The Brutal Truth for Occupied Toronto

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The Brutal Truth for Occupied Toronto Photo by Dan Walsh

Finding a Voice

Photo by Dan Walsh

The Brutal Truth for Occupied Toronto

There was a lot going on at St. James Garden here in Toronto. It was one of the sites of the “occupied movement” occurring around the world confronting the economic crisis. In retrospect, it was part of an even larger movement occurring universally that is addressing the issues that are threatening the fundamental well-being of the world, sometimes referred to as “The Shift”.

Having asked a few people if they knew about what was going on and what they thought of Occupied Toronto, the comments heard were not too surprising. One woman expressed fear of the movement because, as she explained, coming from the old country it reminded her of the Russian Revolution and the resultant deaths. There were a few individuals commenting with criticism, stating the movement would not be successful as they could not state their demands, while others expressed feelings of general futility of the situation. There was even expression that the only solution laid within the killing of the one percent.

I admit I was apprehensive about going down to visit the park to find out for myself. Never mind it was only a hop, skip and a jump away to do so. Honestly, I was scared to go, and why not? — it was only last year when the G20 protests turned ugly. The discontent about the governance of our supposed-to-be democratic society and the officials’ blatant arrogance and misuse of spending was vocalized. There was certainly questionable behaviour on both sides with some suspicion of the authorities’ power to usurp. I did not attend then and thought it might put my personal safety at risk if I attended the present protests.

In spite of my fears, though, I was drawn to check out what was going on. I managed to find a friend to come along with me for my initial visit, as well as some subsequent visits.

The first time I went was a week after day one of Occupied Toronto in the dark of the evening for a couple of hours. The following day I would attend mid-afternoon on my own, taking in some discussions. I would come back again two days afterwards with my supportive friend for an opportunity to partake in the noon-time General Assembly and a jaunt and visit to City Hall. The day held many discussions.

I believe I can shed some light and clarity on what was going on and the good work being done at Occupied Toronto and consequently the other municipalities throughout the world. Firstly a small sidestep would be beneficial to share a bit of background on myself and my organization. It should add some serious credibility to this report on the important work of Occupied Toronto.

I am the author of the feisty non-fiction book The Brutal Truth and founder of The Brutal Truth Organization. Both concentrate on the systemic problem of bullying and misuse of power; the premise being whether one is speaking of bullying in the schoolyard, workplace harassment, misuse of power from judges and lawyers, or otherwise, the problem stems from and is perpetuated by the government through social norms and faulty laws. It is in all levels and facets of our society and in economical, political and environmental crevices (arenas).

According to The Brutal Truth, to remedy the situation certain criteria is required:

  • Communication must be loud — reach a large audience.
  • The problem must be identified correctly — this is difficult due to the complexity of some issues.
  • Solutions must help promote and encourage the collective consciousness — energy that is behind the change.
  • The social norms and faulty laws that perpetuate the issue must be identified.

The Brutal Truth endeavours to examine individuals’ experiences of abuses as well as individuals and organizations that are addressing the issue of bullying and misuse of power by breaking the silence and illustrating the scope, regardless of the level, and going at the very roots to find a solution. So in keeping with its objectives and comprehending the complex and serious dilemma the world is in, The Brutal Truth would like to shed some light on Occupied Toronto.

As I see it from a number of visits reflected over time, the tent city developed in its physicality as well in its soul. Interestingly St. James Park has a sign foreshadowing these events. The sign is encrypted with “a city within a park”. It is here too you will find the bust of Robert Gourlay (1778–1823), a political reform activist and writer. The land itself and where it is situated all contributed to the ambiance of the movement. Of course the scattering of tents, large and small, for those who chose to be residents were amid the community’s communal tents that were managed by volunteers. They set up kitchen, legal, media, school, medical, sign-shop and sanitation — with its port-a-potties, among others. A diverse group of people made up the population. Some were in full-time attendance while others only part-time. They organized a city with fundamentals that were meant to be more humanistic than our present capitalistic structure.

