Reality calling.

I don’t quite celebrate the erosion over even outright loss of naive ideals that comes about through life experience. We need those starry goals and ideals when young in order to keep ourselves optimistic and pursuing outcomes even if they may be impossible in reality. Growing past the unreasonable ideals is a part of growing up as well and it is an important one. We do see people who never managed to outgrow their ideals on occasion. They usually are sporting thin, greying braids and a buckskin jacket with a tie-dye shirt underneath. The rest of the folks of that idealistic generation learned through life experiences that one has to compromise to “the man” to a degree and pursue the less savory but very important things in life such as a career and independently sustainable lifestyle.

Some years ago I listened to a radio documentary on CBC where some former residents of a 70s commune outside of Edmonton related their stories of their time pursuing the ideal hippy lifestyle. None sounded regretful and most looked back at it as a growing experience for themselves. They all were utterly confident in the futility of the socialist communal lifestyle as well. Nothing drives those lessons home better than trying to live the idealistic dream. As with countless other communes in the 60s/70s this one fell apart within a couple years. Tensions grew quickly as it was soon discovered that a small portion of the folks were doing the majority of the work while a larger portion sat around smoking weed. The free-love concept was wonderful until somebody actually saw somebody of romantic interest literally enjoying the sexual embrace of another in front of them. Resentment grew, people came and went and the whole thing faded away. The reality is that human nature does not allow for any true communal living no matter how pretty the ideal sounds.

The only communes that are or have had much success and staying power have had a unifying factor keeping in the people together and motivated. That is most often religion as with Israeli kibbutzs or even Hutterite colonies. A vague notion of inequity and socialism has never been enough of a unifying power to keep other communes together.

A generation later and we see the same sort of doe-eyed pursuit of impossible ideals in our “occupy” movement. The ideas of consensus and the talking points are the same. Unfortunately for them, there has been utterly no unifying factor in this disparate gathering of the discontented. There is anti-capitalist mutterings, vague general inequity ramblings, statements about homelessness the environment, currency systems, electoral systems and on and on and on and on. There is no war such as Vietnam to pull these guys together nor any common religious link. There are no social inequities such as there were for black people in the USA in the 60s and there is no dictatorship as the folks in Arab Spring dealt with.

Due to this lack of a cohesive cause and lack of any real identifiable general hardship in Canada, the “occupy” movement simply has not taken off in Calgary. Very few Calgarians are supportive of the campers in Olympic Plaza and outright opposition is growing to the squatting as we see estimates of the damages to the park rise and we hear of more legitimate events and groups being compromised due to the squatters in the park.

What this has left is pretty much a small group of the hardcore of their movement. These are likely the folks we will see still sporting braids in a couple decades as they simply will never let their ideals go no matter how inane or impossible they may be.

What has been interesting to see though is that some of them are learning some lessons. These are hard lessons but they are important ones. In the larger (and arguably much more legitimate) protest in New York, the ideals abounded to begin with. The poor souls displaced by capitalism could find sanctuary in a nice big communal campground near Wall Street where volunteer chefs could feed them organic free range beans and lentils or whatever. Unfortunately, before long it was determined that many who were eating the food were not underprivileged. Many mouths were simply those of freeloaders. The Chefs of Occupy Wall Street have now begun to refuse to cook for the freeloaders. The ideals are waning.

On a local level we can see that these lessons are happening to a degree with our Calgarian Occupy crowd. I thank Lonnie Taylor for tweeting some of the resolutions from yesterday’s occupy Calgary meeting. I honestly would like to attend one of these things but am caught working in Eastern Pennsylvania for a few more days. Should we be unfortunate enough to still have people squatting in our park when I get back, I will be sure to pop by for a visit.

Now apparently a fellow named “Paul” has taken it upon himself to enforce security around the encampment. An unfortunate reality is that when one shuns conventional forms of security such as our city police, we will either have anarchy grow or people will take things into their own hands. When people take things into their own hands they often are not as fair, controlled, predictable or restrained as proper law enforcement officers despite the often collective loathing of occupiers of “The man’s” police force. Many people drawn to these encampments have some serious issues and a degree of control is simply needed. There was a bizarre incident with the occupy camp in Toronto for example where a fellow was sneaking into tents in order to sniff women’s feet.

