Monday 21 November 2011

Becoming an Activist

On the weekend I joined a couple hundred people and marched the streets in protest of Shale Gas, an industry which I believe will bring New Brunswick very little economic gain at a much higher cost to our quality of life, our communities, and our environment.

On the residential streets people inside houses would look out at us from behind curtains, interested in the collective action, drawn to the noise and chanting.  Outside, pedestrians would stop and watch us pass. I wondered at the line, imaginary and profound, between me, marching and chanting, actively trying to change the direction of government policy, and those who stood and watched.  Where does that line begin and end?
Certainly two years ago, ten years ago, I would be one of the bystanders.  So what has changed?

It might have something to do with experiencing first-hand the failure of bureaucratic systems.  For example, the informal administrative policies at the University I used to work for no longer valued me as an employee when I returned to work after a maternity leave, and instead promoted in small and large ways the man hired to replace me.  For years after I had to watch as he benefited from a framework that sidelined me. 
Some of the people in the houses, and on the sidewalks who stand and watch us pass, would like to join us.  Some are afraid of displeasing others, of how they will be judged. The vast majority though, likely think it has nothing to do with them; they are not aware of how often and how massively the systems in place are failing: they haven’t been sick, so haven't experience the healthcare mess; they are men or childless women, so haven’t experienced workplace sexism; they don't know about lax government policies such as those that have allowed the use chemicals like bisphenal- A to line the cans of tomatoes, causing infertility and other health problems (

Change will need a collective action by those who are already marching and those who currently stand by.  Though they are, or think they are being served by the status quo, it is becoming increasingly apparent to the population at large that many of the assumptions they live with are untrue, that many policies support industry before people, govenment before citizens, that current systems are not only unequal but self-serving. And this needs to change.

In the end a system that promotes one employee at the expense of another, or a system that favours the oil and gas company at the expense of the citizen, his/her water, and landscape, as current government policies do – is a system that leaves us all poorer.

I believe this article is relevant to the discussion here:

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