Recognizing the importance of communication and need (for all) to be heard, Occupied Toronto used an amazing human PA system where announcements were made with the support of others repeating in unison succinctly and clearly. Occupied had a sign language used to aid in this respect. If one had a question about what a person was saying a hand sign “C” for clarity was used. If one was in agreement with the concept being expressed both hands could be raised in the air and fingers waved. The various signs were reviewed prior to general meetings and were on the communication board.

Participants broke off into groups for discussions to develop questionnaires or lists of the principles and characteristics of the movement or other pertinent topics. Opportunity was given for individuals to suggest discussion topics and/or facilitate a group. People were invited to groups and at times groups merged together. Opportunity was given to bring back notes from discussions to share and to find consensus. This latter was not necessarily an easy matter as for the diversity of the group members and the complexity of some problems. It seemed to me that they managed to point out that it was more than just about the one percent having more than (and abusing) the ninety-nine percent. Albeit the global occupied movement initiated from the anger towards corporate greed.

To help guide group discussion it was suggested as useful to think in terms of need for changes to the entire system, or perhaps changes to people acting inappropriately within a working functional system. I contributed that it was not an either/or but rather a combination. There was much emphasis on process and promotion of free-flowing conversation to address the issues as well as the functioning of day-to-day activities of tent city.

During my visits, I participated and witnessed to get a real sense of what was going on. I happened to be there the day a group of Occupied Toronto residents went down to City Hall to observe the city councilors vote on whether they were in support of the “demonstration” at St. James Park. The vote was 24 yeas to 18 nays, but as it required a two-thirds majority it was not sufficient and would lead the issue to go forward to the executive council where it would likely not be supported by the unenlightened souls.

It would be amiss for me not to mention while during my visits to tent city, although for the majority of my experience I was respected for the contribution I offered, there was rejection from a couple of individuals. One would not let me have shelter from the rain in a communal area stating it was for kitchen volunteers only — regardless that it was not being used and the group I was conversing with consisted of various volunteers. The other individual was from the media tent and when I enquired as to writing my Occupied Toronto article in the tent among the editors set up there, I was told to go elsewhere (again in the rain).

In spite of being personally rejected and the other flaws and perceived shortcomings of the new organization, significantly positive contributions were made, even though tent city did not remain long in its physicality. The complaints about the smell from the port-a-potties and disorderliness from individuals might have been genuine. It is true that it was not so pretty but the situation at hand was ugly and it did smell but it was not really the occupant’s s–t or their self-medication that was the problem.

Our society prefers denial and hiding the truth of the matter at hand, sweeping it under the rug and having a victim-blaming mentality. This is seen throughout history and is a primary issue that The Brutal Truth addresses. Occupied Toronto was very much about being loud and reaching a large audience, and communicating the very real problem at hand that is threatening the well-being of society. It is a complex problem and solutions are not so easily stated and executed. The organization brought a good number of individuals together to work together to make a greater noise that cannot be silenced — the human mic.

The physical presence of the tent city aided the many people who are visual learners — who need to see to understand. It provided a platform for people to speak and be heard and listen and reflect and consider and learn and belong. Even if you did not come out and get that which was offered, the opportunity was there and other such opportunities will come along.

The growth in the collective conscience was not limited to tent city nor to Toronto nor to Ontario nor Canada, but globally. The growth is more than the sum of its parts. The shift is happening. There are many waking up. Some may understand only bits of the problem and even less may understand the changes humanity is making and must make. Occupied Toronto may not have provided the full answer to the world’s problem but it certainly brought our world closer, if only in the trying. There is hope. We are moving closer.

There are many individuals and organizations working towards identifying and resolving the “world power” crisis (not referring to gas). Many reference the collective consciousness and state various propagandas and ideologies as facts alongside. Please be mindful that although most share some elements and details, some hold faulty cognitions and unhealthy ramifications within. Please execute caution and critical thinking in your enlightenment.

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