It is weird how life can change as certain people enter or exit one’s life, even tangentially, because of the ideas those people bring. I can look back over the last half a year and see how certain people’s ideas about revolution instead of reform have entered my social circle. I can see their effect not just on myself, but on some of my friends. It’s interesting to look at.
Some of the people attempting to boycott the Ontario election have expressed a belief that revolution is going to come soon. I remember hearing the same belief during the Occupy movement. People thought revolution was on the way. For that matter, I remember hearing the same belief back in 2001 after a few big protests against international organizations. I don’t believe it. I don’t believe revolution is inevitable or imminent, at least not in Canada. In other countries tens of thousands of people will take to the streets. In most places in Canada, very, very few will. The revolutionaries argue that it is because street protest is symbolic and inefficient rather than because of a lack of will, but they can produce no evidence of a desire for revolution other than from within their limited social circles.
There are masses of people who want change. We can see that through the followings of groups like Leadnow, Idle-No-More, the Occupy Movement, etc, but wanting change is not the same thing as being ready for revolution. (For example: I want change. I want huge change. But I also want a government that continues to fund schools, hospitals, etc., as well as paying for research done by scientists like my husband. Yes, I know that makes me “middle class” in the eyes of some of my more radical acquaintances.)
I view revolutionaries as being much the same as radical pro-lifers. They want to change how everyone lives. Most just rant, but occasionally people take extreme actions, like shooting police officers. It horrified me looking though the facebook page of the Moncton shooter and seeing memes similar to those I see from other people – memes about police oppression, government corruption, etc. Yes, there is tons of police oppression. Yes, there is massive government corruption. But we need a sensible way of approaching things, a way of approaching things that doesn’t encourage random violence.
We need more people on board to make bigger changes. We need lots of people. We need everyone possible to make what little changes they can. We need to reach out to people and encourage them to change their underlying assumptions. I read a comment the other day from someone who is upset that minimum wage was raised in Ontario because she now earns the same as her just-hired coworkers – even though the amount she earns is significantly more than she used to earn! She feels that her two years of employment aren’t being recognized! How can we help people see beyond this type of thinking? And it doesn’t do any good to simply say “some people, they just won’t ever understand…” or write people off like that.
How do we challenge the assumptions that the austerity agenda is based on? How do we get people on board for the idea of a guaranteed annual income? Or encourage people to recognize that there is socially productive work that is not paid, and people’s worth should not be judged by their income? How do we get people to realize that the wealthy didn’t really earn their wealth all on their own? (Linda McQuaig’s book The Trouble with Billionaires does a good job explaining how there is no self-made man.) How do we promote a social conscience?
Working to promote little changes helps build the political will to end poverty. It helps show people change is possible. Saying yes, the city or province is responsible to help those on social assistance buy a bed helps reaffirm the idea that those living in poverty deserve better treatment. It challenges the myth that they should be on their own. It helps raise people’s expectations, to expect more and better from their government.
One of the things I understand least about those who want to promote revolution and not reform, is what they plan on doing with all those who disagree. How will they bring them on board?
I keep thinking about the people who would come to the occasional Occupy Sudbury event. I think of a guy I met there he was an ambulance driver or a paramedic (I can’t remember which). He wanted to support Occupy Sudbury because his work gave him glimpses into the poverty people live in, and how it effects people’s health and the risk of other problems. I think of people who wanted to make change but grew discouraged by the craziness of talk of chemtrails and other craziness or by the lack of a solution offered. We need people to see that change is possible. Revolution – an all or nothing proposal where the future is a great void of unknowing – doesn’t do that.
The dialogue change I’d like to see is a positive one. I’d like to see people starting to understand their neighbors more, to have compassion, to be less judging. I’d like to see people start to recognize that in our modern world we can produce more than we need and not everyone should have to be working – and definitely not everyone working full time. We need to help change people’s understandings so they don’t see others as a burden and an expense. We need to challenge the notion that economy is everything, but also that we are helpless as long as this economy exists. For those who hate capitalism – you don’t need to wait until capitalism falls to make a difference. Really. There is lots we can do now.