ITEM THE SECOND
from my favourite spinster aunt… c/o Storytime Korner, a touching post with most illuminating further discussion, on a feminist angle on Occupy Wall Street. From our local Vancouver version, I had, I admit, worried about the number of dudes in charge and some of the testosteroney young male enthusiasm; and the very rare female facilitators, leaders, speakers, etc.
There’s an ongoing parallel protest here in Vancouver: the Missing Women inquiry has finally started; on its first day (Tuesday 11 October) a protest started outside the federal court. I happened to be there nearly a week later, on Monday (17th): purely by accident, about which I felt very embarrassed. Embarrassed, as I’d been following this matter and should have known when the inquiry would be starting and who might be less happy about it; and I certainly ought to have known there’d be a protest.
But there’s another embarrassment. It’s a block away from the area where the OWS (Vancouver) We Are The 99% folks are squatting in tents. Which was the starting point for Occupy Vancouver on Sunday: which, by the way, was huuuuge and happy, I’m delighted to report; yep there are / I have niggles and quibbles and gripes, but overall a good thing and I’m glad it happened.
My big complaint: Why were the OWS folks still in their tents? Why aren’t they all there too, in solidarity? Is solidarity with First Nations just for fist-pumping purposes to seem right on at a big event where there’s loads of people watching? A puppy is for life and not just for Christmas…
Oops: explaining to non-Vancouverites, and cutting a long sad story short: many women have been murdered around here or have disappeared; in the Downtown Eastside, a.k.a the poorest part of town; often having run away from their homes and home communities, for various reasons–not just the usual teenage rebellion ending up in drugs and prostitution; many were escaping abuse. Combine this with the Pickton murders and Highway of Tears. Many-to-most of the victims are First Nations; and the testimonials from their families bring home forcefully another angle to the OWS complaints. There’s a 99% vs. 1% divide, there’s a 50% one of women, there’s race (particularly noticeable in certain of the US OWS protests; with a noticeable, or tokenist, lack of non-white-dude-ness in many of them). And then there’s the enormity of the problems that First Nations live with here–these three aforementioned ones are just the icing on the cake–and the enormous problem they are for North America. A walking living breathing reminder of colonisation, destruction, genocide. Who occasionally, very occasionally, get to speak.
On which topic, I refer you to John Paul Montano, “An Open Letter to the Occupy Wall Street Activists.”
The inquiry continues; I heard terrible tales at the protest outside, from mothers and sisters and friends. Testimonies were being heard from other family members in court; outside at the protest was a “growing list of groups boycotting the process, including the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Amnesty International, the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and the February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee [and] the Assembly of First Nations and a coalition of three sex-worker serving organization” (Georgia Straight). “The protest was over what is being called a “sham” inquiry after 14 groups granted standing dropped out because the provincial government refused to grant funding for legal counsel.” (Vancouver Sun c/o Global TV)
Back to IBTP: and your second recommended reading of the day. Accompanied by fist-waving about the Hot Chicks of OWS nonsense. Gits.
(I Blame the Patriarchy content licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence)
Morals of the story:
(1) activism comes in all shapes and sizes, in many forms. It’s still activism. Support it. Even jut reading is support. Show further support by sharing your reading. Sharing and networking: the rhizomal alternative to hierarchical traditional power-politics.
(2) Next time you see a group of people standing around protesting, however small the group (and that one on Monday wasn’t small), go and have a look. They might (as on Monday) be quite quiet people, and it might take a while to figure out what’s going on. Pay them the respect of waiting and asking, to find out. It might be important.
(3) OK, obviously, (2) above doesn’t work quite the same for right-wing nutjobs and godbags and the like. Time and due respect, yes; but that’s just the respect due a fellow human-being. No more than that. Once you’ve found out what they’re protesting about, you’re free to walk away; and also to stay, to stay on whatever terms make you comfortable. That can be silent and stationary; this is my usual as I get queasy, claustrophobic, and very anxious in crowds. Especially crowds doing and saying the same stuff at the same time.
One exception: the one and only time I have even sung along with a group of strangers in pubic: Billy Bragg free concert in Zulu Records, here in Vancouver, couple of years back-ish.
And I’d probably have done it in this situation:
Which brings back listening to people, to their stories; to the testimonies of witnesses, surviving victims, and their loved ones; and to the importance of witnessing, being a witness, bearing witness. Testimonial is living, walking, breathing, speaking testament. Testament can be written too (well, that’s the origin of the word and idea after all); bringing back in Jill’s comment on “wasting energy”: blogging is good because it’s subversive; it’s doubly good as it’s a written, public, published, freely-available testament.
More on bearing witness, telling the truth, and fighting for justice: