Saturday, September 24, 2011
Thinking outside the box: STOP HARPER!
Thinking outside the ballot box: Stop Harper
BY BRIGETTE DEPAPE
Rabble.ca - SEPTEMBER 22, 2011
Activist Brigette DePape was a page in the Canadian Senate when she came to the attention of the public on June 3, 2011 by a protest she made during the first throne speech of the majority government of Stephen Harper. By silently holding up a sign that said "Stop Harper!" she earned dismissal from her job, the media nickname "the rogue page," and the admiration of Canadians concerned with the undemocratic, ideologically extreme tendencies of the Harper government.
DePape has produced an extensive essay for the Council of Canadians on how we can be more engaged in political life and activism. rabble.ca is reprinting the essay in five parts, starting with part one today.
My experience discovering the power of direct action has been exhilarating. It has filled me with hope about our collective ability to transform this country for the better.
Many now know me as the page who held up a stop sign against Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But when I first moved to Ottawa to attend university, my aspirations were very different. I had no thoughts about turning Parliament into a site of protest. Instead, I wanted to take a comfortable place at its centre.
When I left my hometown of Winnipeg for Canada's capital, I came in part to join the Parliamentary Page Program. Back then, I saw Parliament as a means of bringing about much-needed social and political change. But living in Ottawa and working on the Hill, I began to understand our parliamentary system very differently. Far from serving to remedy injustice, it often seemed only to perpetuate it.
I was working as a page in the Senate when Harper secured his majority government with only 39.6 per cent of the popular vote. It had been difficult for me to watch the Conservative agenda move forward in a majority Conservative Senate. With a majority in the House of Commons as well, I knew it was about to get much worse. How could I continue to sit idly by as Harper pushed through a destructive agenda? I could no longer stay silent, so during the Speech from the Throne, I held up a bright red sign that read "Stop Harper."
I am moved by the thousands of people who were excited by my action. It shows that people in Canada are burning for change.
Harper will not be stopped within Parliament. With a Conservative majority in the House and in the Senate, he is free to implement the most damaging parts of his renegade program. For the next four years, we can expect corporate tax cuts, cuts to public services and pensions, erosion of public healthcare, free trade agreements that undermine democracy and labour standards, environmental degradation, and the expansion of the military and prisons. Even if all members of the opposition vote against Conservative policies, the policies will still pass.
I have come to realize that the only way to stop Harper is through grassroots activism. I have always been active in my community, but it was not until recently, and especially since my action in the Senate, that I have begun to discover the power of social movements and direct action.
Some people asked me if my being fired from my Senate job left me worried about my future. Actually, I have never been more hopeful. Working on the Hill, I felt trapped in an agenda and a system that I did not believe in. But as human rights activist and songwriter Joan Baez said, "Action is the antidote for despair." Now, working with social movements, I am more optimistic than ever about tomorrow. While the Conservative government tries to make a mess of our country, social movements are working tirelessly to stop it. They are the hope for real change in Canada.
Since my action, I have been excited to deepen my understanding of direct action: what it is, its source of power, and how historically it has led to positive change in Canada and around the world.
In this paper I write about discovering what people power is and the power of direct action; about how our power as citizens extends beyond voting to dissenting, which should be viewed as both a right and responsibility. I will explore direct action in the current Canadian context and how people power can stop Harper. I look at how Harper's agenda is part of broader systemic problems. I explore the rich tradition of direct action in Canada from which our movement can build on and how intergenerational solidarity can be an important part of this. I look at the effects of taking action and the incredible impact it can have on each of us. I conclude with my thoughts about Canada's future and the power a broad-based people's movement could have.
People power is greater than the power of any government.
In our culture, we are misled to believe that power lies in the hands of wealthy politicians and their corporate allies. For example, the prime minister and the Queen give orders to the Usher of the Black Rod (my former boss) who gives orders to the chief page, who gives orders to the deputy chief page, who gives order to the Senate page (formerly me). We are led to believe that power flows only from the top down. From this perspective, workers obey those in higher positions or else we face sanctions: for me that meant getting fired ... CONTINUE READING BRIGETTE DE PAPE'S STORY
What Nikiforuk describes is what Brigitte dePape expresses so well: "Far from serving to remedy injustice, it (parliament) seemed only to perpetuate it."
Thanks for sharing dePape's column with us Mary. She's very impressive for one so young.
Brigette DePape has a good writiing style and i think, has a good future ahead of her.
It needs to be said that the current federal political scene is too damn depressing and the government too damn focused on pleasing the very rich corporations. They do so at the risk of civil disobediance and a sound trouncing in the next election.
British columbia needs a few people like Brigette DePape around to help us rid the province of the cancerous BC Liberal party doctrine. Time will come when people wake up and then all hell will break loose.
Thanks for the link Mary - much appreciated.