What if revolution came to the U.S. and Canada and nobody noticed?

It’s a question I’m pondering because some of the most progressive people I know are sitting back watching 20-plus days of Occupy Wall Street, hearing rumblings of similar events in Canada, and still waiting to see if it will spark into something big, like a movement worth joining.

Journalists keep asking: What is Occupy Wall Street about? What do they stand for? What’s becoming clear is that a lot of people are missing a pretty important political and social development:

Americans are standing up to the financial giants whose unethical antics brought an entire world economy to its knees, left their economy in shambles, and still refuse to pitch in with the clean up.

Americans are standing up for what they’re calling the 99 per cent. The majority.

And they’re questioning the validity of the system.

As my CCPA colleague Kerri-Anne Finn wisely points out to me, the Occupy Wall street movement is seriously disenfranchised with government, having seen it fail the 99 per cent for far too long. The reason they’re protesting on Wall Street instead of in Washington is because they don’t think anything in Washington will change.

They’re not out to eat the rich; they’re exercising their hard-earned civil rights to promote real change that reflects the needs of the 99 per cent. Having been ignored by their own elected officials, they’ve turned to the obvious power source, Wall Street, and they have begun a stare down.

The people have a pulse. My read of what this movement is trying to say is this:

We are the 99 per cent.
We are emboldened.
We are seeing with new eyes.
We are listening with new ears.
We are ready to speak with a new and united voice.

My words, not theirs. Don’t expect a glossy leaflet with polished messaging. Organic movements don’t happen that way.

To my friends adopting a wait-and-see approach, I say: The least they can expect from progressives who have been criticizing the system (some since Woodstock) is a little help from their friends.

Occupy Wall Street, and the emerging movements flowing into Canada, is evidence that our democracy is alive and well; and that democracy happens in between trips to the ballot box, not just at election time.

The ground is heavily contested and powerful elites are counting on us to stay at home, turn on the TV, and passively judge whether the “reality TV” of real-life public demonstrations is worth pinning our hopes on or not.

The revolution is finally going to be televised but dude, do you seriously want to watch it from the comfort of your couch at home? Or do you want to be a part of it?

Occupy Canada is coming to a neighbourhood near you this weekend: https://rabble.ca/whatsup/occupy-arrives-canada-october-15.

Trish Hennessy

Trish Hennessy

Trish Hennessy is director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Ontario office. Follow her on Twitter: @trishhennessy