Monday, November 24, 2003

What makes an activist? A deep and undying love of resisting "the system"? A penchant for whining to everyone within earshot about the ills of the world, or of the foreign policy of the world's only superpower? Recycling his or her cans, bottles, paper, and donating to Greenpeace? What about chanting slogans in front of hundreds of shielded riot police?

For too long, I've been the sort that would respond "All of the above" when asked this question. Words are one thing, but direct action is another. I think that I am guilty of the most sinister crime a self-imagined activist could be accused of--not being active, aside from jabbering. I spend large parts of my life writing down my thoughts and spreading my ideas like some sort of textual plague. My talents are debatable, but I don't think anyone would even bother to do so. I do rail against aggression and oppression and occupation (what is it about that -ion suffix? It always goes with something to fight against!) but I never actually do anything about it!

Does talking about what needs to be done count? On a daily basis, I overwhelm my friends and allies with mildly preachy monologues about my pet subjects (U.S. Defense department behaviour, freedom, corporate enslavement, What is horribly evil about "Disney Inc.", the Israeli-Palestinian conflict & where all the settlers should relocate to, the list goes on...) and this tends to both annoy them and give them the urge to flee at all costs. Why don't I get through to them? And if I can't communicate verbally, what sort of writer can I suppose to be?

I know that New Years is still a puff of smoke on the horizon but I am going to make my resolution a bit early. I want this next year to be one of activity--I want to volunteer, be a part of true activism (ie. beyond rallies & ranting) and doing something positive for the world instead of just talking the talk. I suppose I'll keep writing, too, because it keeps my hands warm through these frigid Montreal winters. I'll do my best to limit my blathering to loved ones, and maybe I'll cut it out completely in 2005.

Hey, not to leap topics at the toss of a cap, but the Montreal transit strike that I've been mentioning lately ended on Sunday! Islanders will be eternally grateful to the navy blue team of tricksters (S.T.M. Employees) who exercised their freedom to protest and gauged the Quebec taxpayer for a salary increase of 7.8 percent over the next 4 years.(Check Google News for details). After reading that their average salary is about $47,000 per year, I lusted for a career opportunity at the S.T.M. They enjoy many fringe benefits in addition to such a generous salary, at least when compared to what employees in the private sector (ie. sales, retail, warehouse, etc.). Clerks that sit in the booths at the gates of metros citywide are reading books, right now, while getting paid handsomely to refuse to offer directions, feigning ignorance of the local streets and alleys.

Just seeing such antics makes me pity the poor McDonald's employees that slave away robotically for their stipend of $7.30 an hour (Canadian!). Having already suffered the pain of seeing 80 hours of work become diluted into a measly 23 twenty-dollar bills ($460), I know how it feels to be one of the "working poor". How can we beat this cycle of inhumanity?

Could unions be the answer for all retail employees? How can we improve legislation to protect the creation and organization of unions? Most attempts at starting unions result in closure of the establishment in question and obvious resistance from the corporate HQ. If every worker suddenly became part of a union, would this catapult our nation into a recession, with local retail outlets floundering? This should be addressed if we are to give everyone access to a reasonable standard of living. Through strong-arm tactics like the one the S.T.M. employed to such great benefit, let the Wendy's employees become a force to be reckoned with. Let that McJob pay twice as much and make it a viable career option instead of a transitional job to pay the bills.

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