Monday, October 10, 2011

Occupy Vancouver: a cry for hope

October 15 is looming as the date for the Vancouver version of "Occupy Wall Street", the sit-in-on-steroids intended to ... well, it's hard to say what the protesters want: they're dissatisfied with the current world system, which they say is the fault of evil corporate greed; according to the Province newspaper, the Occupy Vancouver protesters plan to occupy first and decide what they want later.

My initial thoughts are rather negative, but on further consideration, I'm hearing a cry for hope, because that kind of nameless, directionless frustration only comes when you know something is wrong but you can't quite put your finger on it. The fall-back position for anyone in a situation like that is to find a convenient enemy and declare war. But people are missing the true source of Hope.

First, though, some of the negative thoughts -- which I think are still real concerns:
  • how many thousands of people and their families depend on corporations for their incomes? Many of these people belong to unions, which makes me wonder why some trade unions seem interested in getting involved?
  • what if some of these greedy corporations were to fight back by showing real greed and cutting off their philanthropic activities? Do you know how many millions of dollars the Jim Pattison Group donates to various endeavours (trust me: it's way beyond the ones that have Jim's name plastered on them)? Then there's the Weston family, owners of Weston Bakeries, Loblaw's, Superstore, and a whole whack of other grocery interests, whose Foundation actually increased its giving in 2009 when others were pulling in their horns because of the recession. (I know: The W. Garfield Weston Foundation gave Gospel Mission $15,000 out of the blue that year out of that special fund.) (Remember, too, that Weston's also markets No-Name food products, which help keep groceries affordable for many low-income families.)
  • there's a certain irony in the fact that the meeting was held in the Woodward's complex, which bears the name of one of the great corporate families in BC history. Also, many of the homeless, under-housed, reduced-circumstances people supposedly "represented" by the Occupy Vancouver movement hang out at and otherwise receive services from the Carnegie Centre, which is housed in the original Vancouver Library, given to the city over a century ago by that greedy coal baron, Andrew Carnegie.
In other words, one shouldn't be so quick to condemn corporations. A lot of people -- far more than the 1% the organizers claim to be battling -- depend on corporations in more ways than one would care to admit. Promoting the Us-versus-Them mindset and turning this into a quasi-war seems misguided, and statements like, "if you have to ask (what it's about), you're making too much money" (actual sound bite on CBC radio) only polarizes people. Makes you wonder if they want to accomplish anything, or just throw a tantrum.

Actually, my first thought was that the idea of a protest like this happening in Vancouver is cause for concern. No matter how "peaceful" everyone says it will be, the spirit of rebellion that sits over Vancouver makes that highly improbable. The Winter Olympics riot in February 2010 was a perfect example: there were protesters with seemingly legitimate causes to promote; but there were also the "Black Bloc", who were out more to make a lot of noise. It reached its nadir with the Stanley Cup Riot this past June, where it was apparent that people simply wanted to destroy things and taunt police at the same time. Add to that the fact that Vancouverites can't even obey traffic signals and you get a sense of the level of respect for the law in this region.

There's another thing to consider. Even if the protesters somehow got what they wanted -- whatever that is -- that's no guarantee of peace in Vancouver. A prime case in point is the situation with bicycles. For years, some cycling advocates have organized the "Critical Mass Ride", where hundreds of cyclists ride through city streets on a Friday rush hour, tying up traffic (causing an increase in exhaust emissions due to idling engines) and generally being a nuisance. The incessant drum-beating and chanting of slogans doesn't help the cause, either.

The current Mayor of Vancouver and his council launched a $25-million program to install bike lanes through city streets and improve cycling routes. TransLink, the transportation authority, has invested millions of dollars a year in cycling infrastructure, as have other municipalities in the region. And cyclists still ride on sidewalks, go the wrong way on one-way streets. And there are still Critical Mass rides.

It's like the country song ("Daddy Never Was a Cadillac Guy") says, "The more I give [my kids], the more they want".

But having gotten all that off my chest, what the Lord started showing me is that this is a group of people -- and a rather large one, at that -- who are trying to fight a fleshly battle, trying to counter greed by stirring up envy in people and masking it as a sense of justice. That's using one sin against another: calling on Satan to cast out Satan.

In fact, we're seeing people who are bereft of hope. As I said at the beginning, they know something is wrong and can't put their finger on it, and in that frustration and desperation with ignorance of the Lord and His Word, they lash out.

How can we make them see that the solution in all these things is Christ? Get them to look at the Gospel not as "just another belief system" or the manifesto of self-righteousness -- an effect of Religious thinking over generations -- but as the Word of God and a guide to life itself? Indeed, how do we get people to read the Word, when The World keeps telling them they don't need to?

You want social justice? Jesus is social justice. You want caring for the poor? Jesus is about caring for the poor. You want healing for people? Jesus is about healing for people -- especially getting beyond cures or reducing harm and getting right to the root of whatever problem people face. You want environmental restoration? The word of God is all about environmental restoration and stewardship.

You want peace and an orderly society? Jesus is about peace and an orderly society.

You want truth? Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

It requires a paradigm shift in thinking. It requires stripping away any preconceived notions of what "victory" looks like and accepting the Victory that God has already given us. It requires breaking away from the human/fleshly desire for revenge against people we think have wronged us. It requires shedding the self-righteous belief that you're better than those in big corporations and humbling yourself to the thought that we are all children of God, marginalized protester and have-it-all corporate mogul alike, and repenting for judging others. Then it requires seeking God and His righteousness and trusting that, as you brings yourself into line with His Word, He will watch over you and others who see the changes in you will be drawn to the same Light.


  1. What would Jesus have done with the bankers?

  2. I ask because the money demand commanded by banks and transnational corporations is a direct cause for hundreds of thousands of children starving to death as governments struggle to pay back loans to the IMF after this same body imposes "structural adjustments" which amounts to the stripping of the civil commons which supports life, to feed the money demand of the interest payments to foreign entities which have no obligation or allegiance to the host society.

    This is the root of what is driving these protests whether the protesters realize it or not, that profit is the underlying foundation of society, all else is secondary.

    We would do better with Jesus, but first you would have to reject profit.

  3. Not really. "Profit" has a lot of good use, if used properly. If a company doesn't turn a profit, how will the workers be paid? And what will it donate to help the poor? The thing we really have to reject is judgmentalism.

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