An Open Letter To Occupy Ottawa

A follow up to this post.


I have made it abundantly clear to the world that I want this to movement to succeed. If anyone thinks different, then I can’t bother with them at all. But if you guys can’t take a little constructive critique from people who care, then you are in the wrong war. This movement is as serious and as real as it gets, so you need to make it count.

What I can offer is a bit of guidance. I am no expert on organization or anything, but I do know a few high-ranking activists, former activists, reporters, MPs, TV and radio people, and local comedians and artists and business people. Many of them want to help, but too many of them are face-palming about this People’s Mic and all the other stuff they regard as silly.

Obviously I am no Maude Barlow or David Suzuki, but I am what one would call a “name” activist locally (which, I concede, is no grounds for bragging). But it would have done you guys a lot more good to have me boasting about your event last Saturday instead of complaining that it looked disorganized and that the “organizers” were being coy. I am sure The Citizen wanted to give you guys good ink, but they can only report what they see.

Now the reason I don’t spend more time and energy getting wet and shouting every five words back at people with all of you, is mostly because I am 42, I am disabled, I live with an epileptic and I have to stay as sharp as a fire-spotter all day and night. I can barely do what I do, let alone start doing more of the kind of stuff I couldn’t do on a bet back when I was a well man.

So what I would suggest – if I were there addressing a crowd or small group – first and foremost, LOSE the people’s mic. It is the very thing that embodies everything that 99% OF the 99%……. finds annoying and silly about this movement.

You obviously have no idea how dumb it looks. You couldn’t, because if you did, you would have left a long time ago. Like in the first five minutes. I know you guys might think it is novel or revolutionary or whatever, but from where the rest of us are sitting, it literally looks like a Monty Python sketch.

I cannot stress this enough. It makes the 1% and most of the 99% howl with laughter. I am not telling you this to be derisive, more like someone trying to warn you that your skirt is all bunched in the back of your pantyhose.

Honestly: I don’t say that to make you feel bad. I say it as a way of addressing tactics. This tactic is not going to get your numbers up. It will, indeed, keep your numbers low, like nothing else.

GET a bullhorn. That’s all. No need for a full PA, as you don’t have a crowd to blare to – yet – and they also cost money and drink power like an arc welder, and pose a safety risk in the wet.

Next, a simpler form of voting than the finger jiggle thing. Lots of this general assembly decision-making stuff can be hammered out on line over the course of the evening and night and morning. Then, when people gather at noon or whatever time is decided, they already know when, where, what it is for, what sign to bring, and the media can stay instantly abreast of your actions 24/7. I would suggest that you get the alpha-geek that you hopefully have on staff to make the site and get that geek stuff up and running.

All of your GA’s could be on line. More people involved means more democratic, right? Fewer people getting colds and sore voices in the outdoor GA meetings means more time and energy for actual protest-attending.

I am merely suggesting these tweaks. Not major overhaul of the whole system. If you want to get more people, you need to look a) more professional, and b) more organized.

Which brings me to something my wife said this morning: “Patch the holes and iron out the wrinkles of the fabric we already have. Never mind trying to design a whole new fabric.” To me, she means, be realistic: The 1% are not going to just fall over and let a brand new hippie-style democracy arise from the ashes. The most likely outcome – if we are very successful – is that the laws will be changed somewhat to make some of this shit a bit fairer for more people. That will be success.

Now, as to the rest of the tent city and all that: I commend you all on your dedication to the cause – as vague as it may be – and would never try to dishonor your commitment and hard work. The NCC probably pulled your power for danger reasons. Unlike Bluesfest, you have no permit, thus no insurance. Any one of you sprains an ankle in that park and it could be a huge court case costing the city millions. Someone leaves a power cord on the damp ground, suddenly everyone is tingling with 120. Believe me – 120 can kill, so you guys better be super, extra, doubleplus careful down there in those puddles.

Also. Vinegar. As a person with multiple health issues and chemical sensitivities, I have learned much about these things. Get as much vinegar as you can. Soak a rag, wipe everything.

Ev. Ree. Thing.

Spray bottles on food areas. Then wipe away. Rinse food areas after of course. Vinegar is cheap and super effective and best of all non-toxic.

Aside from that, I would suggest assigning one person as the media spokes person so the media has someone to talk to and to build a rapport with – if you haven’t already. I could have been that person. I am extremely comfortable talking to media, they know me, I know how to explain stuff in simple terms for an audience (my first language is Hillbilly, second is english), and to reporters…. and have been repeatedly commended for being remarkably well-spoken. So I am still open to doing that for you, but only after some more focus and sensibility is established (re the people’s mic, et al).

Sadly, I cannot lend my official support to that particular form of silliness. Nor sadly, will any of my comedian friends, some of whom I think would be only too happy to do a show for you guys for fun or a benefit show to raise money.

Finally, I could, possibly, be persuaded to bring out my Jesus costume and show up in character if you wanted to do something with that. But it would have to be the right combination of funny, poignant, and – of course – deeply offensive to the status quo.

So there it is. Some constructive critique and an offer to help, if certain things change. I am not telling you to change, I am just telling you that if you change these things, I predict you will have greater numbers and thus, greater impact.

If I had wanted you to fail, I would have just taken the time and energy that I just spent on this nice post, and turned it into a scathing commentary (that would be far more likely to make the papers than this nice version). Which is why I haven’t done that. I am most sincerely and vehemently trying to get you guys to up your game, and giving tips as to how to do so.

This is cut-and-paste activism, guys. You focus yourselves a bit more, I predict more sponsorship and support. You need to get the farmers to come in with their tractors to block up traffic, for example. How are you going to do that? If you stick to this People’s Mic plan you seem to have now, I predict increasingly fading interest.

Kick all of this around amongst yourselves, and get back to me if you need my help or services, or whatever.

With affection,

Russell Barth, Oct. 20, 2011

About russellbarth

Trying to end marijuana prohibition, and educate people about marijuana, diet, prohibition, and sustainable living.
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