Monday, August 20, 2012

An Open Letter to Occupy NL

Dear Occupy NL,

I would like to help implement a think tank model for OccupyNL or an affiliated group. I believe there is a gaping hole downtown in this city for intellectual and theoretical applications of common good. OccupyNL has the capacity to render high political thought in text, image and action in this city and say goodbye to the failed Arts Faculty at Memorial, whom I’ve been waiting for to take the lead. I have waited for 25 years for Newfoundland culture, heritage and tourism to benefit more people economically than it currently does; that this has not happened, especially in the outports, means it is time for a change.

The oil industry has done more harm to Memorial culture than any other single event or leanings; it has rendered the Arts at Memorial at the St. John’s campus completely moot philosophically or as a body in relation to city culture, impact or social progression. Occupy NL can fill this gap as a body with some specific strategies. Occupy NL has the knowledge base and the writing skills to do this.

In the early 1990s I worked for the U.S. National Park Service to collect folklife and lore regarding the railroad, steel and coal heritage in the devastated, post-industrial American wasteland of southwestern Pennsylvania.

The project’s mandate was to document occupationally-based folklife in the region and then use the data to create tourism products filtered through an actively de-politicized

government commission. Folklorists were very naive when we began working with public money in the 1980s in the US.

Newfoundland provincial policy has caught up, so to speak, with very bad tourism sector models from elsewhere. The trickle down economic model local governments use rarely trickles down to those who most need it. There are alternative models available to us, some that can be customized for Newfoundland and other, original models will undoubtedly be created.
If anyone would like to join me in this I would love to hear from you. Send me an email. The group could meet at my house. I’m looking to gather people who 1) want to explore government policy in tourism, economics and heritage as it stands, for its impact on everyday life in contemporary Newfoundland; and 2) provide independent, non-governmental, meaningful alternatives for communities or individuals. If there was someone or two in Labrador who wanted to participate via computer, on behalf of Big Land cultures, he or she would be very welcome. I think these sessions could act like internal sit-ins.

~Kathryn Foley

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How and Why Occupy Died

Some of you may have looked at the title of this post and thought, “What do you mean Occupy died? People are still calling themselves Occupiers.” Yes, it may be true that people are still calling themselves occupiers, but here’s the thing:

1. What are they occupying?
2. What actions have been taken lately?
3. What kind of numbers and support do they actually have?

To answer the first question, nine times out of ten they are not occupying anything. Do you see any encampments in public parks in major metropolitan areas in Canaduh? NO, you don’t, because everyone is too damn scared of the cops. It’s civil disobedience; you are going to HAVE to deal with the cops, and if you are just going to go along with what the cops say, WHY ARE YOU EVEN COMMITTING THE CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IN THE FIRST PLACE?!?!?!?

For the second question: What actions have been taken lately? As far as I can tell there has not been anything done in Canaduh under Occupy’s name for at least a few months. Everything that has happened in Canaduh has been done either under the Quebec student movement’s name, or in solidarity with the students in Quebec.

As for what kind of support and/or numbers do they actually have, not much at all.

Why is this?

This is because people have become disillusioned with how things turned out with Occupy. How so? It’s simple. People wanted to SEE ACTIONS HAPPENING, NOT JUST A BUNCH OF PAPERWORK. Which has driven me to create a new portmanteau: “activistocrat”—Activist and Bureaucrat—the definition being someone who thinks of themselves as an activist but doesn’t actually suggest any actions, just bitches about the lack of action while creating a bureaucratic nightmare for those people who actually want to get something done.

For example, at Occupy Newfoundland the activistocrats wanted to formalize the process of how we did GAs and came about to a decision (known further as the “code of conduct”). Sure it sounds good when stated like that, but what it actually entailed was writing a 3-page long document describing how our general assembly process worked. It was written with every detail accounted for and about 20-30 different articles (within 4 main sections) with EACH & EVERY ONE having to be passed by the GA. This process started about the middle of November and still wasn’t done by the time people were starting to stop going to the GAs in May. Almost every GA, some part or another of the code of conduct was brought up. With that one topic, “Code of Conduct,” almost the entire GA was taken up by a 2-hour discussion going in circles on some stupid little semantic detail with nothing else being talked about the rest of the night.

That meant for the ENTIRE winter we were dealing with this one document, which took energy away from other actions or protests that could have happened.

So how did Occupy die? ACTIVISTOCRATS.


Part 2: Saving the Revolution: What can be done?
Read Ken's previous blogpost: Why Occupy Used the Tactics It Did

Monday, August 13, 2012

General Assembly Tues August 14, Harbourside Park @7 PM

Join us back at Harbourside Park for a General Assembly (Tuesday) starting at 7 PM.
Professor of History at MUN, Robert Sweeney, (who researches Inequality trends in Canada and the history of capitalism, among other things) will be leading a Q&A on the financial crisis.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Soundtrack for a Revolution - #6 - Pussy Riot: Holy Shit

Formed in Russia in 2011, Pussy Riot is an anonymous, punk-rock, feminist collective that engages in impromptu performances that discuss gender equality, freedom of expression, human rights, and politics.

