Depending on where you stand, one of the beautiful things about the Occupy Movement is that it’s ecumenical— it’s an umbrella under which myriad protests might surge. As such, it’s served as a beacon for malcontents of all stripes, manifesting as a protest against anything that’s deemed unfair instead of any one particular grievance. The economic system under which we aspire has systemic problems and there’s not one single thing that can be fixed— as if by surgery— to correct this, and so the movement is one big, hot mess spilling out all over the place.
As we move from a Modernist society to what I would call a Networked society, where information and the opportunity to communicate are amplified to an extremity never before imagined, revolutions are bound to happen. Whether we like it or not, we’re living in revolutionary times, and we had best wake up to that lest the wave crash over us.
I live in Toronto, where it’s probably fair to say that the inequities and general preference for economic over social interests is less pronounced than it is in the United States. No matter, we’ve still had an Occupy Toronto movement and although it started off primarily as an act of solidarity with the broader movement reaching out from New York, it quickly took on a local focus. Here, like in a lot of large cities, homelessness is a real problem, and with great rapidity homeless people started to congregate at the Occupy Toronto location, as it was here where they found an accepting community, food, shelter and the like. They weren’t pursuing an abstract political goal, just responding to the necessities of their lives, and in so doing ended up discovering an inclusion and sense of home which was otherwise absent, and this very fact is in and of itself, a profoundly political statement.
I’ve been very interested in the Movement and decided to go down to the encampment in downtown Toronto and sleep there for one night— just to get a real vibe for things— before it was torn down. Rumours of the protestors imminent eviction have been swirling about as have relocation sites, and so on Thursday evening when I saw a bunch of people and tents camped out in a commercial district, I figured it was the Occupy Toronto Movement and asked my wife Rachelle to drop me off there later on.
As I took my sleeping bag and knapsack over to the line of people, I was surprised by just how young the demographic was. It was almost entirely composed of girls, with a few older women and men there as if to lend some experience and moral leadership. It was my hope that I might be able to be a leader, too.
I settled into a spot between two teens and began to unfurl my sleeping bag.
“No butting in line!” the one with the pink hair shouted.
I thought that this was a rallying cry and so I shouted it back, shaking my fist into the sky, “No Butting in Line! No Butting in Line!” but the crowd did not respond. They just looked at me with their faces all twisted up like I was gross or something.
“Mom,” the girl with pink hair said, “a weird man is butting in line! Make him go away!”
A woman wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs toque hurried up to me, “My daughter’s been waiting eight hours in the cold to get a ticket for Twilight, and I’ll be damned if some creep who has a boner for Ashley Greene is going to steal her spot in line!?
“So this isn’t Occupy Toronto?” I asked.
“No, that’s still at the park,” the mother said. She gave me a look, and her face changed from blunt aggression to a kind of pity. You should know that I was wearing rough, camping clothes and as it’s Movember— the month when many men in Canada ( like me) raise funds for prostate cancer by growing a moustache — I probably looked a little scraggly.
“Are you homeless?” she asked.
I sighed, explaining to her that I was a ditzy writer who had somehow managed to mistake the encampment for the latest Twilight movie for that of Occupy Toronto. And of course, adding to my confusion and embarrassment was the presence of a bunch of TV crews all doing stories on the Twihards camped out on the sidewalk in anticipation of Breaking Dawn. It was pretty humiliating, but as I was there I decided to make the best of it and began to ask questions about the intersection between Twilight and the Occupy Movement.
I approached a girl who was wearing a cape. Her name was Jessica and she looked to be about 15.
Me: “Who do you think would be more supportive of the Occupy Movement, Jacob or Edward?”
Jessica: ” I’m part of Team Jacob. He’s a little more real, a little more outgoing that Edward.”
Me: “Would Team Jacob be an important faction in the Occupy Movement?”
Jessica: “Oh, yes, they’re werewolves and you really want them on your side!”
Me: “So, would you say that Vampires are like corporations and werewolves like the protestors?”
I approached another girl named Christine.
Me: “If you could sparkle, would you use your radiance to help the Occupy Movement or would you just restrict it to Vampire activities?”
Christine: “I would sparkle for Edward and I would hope that it would make him fall in love with me.”
Me: “So you wouldn’t use it to fight corporate inequities?”
Another girl named Claire told me she wanted to play the game.
Claire: “Ask me a question!”
Me: “Is Bella a bitch?”
Claire: “No, she’s just misunderstood.”
Me: “She never smiles, I don’t think she could sparkle if you hit her with a sparkle baton.”
Claire: “Do you even know what it means to sparkle?”
Claire: “You’re not a real journalist. You’re just a creep.”
Me: “This interview is over.”
Things were starting to feel tense, but I decided to try to have a dialogue with one more person in the line-up.
Me: “Do you think that Bella and Edward having a baby is kind of like the birth of the Occupy Movement, you know, bringing diverse elements together to create something new?”
Girl who refused to give me her name: “I don’t know!”
Me: “Would you rather have a Vampire baby or a Werewolf baby? What one would be worse for breast feeding do you think?”
Girl: “Dad! Dad, come quick!” The girl then began to blow a whistle.
I won’t bore you with too many of the details, but her father didn’t like the look of me, and didn’t for a second believe that I was doing a story about the confluence of Twilight and the Occupy Movement. He punched me in the chest, which hurt more than I would have thought. Really hurt quite a bit, actually. There was a scene, a lost inhaler, a bunch of stuck-up teenagers yelling unkind things and security, who were escorting me away for what they said was my own protection. It was at this ascendent moment in my life when my wife drove up, as she was responding to an earlier text message I had sent her asking if she could bring some Breathe-Rite strips down to the site.
Rachelle, when she’s angry, doesn’t speak but turns up the radio and undoes her window, regardless of the temperature, and so we drove home in the cold listening to Beyonce sing “If I Was A Boy” in silence.
Embedded in all this absurdity is a real irony. Twilight fans can occupy both public and private space in Toronto, and major streets are often shut down for extended periods of time to accommodate the shooting schedules of movies. These things are enabled by the police, at the inconvenience of the general public, because they serve an economic interest, but scruffy gatherings that serve a personal or public interest are subject to intense scrutiny and control, and in the case of the Occupy Movements often violently eliminated.
Somehow, that just doesn’t see all that fair.