ON OCT 15, 2011, the Occupy movement arrived in Vancouver. It was loud, determined, and in many ways, the city was not ready for it – hence the political determination to dissolve the camp rather than address the growing challenges we collectively face.
Yet even amidst the drama, Occupy Vancouver should celebrate many momentous achievements. The following list was crowd-sourced from fellow Occupiers, with commentary by Stephen Collis.
1. 5000 people came out for the October 15th rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery—an incredible show of support, concern, and public engagement.
We are waking up, and there is considerable public interest in a variety of issues coalescing around the intersection of economic, environmental, and political crises. Now is the time to make the changes we need to make.
2. We built a city-within-a-city, establishing and sustaining a complex street-level occupation in an urban core that involved thousands of people over 37 days.
This city, while no more free of problems and suffering than the larger city surrounding it, nevertheless placed the free exchange of food and medical services, as well as the free exchange of ideas, at its centre. On this basis I call the city we built a utopian city. It is an idea whose time has come.
3. We provided 37,000 free meals (Food Not Bombs!), housing and community for some 30 homeless people, and operated the only 24 hour free medical clinic in the city.
What more can be said about this? The revolution is love, and we make it in daily acts of caring for one another.
4. We saved the life of an overdose victim, who would have died were it not for our volunteer first responders on site.
Our hearts go out to the life that was lost, but there is no question that had it not been for our medics, a second life would have been lost too.
5. We built (and continue to build) a community of activists, from scratch, and flexed our power as a united people
One of the most remarkable things about the Occupy Vancouver community is that so many are new to activism, and that people with such a diverse range of issues and commitments have found enough common ground to work together on an ongoing basis. Past social movements have fed off the dynamism of separate but intersecting groups with different tactics but ultimately the same goal; in Occupy, these groups are not separate, and the dynamism of difference is at the heart of what we are doing.
6. We have learned, and continue to learn and practice, a new horizontal model of leadership and directly democratic decision-making.
One of the goals of Occupy has been the active and continuous practice of public democratic debate – a return to something like the ancient Greek “agora.” We are learning how to work through consensus; it is a slower model than the less democratic one we are used to, but there is great value in slowing down and picking our way carefully through the issues we face.
7. We brought hope and a sense of possibility to a large number of people
What once seemed impossible now seems…less impossible. We know we can bring people into the streets; we know we can work together; we know we have a task to do, and that we have the strength and will to perform it.
8. We initiated a serious public conversation about our economic, environmental, and political crises and the need for systemic change.
A common complaint over the past few decades is that we don’t have an alternative to the capitalist system. This was lamented by left wing critics, and celebrated by right wing apologists. Now, we know there is no alternative to finding an alternative. Now we know that we are ready to sit down and stop doing capitalism’s dirty work, and start, today, to imagine a better system—one that is viable, bearable, and equitable.
9. We put an end to the idea that young people today are apathetic and politically disengaged.
Our Occupiers are incredibly diverse. We have the benefit of the wisdom of our elders. But we also have the energy, strength, and ideas of a large, impassioned and hopeful group of twenty-somethings who are not willing to let the world – the world of their future – continue down the path it is currently on.
10. We found our voices – and each other.
Occupy has resulted in a torrent of slogans, signs, blogs, and essays. The battleground for our hearts and minds is the word, and we have words, we have our voices, and we have the power of our collective intelligence.
Feature photo: Suraky