Peaking outside the box: Canada’s place in the revolt

  • October 29, 2011

Authority & Abolition

While many people will demand the end of greed or corruption, the simplest and most straightforward demand would be for the fall of the system itself.

Do not be fooled, while many people will demand the end to corporate greed, or corrupt government, or even demand extremist reformist strategies that can help appease humanity within the capitalist (or increasingly corporatist) system, none of these can be the occupational demand. The simplest and most straightforward demand we can make is for the fall of the system itself.

The system has failed. It has failed so entirely that everyone is focusing on the branches of its failures as they fall — and of course they should, as with each falling branch come incredibly disastrous outcomes. But with so many branches dying, does it not make sense to check its root? To plant a new tree and start the growth anew?

The People Demand the Fall of the System

Albert Einstein said it best: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Indeed, the Tunisians, Egyptians and the rest of the Arab Spring countries all knew this. “El Shaab Ureet Eskat el Nezam,” or “the people demand the fall of the regime,” has become the very sound that any Arab dictator fears hearing in the street. This is what poured millions of people into the squares, and will do the same in any country bound by the very shackles of neoliberal ideology. But the regime is not to blame. A face is a face. But the brain behind it, the spine and nerves, is the system itself. A system gone so awry that it has become no better than any colonialist or fascist society of history.

If you understand the root cause, though, the next question is clear: what the hell do we replace it with? And therein lies the reason I am writing this — and hopefully why you are reading this now.

Every country that has started an occupation has brought in a new aspect to the movement itself. Egypt brought the occupation into the view of the international public after Tunisia started the movement itself. Spain has spread the occupation and created a how-to guide at Greece radicalized the squares movement, showing what can happen if the peaceful occupation comes too late into a country whose people are already desperate for change. Occupy Wall Street spread the movement beyond the Mediterranean. What, then, is Canada’s place? Before understanding that, we must first understand the unbelievable situation that Canada currently finds itself in.

The Canadian Tragedy: From Colonial to Corporate Control

Canada has never had a revolution. It has been passed from one colonial force to the next. From the French colonialists to the British Empire, on to the United States’ economic imperialism, and finally towards corporatist control, disconnected from any nation or territorial entity. Indeed, look around, we have lost around 11,000 Canadian companies and corporations since Brian Mulroney renamed the Foreign Investment Review Agency (or FIRA) and turned it into “Investment Canada”.

In fact, the drastic reform of the agency has ensured the sale of almost 11,000 Canadian companies to international — mainly American — corporations. But those facts are beside the point. All that needs to be known is that Canada has been exploited for its natural resources since its very “founding”. Indeed, we are a developed nation treated like a Third World country. Not only have the imperialists raped the Canadian land for natural resources, but they have siphoned profit meant for the Canadian economy into their own.

These zombie corporations, be it in the form of the British colonialists or the multinational corporations of today, seek only to feed off our land, uncaring of the potentially disastrous consequences of destroying the country’s money cycle. This may very well be why, between the mid-1990s and the 2000s, the gap between the rich and poor has grown faster in Canada than  in almost any other country in the world — including the United States. The domestic money cycle no longer exists. Wages are paid, taxes (which are at an all-time low, actually approaching the numbers of the Celtic Tiger) are taken off of profit, the CEO’s get an increased bonus, and the multinational corporation takes its profits out of the very economy it has taken it from.

All of this happens while corporate profits are being counted towards our GDP, sustaining the illusion of how “well” Canada’s economy is doing. What the GDP, therefore, fails to show is how much money is actually being stolen from the Canadian people. This may also be the very reason why, per household, the Canadian citizen’s debt is actually higher than the household debt of the United States. People’s wages are never truly returned to them, so they revert to loans and credit to keep up the illusion of being part of the middle-class.

How, then, can trickle-down economics work when no money stays in the country for it to trickle? This process seems incredibly close to the British’s fur trade in Canada’s wake, or even the siphoning of natural resources from Africa. But we get a different twist. Rather than a dictator or war monger controlling the country for the needs of its oppressor, Canada has a purely symbolic representative government. It imprints upon the population the belief that its voice is being heard, albeit only once every four years. It gives its citizens a false image of reality — that no revolution is needed, as the government is for the people, and that Canadians have it better than most. And I will not disagree with that, since people are not being killed in the streets. But, economically, there are far too many similarities to colonial times for us to simply disregard.

The Gushing Winds of Austerity Will Reach Our Shores

As the world currently stands, we are teetering on the edge of a world depression. The dominoes are set, and from a distance, we see the gushing winds come ever closer to the toppling of the first domino: Greece. If Greece defaults on its loans, Spain and Italy will likely follow. In a matter of months — if not weeks — Europe will head straight towards another major recession, if not a depression. When this happens, expect to see the United States, whose banks are profoundly exposed to Germany and France, to follow. Speculative economics has many downsides, the risk of contagion being one of them. With the debt these countries have accumulated, austerity measures will hit hard. This, in turn, will likely force a major backlash from the population.

Considering the fact that Canada’s exports to the U.S. make up about 75 percent of our total exports, what can anyone expect an entirely dependent economy to do when the very economy it depends on suddenly drops into depression? It will drop harder. In Greece, austerity measures have led to the privatization of half the hospitals. This type of disaster will be coming to Canada, too.

Throughout the birth of the Arab revolutions and the Occupy movement, the massive outpouring of people power seems to always be followed by violent crackdown. Tunisia, Egypt, Greece, Spain, the United States, Japan, and even Occupy Melbourne have been faced with violent police repression. The system and its representatives are growing increasingly scared. Canada, though, or more specifically Toronto, has yet to witness any police repression. This may at first glance be a negative thing, as Gene Sharp explained that a major part of creating a revolution is for protests to spread following the violent acts of the state upon peaceful protestors.

