Remembrance Day and the Occupy Movement

By Koozma Tarasoff

Consider Remembrance Day, November 11th. I watched with much interest the 2011 ceremony of several thousand people in downtown Ottawa observing this event with the sounds of bugles, words of praise for the fallen soldiers, the laying of wreaths and the red poppies, and the march past by young and old. Even the Governor General was in the spirit-dressed in his military clothes. It was all very patriotic.

It was 11th November, when on the 11th hour of the 11th month of 1918, the armistice ended the war called Great. This was soon followed by the words of John McCrae and his poem “In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row.” Then, in propaganda style, the poem which is sung every year at the televised National Remembrance Day service in Ottawa, urges the listeners to “take up the quarrel with the foe.”

Why “take up the quarrel with the foe”? Was not the intent of the old soldiers to end the collective insanity known as war? Today 2011 Remembrance Day seemed so out of step with the real meaning of the commemoration of the past wars. Surely the intent was to create a culture of peace, not a culture or war. Surely, the Day should not be used as a recruiting opportunity for more soldiers. Yet today in the fields of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, we seem to have forgotten this lesson. Recently Canada’s Defence Minister Peter McKay has been gung-ho in trying to convert Canada from a peacekeeping country to a macho militarized one.

Let’s stop and not buy into this madness! Let’s cease to produce victims of wars. Or as Russian philosopher Lev N. Tolstoy would have said: “Let’s stop the slavery of our times”—meaning, let’s stop war and militarism. This means stopping the criminals who engineer these events.

For example, the Conservative Government in Canada today wants to purchase several dozens of F35 fighter planes worth billions of dollars—planes that are designed for attack and not for defence purposes. These fighters are useless in the North and cannot be called to rescue people in need. All this is being proposed without thorough debate at a time when the country is going through an economic recession. In fact, the democratic process of debate is bypassed and trampled upon. Is that not a contempt of Parliament?

Now let us look at the Occupy Movement which began in mid-October 2011 in the Wall Street district of New York City—and since then has spread around the world as a popular social movement. Its dissatisfaction is widespread. Generally it is aimed at narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, including protesting corporate greed, corruption and undue influence of the world’s wealthiest over governments. These are all legitimate citizen issues.

I visited the group in Ottawa’s Confederation Park where I saw some 50 tents, including a large kitchen tent and a smaller media one. I took several pictures of the tent community and spoke to Laura who told me: “We are an emerging paradigm. The movement is a base for hope.”

What is encouraging is that this Occupy Movement has captured the attention of many bright young activists who have espoused nonviolence and mutual aid. In a sense, they are the vanguard of the oppressed people of the Earth. That is indeed commendable.

Although the protests have broadly been leaderless and nonhierarchical, the movement seems to have gained wide popular support in the short time of one month. In response, municipal officials feel themselves as responsible owners of the property and are now rallying the force of the state to shut them down. What the next move of the activists may be has yet to evolve.

In the meantime, we need to step back a moment and see what we have learned from both the Remembrance Day and from the Occupy Movement. If we do not learn from our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them. May I suggest the following short list of items is a good Socratic beginning to our quest for wisdom and action in creating?

  1. Is anyone listening? Are we listening? Is the media brave enough to critique corporate interests? Moreover, is the media willing to publish both minority and majority opinions? How about looking at Pension reforms and Tax reforms. Let’s make sure that our health care programs are intact and available to all as a human right.
  2. Implicit in our quest is a critique of the military industrial complex and its threat to our civilization. What kind of country do we want? I sense that Canadians want to regain their peacekeeping tradition and distance themselves from that of a military conquering power. How about working to establish a Canadian Department of Peace? Let’s make nonkilling our mantra for the new world.
  3. We need to continually ask “How do we make life more just and equal?” The answer requires a critique of extreme capitalism, including banks, stocks, deregulation, tax reform, free trade, the whole works. More and more thinking people are concluding that a better system should be based on the common good and not on individual greed and the desire to control. We need to develop a creative redistribution of wealth and resources.

How can we use the co-operative movement as an engine in creating a better society? Recall that on October 31, 2011, the United Nations launched the International Year of Cooperatives. Here, then, is a new opportunity to see how co-ops work differently than corporations which primarily are designed to make money for shareholders. Co-ops work on the principle “One person, one vote.”

Koozma Tarasoff writes the Spirit Wrestler blog http://spirit-wrestlers.blogspot.com in which this article first appeared.

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2012

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2012, page 6. Some rights reserved.

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