Now apparently the occupiers have resolved to no longer provide tents and food to those who have not been a part of the movement. How membership in this movement is to be determined may be dicey. I thought that the movement was directly tied into the occupation in itself so wouldn’t simply being present mean one is part of the “movement”. Does one have to tweet about their involvement to be included? Is there a formal means of membership?

Look I understand why the occupiers are having to make these tough decisions. Some have tried to cloak this movement into being a thing about homelessness. Many felt that if misunderstood homeless people were simply invited into their commune and shown love that these people will act in control and will happily participate with the occupation. Reality is unfortunately dealing a hard slap in the face to naive idealism here.

Yes, homelessness is a problem in Calgary. There are homeless people in every city in the planet. We have had homeless people since the first human fabricated a shelter and we will have homeless people until an asteroid or something ends life on earth. I am not dismissing homelessness by any means nor do I think for a second that we should stop efforts to reduce it. I am just saying that if we really want to deal with chronic homelessness we need to work within the bounds of reality.

The reality is that the majority of the homeless people encountered on the streets of Calgary are suffering either from addiction or mental health issues. These people have had an extremely rough time and are not able (or often even willing) to try and integrate with society in a settled home. These people can be volatile and even dangerous at times. A deeply addicted person will not hesitate to steal from or lie to other people if they think it may lead to their next fix.

Certainly some people simply have a bad chain of events or decisions and they find themselves homeless for a time. These people are the ones most likely to take advantage of the programs and housing we have available and these people are likely to climb out of their rut with some help. These people are not the chronically homeless and these are not the ones we see moving into the “occupy” camps.

I suspect that the occupiers are learning that the aforementioned people do not belong in a communal tent camp. Simply welcoming these people with open arms and good intent has and will backfire. Complex counselling and treatment by professionals is required for these people. We certainly can discuss whether society is providing enough of these services to these people. Personally I think it is a gross embarrassment that we have followed a foolish and idealistic trend of deinstitutionalization of people with mental impairment which has led to many unfortunate souls being either on the streets or in the correctional system. I am digressing however.

What I am getting at is the point that no matter how good the intentions may be, the occupy Calgary is doing absolutely nothing for the homeless.  The group is not raising awareness of the issue because the group is spreading dozens of messages in a shotgun approach to all that they see as the ills of our society. In light of the recent meeting resolutions thing many of the remaining “occupiers” are realizing this.

What the rest of the “occupiers” need to realize now is that their little campout is really doing utterly nothing for whatever cause they may be claiming to represent. Camping in a park is simply wasting time and pissing off your fellow man who is paying the bill.

Retain your ideals guys. Go out and fight the inequities. We have all sorts of groups whether charitable, government, religious or even political that work to ease all sorts of problems in our city and country.  All of these groups happily welcome contributions whether through volunteering or fiscally and all can claim at least some degree of measurable success.

Yes it is a lot of work to take part in these groups though. It can be tiring and thankless. It is not nearly as easy as squatting in a park for a campout.

Are the occupiers truly interested in making real changes or are they simply kids camping?

Personally I think the productive have already moved beyond this group. How many are really there now? 20? 30? It is time for the rest of them to move on to better things.

I do hope that the city gets around to enforcing our bylaws and kicking the occupiers from our park before they do more damage. I am happy to see these guys learning life lessons. I am tired of seeing this learning experience happening on the backs of the taxpayers as our park continues to get damaged and other citizens have their rights to use the park displaced.

Reality is often hard but is always much more productive than blind ideology.

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Time to take back Olympic Plaza!

This embarrassing and expensive scene has gone on long enough. A small collection of squatters has been camped in our taxfunded park illegally for weeks now and the damages and costs are beginning to mount up. These kids have done an estimated $40,000 in damage alone to our park and the costs will only rise.

The Muslim Heritage day event which was booked and paid for in good faith will now have to hold their event in a dirty park (cant maintain and clean properly with squatters camping) and they will have less space than anticipated due to these tenters. Another group that had booked the plaza for Monday is now seeking a new location as will another group that is booked for Wednesday if we do not kick these kids out of our park.

Olympic Plaza was never designed for camping and due to that the damages are mounting up fast. Costs for extra policing and additional maintenance are building up. How many thousands of dollars will have to be refunded to the legitimate groups that have booked and paid for the plaza that will have to relocated due to the city allowing illegal squatting in our park?

