weeks the Occupy movement has made its way from Wall Street to Wydham Street. Since the first day of massive protest in Toronto on Saturday October 15th, protesters have occupied the central square downtown Guelph. Filled with tents, tarps, a portable washroom facility and a makeshift kitchen, these persistent activists look as though they are here to stay.

Though last week’s steady rain falls and heavy rain fall warnings proved challenging for those occupying Guelph, they remain true to their message and mission.

With this movement reaching members of our city and inspiring people to occupy the downtown square, one would assume that such a movement would be the major topic of conversation on campus. However, the opposite seems true.

When asking fellow students of their understanding of the Occupy movements around the world, even in the city in which they reside, many students responded with a blank face. Although Occupy Guelph has proven to be a small fraction of the size of movements in larger Canadian cities, it is still very important to the movement at large.

I realize that this is a busy time of year as midterms are piling up and a majority of students are spending their days in the library cramming, but this movement holds great importance for us all and is happening in our own backyard.

The magnitude of the Occupy movement is substantial. Occupy Wall Street began more than one month ago, slowly seeping into large American cities and finally reaching Canada in mid-October. The movement has been a popular topic covered by many levels of media and flooding social networking outlets since its beginning in September.

Although not everyone has cable or reads newspapers, Occupy Guelph is happening right in our downtown. It is impossible to catch a bus downtown without noticing the massive tents occupying a square that was once home to a mere fountain.

So how is it possible that students are not more aware of this massive movement?

Too often students are trapped in the campus bubble and shielded from outside news that impairs the ability for students to advance their understanding of the world based on current issues that desperately need attention.

Even if students are not pitching a tent downtown, there is still a need for informed conversations and debate on campus. Such dialogue is crucial to the Occupy movement as it has faced much questioning and criticism since its origins in early September.

A common criticism of the Occupy movement has been its lack of direction or concrete message. I would argue that this momentous protest does not hold one distinct message for good reason. One message could not possibly contain the necessary outrage felt by people around the globe denouncing their daily schedules and typical commitments to rally in solidarity against many issues. The complexity of the gap between the rich and the poor, and the consequential effects, inflict more than a meagre message within the many angered people taking to the streets.

 Instead of one single message, the Occupy protests have become a combination of many outcries from infuriated people falling within the ninety nine percent of the population dealing with grave debt and inequality.

Furthermore, much debate has circulated around the difference between the situation Canadians face in comparison to those protesting in other countries around the world. Many have argued that Canada does not experience the same disparity and hardships as the United States.

It is evident that much debate and attention has been centralized around this protest, showing the growing awareness and importance of the Occupy movement. Despite which side of the picket line you decide to sit on, the Occupy movement affects us all and is more worthy of our attention and dialogue than what happened on last week’s Jersey Shore.

Stephanie Rennie is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Fire Away publishes every Thursday in The Cannon and in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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