The Winter of Our Discontent
By Sue Ellis of key life journeys
In the early hours of Thursday morning the sun was stalled over the tropic of Capricorn, paused and then began moving north again. Light was returning for more moments, and in greater strength, to the northern hemisphere. In that more conscious light, I went back to St.James Park in Toronto. I had been there last the evening that Occupy Toronto had received its eviction notice.
As soon as the park had been vacated, the city explained that tax payers would have to shell out between $20,000 and $60,000 to replace the destroyed grass. Tax payer angst was raised. Immediately citizens donated money towards the reconstruction. I suggest that many donors were true believers that the voice of the Occupy movement should be heard; their questions should vibrate through the consciousness of our city/country/world.
However let's look at these relevant words uttered in 1822.
Today the rhetoric uses “the 99%” to mean the mass of people and the term “1%” to name those who controlled “this or that arrangement;” A situation that led ultimately to the 1837-38 Rebellions in Upper Canada. Those in charge were the elite members of parliament, business and church who embraced the “family compact.”(If you need a history lesson – as I did - click on family compact)
Let’s fast forward to December 2012 and newspapers announced that The Ontario Sod Growers Association would donate the sod for St. James Park and lay it. This was worth about $150,000.
“We can always use good news,” said McConnell, whose ward includes the park, temporary home of Occupy Toronto until the city ended their month-long stay Nov. 23.
“Volunteers and parks workers will lay the sod which is slated to arrive on 12 transport trailers, McConnell said.”
McConnell is the local city politician, she supported the Occupy Movement, she supported the community getting together to restore the park. On line comments trounce her photo ops. But it would appear that the generosity of the sod growing industry and the local businesses who provided coffee, food etc came from mixed motives. For many it was more about removing a scar of reality from the consciousness of the locals and ensuring fido had a very green place to deposit his excrement. I quote-
“Our goal was to rehabilitate the park in a horticulturally correct manner from the ground up, rather than let it fall to a lowest bid tender, have its scope reduced and have the end product only last a short while by a limited budget- In short, it was an opportunity to display the professional skills of landscapers and lawn & tree care professionals who work in a relatively unglamorous profession. ……Yes, the positive exposure can’t hurt (I guess an effective way to avoid that benefit would be to never do anything positive?)”
The sod growers actually did provide a good service. Their cost was over twice the City would have paid to re-sod the park. The quality of work done would ensure longevity and sustainability of the park. A money strapped City could never pay for the quality of work provided. Only the 1% could afford that quality workmanship.St.James Park reminds us of the generosity of some, and the quality of care that the majority can expect. The big divide.
Yes, many companies were willingly giving back both to the Occupy Movement and to those who re-sodded the grass. The sod growers had an opportunity to promote the value of cut grass to the environment. I have no problem with the sharing of wealth and the advertising that comes with it. Now the homeless can enjoy the greenery from the park benches and watch the pigeons, squirrels and sparrow as I did amid the chimes from St.James Cathedral. However while Occupy Toronto were there, the homeless had rooves, food and dignity.
Regarding cut grass, I am removing it from my garden. It requires precious water, dangerous chemicals and electricity to cut. Of course I could use a gas mower but I think the carbon monoxide produced would outweigh the oxygen released by my blades of severed grass.
On the same webpage above, I read the rant in the comment section -
“let’s see if my conservative views get screened yet again and not allowed to be posted. Ok, the losers who occupied a piece of park for their own selfish reasons should foot the bill for the park and the damage they caused. You had no cause, and no reason to do what you did! The idiots who claim to be part of the movement are stupid and losers. Get a life, get a job and please stop milking the system.”
“You have no cause, and no reason to do what you did.” I shake my head in wonder at those whose head is in the sand; who fail to hear the message that is being carried in the wind of change.
May I suggest that everyone take a walk in the park. You can’t walk on the grass yet for the city – with city logo proclaims “Keep off – new sod.”
Take a walk in the park and stand on the path near the gazebo from which much soul searching was uttered along with the drum beats. To the east is a plinth and the bronze head of Robert Gourlay 1778 - 1863.
Below his name are written the words-
Banished from Upper Canada in 1819 on false charges of sedition brought by the Family Compact. His writings had an impact on events leading to the 1837 rebellion.
On the north side is the inscription –
Robert Gourlay championed reform ahead of his time.
In Scotland - a vote for every man who could read and write
In England - a living wage for workers
In Canada - fair land distribution
The words on the south side are those photographed at the start of this post.
Read the history of Upper Canada and the Rebellion of the 99% led by William Lyon McKenzie – A Canadian traitor in Gourlays eyes yet Gourlay had sown the seeds of discontent when fighting the power of the Family Compact. Read about the Lower Canada rebellion against the Clique du Château, a group of wealthy families in the early 19th century in Quebec. Those in control, opposed to democracy saw themselves as Tories. The term Conservative was later coined.
One of those leaders of the Lower Canada Rebellion was Louis-Joseph Papineau.
Fast forward to 1937
The Mackenzie–Papineau Battalion or Mac-Paps were a battalion of Canadians who fought as part of the XV International Brigade on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. Except for France, no other country gave a greater proportion of its population as volunteers in Spain than Canada. By summer 1937 some 1,200 Canadians were involved in the conflict and a separate battalion was formed for them in early May. Two months later it was named for William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis-Joseph Papineau, who led the 1837 Rebellions.…. In April 1937 the Canadian government passed the Foreign Enlistment Act, outlawing participation by Canadians in foreign wars, and the Customs Act, which provided for government control over arms exports. Thus it became illegal for Canadian citizens to serve in the Spanish Civil War.
The Canadians who died in the Spanish Civil War are not included in the Books of Remembrance in the Peace Tower and their sacrifice is not commemorated on federal war memorials or in Remembrance Day services. Those who survived the war are not entitled to veterans' benefits.
Lest we forget, they were fighting against facsism because of their own convictions, not because it was politically correct. Later a world war was fought to overthow facism. But in 1937 it was not politically correct in Canada or the US to be fighting facism – after all, war machines were good for business – and provided wealth for the 1%.
Do I sound bitter? Oh perhaps some frustration about the lack of higher consciousness shown by those who only serve their own self interest. Go to the park which lies on the east side of St.James Cathedral. Sit and ponder your contribution to the world at large. Have your Christmas presents or Channuka gifts been bought from manufacturers creating Canadian jobs or from companies making bigger profits by outsourcing to other countries?
To the ranter who said of the Occupiers of St. James Park “Get a life, get a job and please stop milking the system” – for the holiday season will your gifts take people out to dinner in local restaurants or buy gift cards to coffee shops or local health spas? Did you give a donation to a local charity in the name of a loved one? Then you did your bit. You helped to create jobs. If on the otherhand you bought a gift or received one made in China – remember the person who made it does not receive the minimum wage, lives in a dormatory and works more hours a week away from their family than you would be prepared to do.
We all have a role to play in the quality of life of our neighbour. No child should live in poverty. No person should live in fear for his/her safety. Why can we not all have a roof over our head? What price dignity?
My province of Ontario and the next door neighbour of Quebec have historic precidence for the elite being self indugent at the expense of those less fortunate. As I’ve researched this post, I have become more aware of what has brought us to where we are today.
The sun is moving closer to the northern hemisphere. The light that brings new life. Take a walk in the park. The last rose of summer is still blooming near the gazebo. Ponder Gourlay’s beliefs and think about the implications of your words and actions. Which side of the next Arab spring will you be on; will there need to be another rebellion?