By Sean Bozkewycz, Occupy Revelstoke member
When Occupy Revelstoke came into being at Sangha Bean in November, none of us knew exactly what we were about to experience. The individuals who comprise Occupy Revelstoke are retirees and youths, students and self-employed, small business owners and retail employees, foreigners, long term locals and returned Revelstoke ex-pats, artisans and ski-bums, seasoned activists and freshly awakened newcomers. Over the preceding months and years we have followed our own unique paths of gradual awakening, culminating in our coming together as Occupy Revelstoke.
We are united by a shared feeling that the path we are on as a society is unsustainable. We face enormous challenges as a species, yet we witness an utter vacuum of moral leadership from our elected representatives. In thousands of cities around the globe, people are coming together under the banner of Occupy to address this democratic deficit.
Ultimately, what Occupy Revelstoke seeks is a three-part process. The first step is engagement and education. We believe that if people were to think critically about the consequences of consumption-driven capitalist society, they would be less likely to willingly sustain it. Secondly, we hope to engender discussion, to open spaces for constructive dialogue. Engaged, informed citizens participating in a conversation about our future as a society is what is needed. From these discussions, the third element will naturally evolve – action.
In its simplest form, Occupy seeks to engage the citizens of Revelstoke, to occupy minds. True democracy requires educated and informed citizens but corporate media carries little in the way of critical analysis or broad perspective. This shouldn’t surprise – these establishments exist to create profit and serious journalism not only costs money, but also doesn’t sell papers or advertising space. Occupy wishes to motivate citizens to seek critical perspectives that challenge statements from corporations and governments instead of reprinting them verbatim.
PHOTO: Sean Bozkewycz
Among the many topics of exhaustive, intense discussion at our first meeting was what form Occupy Revelstoke should take. Physical occupation has served a great purpose in larger cities where it has provided invaluable visibility and an epicentre for alternative models of community and direct democracy to be tried and implemented. With one notable exception, a consensus coalesced around avoiding a physical occupation. Not only did we feel that with our small numbers that this would be unsustainable, we felt that tents in Grizzly Plaza would likely alienate the people of Revelstoke.
With physical occupation decided against, we contemplated other methods to engage with Revelstoke. On Saturdays in November we stationed ourselves on Mackenzie Avenue alternating between Grizzly Plaza and Revelstoke City Hall. With a few signs and big smiles we approached passers-by offering home-baked cookies and scones in return for a quick chat about Occupy. Our presence on the steps of city hall blossomed into a live jam when a banjo-playing busker joined us for an afternoon of singing and dancing. While a few wished to pass us by, the majority accepted a cookie and the opportunity to talk about Occupy and the society they inhabit. Many people had misgivings, yet the overwhelming majority was sympathetic to the concerns Occupy has raised into the collective consciousness.
We also approached the organizers of the Revelstoke Farm & Craft Market and were welcomed to set up a table at the community centre during the bi-weekly gathering. The market is an excellent example of positive action – local arts, crafts and produce in a friendly communal atmosphere. Come down on Thursday, Jan. 19 to see for yourselves!
Early on opening day at RMR, we set up a couch and a stove to serve free hot chocolate to the keen crowds waiting for their first turns of the season. The positivity was tangible as Occupy Revelstokers passed around steaming beverages, cookies and a few words of inspiring provocation through the queue. Although the development of Revelstoke as a resort-based economy is an interesting and necessary topic of discussion, we were not protesting skiing – Occupy firmly believes in having fun and shredding powder!
After the madness of the holiday period subsided Occupy Revelstoke was invited on the Stoke FM morning show. Three Occupy representatives shared the airwaves with co-hosts Joey and Annie, talking about where Occupy Revelstoke came from and where it is going. The fifteen-minute slot quickly extended to an hour and still left vast areas of discussion untouched. Stoke FM expressed interest in having Occupy return to the show soon, hopefully with a more interactive format that will allow listeners to ask questions and participate in the conversation.
In the coming months Occupy Revelstoke will continue to meet and discuss ideas for engaging the community. Regular film screenings with pot luck dinners and discussion will begin later this winter. To join the discussion, keep informed of upcoming events or express any questions or concerns, you can get in touch at www.facebook.com/OccupyRevelstoke. All are welcome at our meetings and events!
Sean Bozkewycz recently relocated to Revelstoke after spending five summers whitewater kayaking around British Columbia. [He is from Melbourne, Australia, and has studied politics and philosophy.]
Community Comment is a new feature in the Revelstoke Times Review. We invite community members to contribute opinion pieces focusing on issues that matter in our community. We welcome individual columnists or those representing an organization. Please contact editor Aaron Orlando for more information.