On February 21st, 2012, as part of a protest against the re-election of Vladimir Putin as President of the Russian Federation, Pussy Riot performed their song "Holy Shit" (a punk rock prayer) in a 'priests only' section of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Less than one minute into the song, Pussy Riot was escorted outside by guards.

On March 4th, two members of Pussy Riot were arrested and a third member was arrested on March 15th. While Pussy Riot says the performance was about highlighting the special relationship between Putin and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church, they have been charged with 'hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility' and they face a potential 7-years in jail. (Update: On Aug 17th members of Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison).

Pussy Riot has received a lot of international support from artists and politicians, which you can read about here. There has also been some criticism of Pussy Riot, with claims that their actions were blasphemous and that maybe they should be forced to do community service.

According to the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners and Amnesty International, this is much more serious than something community service could address as these women are political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

The court is slated to make its decision on August 17th. If you're interested in following the trial, you can do so at

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Education and Inequality in Canada

I recently finished reading an economic history of the US education system, The Race Between Education and Technology by Goldin and Katz.  The main message of the book can be summarized in three points:

1) The US was the world leader in education for over a hundred years (e.g. the High School Movement and the GI Bill).  This played a major role in making the US the leading economy of the 20th century.

2) Progress in education has stagnated in the US over the last 35 years and they have now fallen behind other advanced countries.

3) The modern economy increasingly demands more highly educated workers.  Combined with 2), this has led to greater income inequality in the US, as people without advanced education have fallen behind.

This made me curious about how the Canadian situation compares to the US.  I'm happy to say that the news is mostly pretty good.  We continue to make great strides in education in Canada and especially in Newfoundland.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why Occupy Used The Tactics It Did And What It Was That Was Hoped To Be Accomplished By It

This is my first contribution to the blog and as such I wanted to make it (semi) memorable. I apologize ahead of time if this just seems like a bunch of pointless ranting, it's just my writing style. I also apologize for this long winded introduction but i feel like i have to get it out of the way, after this post you wont see it again. Anyways, on to the actual blog post now.

I started occupying in St John's on October 17th (day 3). Why did I join Occupy in the first place? well that's because I saw it as the only way to work towards making a drastic change in our society, a way of getting people to start breaking the last "real" taboo we have in our society: Questioning the way our society works and if capitalism (read corporatism) is really the best way of doing things.

What did I think could possibly be accomplished? I think I just answered that, but ill do so again. What i thought the Occupy movement could accomplish was getting people talking, it kinda worked in phases. phase one's leading quote being "A better world is possible, lets talk about it."

How did we get this done? We got it done through civil disobedience. For those who don't know what civil disobedience entails ill explain it. Civil disobedience is when you purposefully break a law for the purpose of either showing how ridiculous said law is, or for just plain old drawing attention. I bet you can guess what reason we were using it for. We were using civil disobedience tactics so that we could garner media attention which could then be used to highlight what we were talking about. Mainly: economic disparity, who holds the real power in government (those with the money), and how money is created in our fiat currency system. Through highlighting these three related issues it is hoped that people will actually wake up to whats going on around them.

I would like to thank you for your patience as I write (you read) this small treatise on some philosophical and political points.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Harbourside Kitchen — Help Wanted!

Harbourside Kitchen began as a group of people cooking food down at the Occupy camp at Harbourside Park. The original intention was not to subvert the corporate food system, but mainly to put food in their hungry bellies on donated food items. The working group, after The Great Eviction, has become a nomadic tribe of renegade vegan cooks intent on cooking together and giving it away for free together (a la Food Not Bombs, it seems). They are looking for like-minded people to join them in their outdoor cooking adventures.

From their blog:

So a large percentage of the Harbourside Kitchen crew will be moving out of province in the near future, and we'll likely be without a CEO, health inspector and eventually a groundskeeper.

Are you interested in any of the following things?

  • Putting a bunch of ingredients on a table and saying "...It's done!"
  • Taking naps in the afternoon.
  • Storing a propane tank.
  • Taking naps in the afternoon. 
  • Being part of some inside jokes. 
  • Being a super cool punk rocker.
  • Not appearing in photos.
  • Taking naps in the afternoon.
  • Cooking for people and doing it outside.
 If you'd like to quickly move up the ranks in a fast-growing corporation that is concerned with synergy and capitalism or synergies in capitalism, you can go [insert profanity of choice here] yourself.

If you're not interested in that sort of thing, then you might want to consider applying for a highly taxing position with Harbourside Kitchen. You can send us an email, leave a comment on this post, or talk to us when we're cooking (next excursion will be Thursday 12:30-3 pm, corner of George and Water) or if you happen to recognize us on the street! 

~Next cooking adventure is Thursday Aug 2nd, from 12:30-3:30 pm.~