Again – for the second time in less than 15 months – I am gobsmacked.
I love that word, “gobsmacked”. It’s vaguely amusing, for starters, as are so many British words and expressions. And while it simply means “astounded” or “astonished”, it conveys a sense of simultaneous surprise, bewilderment, and perhaps even delight or horror.
Quite simply, “gobsmacked” perfectly expresses that you didn’t see that one coming.
I am gobsmacked about the Idle No More movement, just as I was about the Occupy movement which began just shy of 15 months ago.
Actually, to be more precise, it’s not the movements about which I am gobsmacked – it’s the reaction to them.
I could spend the rest of this rant on the ways in which Occupy and Idle No More differ in terms of their makeup and their tactics, and some of those differences are significant. But more relevant are two things they share:
- They are two of the most unfocused protest movements in my lifetime
- They both scare the living daylights out of the powers-that-be
Neither Occupy nor Idle No More can articulate what they want, and they’re at a total loss as to how to go about getting it. They have no clear leadership. Neither group has rioted in the streets or performed any act of civil disobedience more radical than camping out in the public square or blocking a railway mainline, highway or border crossing for an hour or two. Oh, and holding flash mob round dances in shopping malls – a tactic sure to bring a nation to its knees.
All they know for sure is that, for them, the system is broken.
You would have thought the powers-that-be would simply have ignored the Occupy protestors. Had they done so, I suspect Idle No More would never have happened. And yet, the amount of time spent and ink spilled by Establishment mouthpieces putting both groups down has been quite out of proportion to either movement’s direct impact.
I’d like you to take a moment and walk in the shoes of The Man. (Notice how soft and supple the leather is? Oh, sorry, I digress…) You have reached a certain age, a certain status and a certain income level. You have a vague recollection of your university days, of KD and cheap beer and hitchhiking across Canada or backpacking through Europe before you settled down to focus on your career, and while those memories bring a smile to your face, you sure wouldn’t want to have to go back to living like that – the beds in a Fairmont Hotel being quite a bit more comfortable than a hostel, and your back isn’t what it used to be. Remember the Beetle you used to drive, the one with the rusted out floorboard that let you watch the road zip by beneath you? Yeah, the Lexus is a sweeter ride. You have also worked hard to get where you are in business or politics and feel you’ve earned the right to be part of the inner circle calling the shots. Status isn’t just about the toys. It’s also about power, and influence….and control.
That’s the thing about Occupy and Idle No More. They’re both so unfocused that they can’t be controlled. Worse for The Man, each movement in its own way has resonated with so many others who also can’t put their finger on exactly what’s wrong or what to do about it. All they know for sure is that the system is broken.
I think The Man is unnerved because The Man knows it too.