I have no business comparing the situation in Egypt with that in the Western world. I do not have the slightest inkling what the Egyptians went through in the thirty years living under Mubarak. It is, nevertheless, coincidentally symbolic that Mubarak took power in 1981, because this was about the time when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were serving as leaders of the United States and United Kingdom, respectively. Their terms marked a dramatic global turn towards market fundamentalism (well documented in The Trouble with Billionaires, which I will be reviewing shortly) which has resulted in disastrous neoliberal economic policies which have continued to expand the gap between rich and poor around the world. The financial sector has been given carte blanche to take enormous risks with entire national economies, leading to the global crash of 2008. The bankers and hedge fund managers, rather than suffering a rebuke and being made to change their ways, were bailed out so that they could continue to gamble with other peoples’ money.
It is probably merely coincidental, but interesting nevertheless, that the current protests aimed at ousting dictators in the Middle East are roughly contemporaneous with a growing movement for economic justice in two of the world’s biggest economies. Spurred by the student protests of this past December, the UK Uncut movement is growing rapidly, and is poised to stage massive protests six days from now. An American counterpart has been sparked by the Wisconsin Union Protests, and has begun to follow the British model. More and more people have begun to question the assumptions of neoliberal economics, and a massive popular movement is starting to demand that those who profit most from our society be made to pay back into it.
I think it’s time for Canada to get in on the action. Currently, a Google search for “Canada Uncut” doesn’t yield much of interest. The twitter hashtag #canadauncut exists, but is empty save for a link to a facebook group that wants to get the ball rolling. I’m mainly writing this to publicize the idea.
Our largest city has a regressive mayor currently engaged in a detestable act of union-busting The government of my province is acting on the recommendations of an education report that is eerily similar to the British Browne Review that sparked the student protests which would became the UK uncut movement. And our country is currently under the nearly autocratic rule of a Prime Minister with a thing for budget cuts and corporate tax breaks. Stephen Harper is due to release a budget soon, and due to recent depressing polling data, I have a feeling that it will be his worst yet. The opposition parties have been dead in the water for fiveyears, so it’s about time we started helping ourselves. It’s time for the sixty-some percent of the country’s population that doesn’t support regressive bullshit to start fighting back.
Perhaps I don’t have the following to issue calls to action, but I’m nevertheless going to post a few ideas. First, take some time to read some of this book. I’ve started it, and it’s fantastic. It’s an account of the experiences of the UK Uncut movement, and has a lot that we can draw from. Second, join the Facebook group. Any useful movement will have to go beyond Facebook, of course, but social media has been shown to be the real strength of recent protests around the world. The same goes for my last suggestion: Follow @canadauncut on twitter, and start using the #canadauncut hashtag to express your thoughts and ideas. We need dialogue to start to shape this movement.
I realize that I’m dreaming big here, but I think that this has potential. A massive, decentralized economic justice movement using social media for organisation of direct action has seen success in Britain and the United States. We might as well give it a shot in Canada.