But this lack of violence has, for the first time since the movement’s beginnings, given an occupation some breathing space. Yes, it was entirely due (at least in Toronto) to the G-20 police brutality. The police cannot afford to have another show of force onto peaceful protestors — at least not yet. Toronto has taken its beating to last, at the very least, until the austerity measures from the federal government hit. Or at least let’s hope so.

Canada’s Place in the Global Revolt

If you have read up until now, you have just read the three reasons to back my hypothesis that Canadians will be the first to create a system to fight the ailing capitalist one. Better yet, Canada will be the first domino of the Western revolutions to engage in participatory democracy. Allow me to digress.

Canada’s small population has up until now been seen as a negative thing. Many believe that Canada’s population needs to increase in order to sustain economic growth. But, if we look at the country that started the global revolt in earnest — Tunisia — we can see that the small population actually helped ensure a larger share of the population to come out. If it weren’t for Tunisia’s revolt, their near-neighbor Egypt would never have followed. Egypt is considered the entertainment epicentre of the Middle East, and with its connectivity to the rest of the Arab world came the Arab Spring.

So yes, Tunisia’s population is a measly 1/8th of the population that Egypt has, but with such a small population they were still able to be the first domino of the revolutionary wave. This, in the end, is the same situation that Canada finds itself in. With its population only 1/10th the size of the United States, Canada is able to spread its message to a far wider share of the population than the United States is, in a shorter amount of time. We, then, can be the spark that inspires not only the United States, but the rest of the Western world to revolt.

Taking a closer look at our population’s circumstances, we can see a far more powerful situation. Canada’s recession was but a blip on the radar. Our banks did not suffer a systemic meltdown. Instead, we were forewarned of a future that would come. Austerity measures have also not hit us like any country in Europe, but we are forewarned of the looming budget cuts. We see a bleak future. We see all of our rights and safety nets being dropped at the mention of another global depression. But we are not quite there yet.

We are also far enough away that, once the eurozone breaks up and unleashes what Barry Eichengreen called “the mother of all financial crises“, the sweeping global depression will take some time to hit us — although not very long. For the moment, this is an incredibly empowering place for a population to be in. Not only have we not been hit with a massive economic slump (in comparison to other countries, that is) as a result of which we would have seen the loss of many of the social structures we currently enjoy — but we see the end of it coming. This, in the final analysis, is the most powerful thing we have going for us. We are not hungry, but we see the food diminishing.

Now imagine if Greece had had the ironic “luxury” of seeing its economy crumble before total collapse actually kicked in. Imagine if the people knew, months or years ahead, that their government would push through the draconian austerity measures they are enforcing now. The Greeks would have been able to prepare for the coming onslaught. This is exactly what Canada must do. But simply being prepared by being organized is not enough. It is not enough to point out a problem. We must be prepared with a solution. That solution may seem daunting to find, but in fact we find it right in front of our eyes. Just as the Occupy movement has used participatory democracy to organize its efforts, Canada must have an alternative system of decision-making ready to be put into place, with participatory democracy as its spine.

Breaking Out of the Box and Imagining the Great Beyond

This, of course, is no easy task. Creating an entirely new system is almost unfathomable. But picture this system as a box. To leave this box for a single person is a near-impossible task, plus, to go back into the box and explain what one saw “out there”… well, who would believe it? But if people took it upon themselves to carve a small hole into the box’s walls to get an impression of what is to be found “outside” of it, and if those very people can communicate what they saw to each other, then collectively they can provide a glimpse of what lies beyond. Collectively, they can show the world “inside” the box what may be possible if everyone breaks down just a tiny bit of it.

This is what participatory democracy is all about, and this is what I would propose. After all is said and done, even though Ernesto Che Guevara always said that one cannot wait for the time to be right for revolution, if the time is right for revolution, it will be the duty of all citizens to take it upon themselves to become revolutionaries.

The time is right for you Canada! It is now your duty to fight this revolution. Not with guns, bats, bombs or molotovs. No. Use your intellect. Break apart a piece of the box and witness on the outside a new system that is actually very plausible. This is the most dangerous thing you can do within a failing system. This, by any means, is the most damaging weapon we have against the oppressor. And, beyond anything else, this is the most revolutionary act one can take. Peak outside the box. Communicate. Organize. And then break the old one.

Unite Canada! The breathing space that the lack of police violence has provided to Canadians is our very opening into this new world. Let us use the occupations of cities, universities and colleges. Let us set up meetings to debate the political system, social safety nets, economics, and the future of businesses. Let us put aside our political titles and boundaries. Let us work together, using the best of each political theory and belief system towards the creation of a new system, run and created by and for the people. Think outside of the box that the present system has placed us in. It is dilapidated. It is falling apart. And if we do not find an escape now, the whole world will fall on top of it.

Together, you can make the first true revolution: a revolutionary process — the revolution that does not stop. The permanent revolution. This, brothers and sisters, is what participatory democracy is about: working never to stop or create an “End of History” but to function as time itself does — constantly moving forward. With each generation, with each of the participants in power, with each consensus created, a new revolution will occur. One by the people, and for the people.

Long live the Occupations. Long live the Global Revolution. And long live you, for you are the revolution.

Nadim Fetaih

Nadim Fetaih is a writer, activist and documentary filmmaker. His first film is A Tale of Two Revolutions.

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