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Monday, 7 November 2011

Occupy movement – what are you fighting for? The Inequity Rebellion

 “1-2-3-4 what are we fighting for” was the rage at Woodstock in 1969, sung by Country Joe McDonald.  It was an anti-Vietnam protest song that reflected a generation that was rebelling. Fast forward now some 42 years –almost two generations and the new generation “Y”ers are starting to speak out.  The 2011 Occupy movement is the current rage globally and founded in Canadian roots Adbusters.   
The focus of the revolt is the 99% speaking out against the 1% who now constitutes almost 25% of the income in the US.  

Most notably is how this share of the income has grown disproportionately over the decades since the peak of the anti-Vietnam protests. The challenge in the Occupy movement, is that while the streets have been filled and the tent cities have been erected, the knowledge and passion on the lines reflects the lack of focus of a generation squeezed by outdated economic policies, challenged to break into job markets and pushed out of decision making.   The internal rage looking for an outlet, and the Occupy movement has provided the same.   It is a subtle form of revolution that can be criticized for its lack of specificity, but should not be overlooked as future social leaders begin to encroach on traditional government structures.
While the Conservatives effectively won a majority nationally, there was a second message arising from portions of the country that were quietly revolting. The insertion of significant youth into the opposition and the rise of the New Democratic Party are reflections of a discontented generation, further isolated by a financial crisis that they have carried the burden, but clearly own only a fraction of the reason. 
On the surface, public health professionals might distance themselves from what is a revolt against financial policies and rampant consumerism – but lets remember the real reason.  This is a movement against inequities, and a key driver of poor health is the inequitable distribution of wealth.  If you did not view the Wilkinson lecture that was posted a week ago, take the 15 minutes today to look at it  Wilkinson lecture .  Here is the synchronicity with the public health agenda manifest for all to see. 
The death of a 20 year old at the Occupy Vancouver site can either be a martyrdom of the cause, or the start of the slow demise of the “inequity rebellion”.   The least we in public health can do, is support their noble efforts.

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