This is a sad and expensive joke and is an embarrassment to our city. There is NO reason that we can’t evict these squatters from our park. There is a hollow and weak case being made that these squatters are protected by the Canadian Charter in this. That again is simply a load of BS. Speech is protected as is expression. Both speech and expression are possible without illegally camping in a downtown park. No rights are being repressed through evicting these kids.

If indeed that cowardly excuse of possible charter issues is valid, then I suggest that none of us in the entire city of Calgary need abide by bylaws ever again. The “occupy” group has never really explained exactly what they are protesting. I guess those of us who ignore other bylaws will not need a real reason for our protest either. If I refuse to licence my dog, I have a charter defense in it. I need only say “I don’t like social inequity and I am not licencing in protest”. By city council logic I am covered by the charter. Can I use this defense if I don’t pay parking tickets? Can I occupy a free seat on the C-Train in protest and make a charter challenge if I get a ticket?

Storage is expensive. I suggest that people should park their RVs and fifth-wheels in Calgary parks. Heck you can even camp there when you please. Dig a firepit for yourself. Vandalize the local bathrooms and displace other people using the park. It is OK. Just claim some vapid complaint about the way the world is and claim your action is your means of expression.

Is it becoming clear yet why making an exception in our bylaws for this gang of camping kids is a big deal? To most people it is something of a no-brainer.

Our city council is hiding in collective fear of the potentially poor optics that may happen if we actually enforce the law and kick these kids from the park. We need to take away their excuses. The fear of a charter challenge is utter BS as demonstrated above. I don’t think we really need to sweat a bunch of ragtag hipsters organizing and taking the city to court on a charter challenge anyway. That is simply way too much work for them. There is no charter right for squatting.

Another common dodge used by city councilors is claiming that there have been few complaints. From what I heard from the person on the other end of a 311 call, there have been many complaints already. Still, we need to ramp up the complaints.

Don’t let our city officials hide on this issue and lets not let these squatters cost the taxpayers any more than they already have!!

We must register our complaints and it must spread. Below are the means to contact city hall and your councilors. Use them and spread the word to neighbors and coworkers who are tired of this. Clearly city hall won’t move without some heavy prodding on this issue.

To begin with, simply call 311. There is an option for bylaw complaints. While on a coffee break give the number a dial and make a formal complaint of people camping after-hours in Olympic Plaza.

Calling is most effective but online complaints can be filed here if that is preferred.

Contacting the aldermen themselves is effective as well. They do try to hide direct contact information when possible. The beginnings of contact information for aldermen can be found here and here though.

On twitter many of our aldermen follow the #yyccc hashtag. Tweet them directly if you are on and demand that our park be cleaned up. Some but not all of our city council is on twitter. Their twitter handles are below.

@nenshi @yycgael @councilorkeats @pootmans @aldjonmar @bpincott @bigredyyc @peterdemong @druhfarrell

This issue will not go away until we as citizens make it go away. We can’t let city hall bury their heads on this while countless thousands of dollars are wasted, our park gets further damaged and innocent groups get displaced from events booked and paid for in good faith. Email tweet and call whoever you can on this folks. It has to come to an end and soon.

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Time to move these “occupiers” on.

I was going to begin by saying something like “alright, these guys have made their point and now it is time to move on.”. I then realized that the “occupy” Edmonton and Calgary squatters haven’t even figured out what their point is much less made one. The bottom line is that they are a bunch of bored, spoiled malcontents trying to seek a sense of purpose through complaining rather than working whether in an employed sense or in the political/activist sense that our great free nation provides. Taxpayers are paying and people who have legitimately booked parks for functions are at risk of being displaced by these squatters. Park maintenance is falling behind and we may see delays in the outdoor skating rink that we pay for as taxpayers.

Appeasement with this small group of squatting complainers is a waste of time. The city graciously set aside and allowed free camping at St. Patrick’s Island for this. The motley group of the entitled turned up their noses at this and began to squat in our Olympic Plaza  instead. Now should people want to spend an afternoon with their kids on the grass in our downtown park, they will have to weave between tents and protest signs. The “occupiers” have demanded condoms by the way so I would suggest not getting too close to those tents.

I find it outright offensive when I see these directionless layabouts comparing themselves to to the revolutionaries participating in the recent “Arab Spring”, Martin Luther King and even Gandhi. These guys live in one of the most prosperous cities in the most prosperous province in one of the most prosperous countries on earth. Canada is not perfect but we have some of the most open and democratic rights as individuals on the planet in living here. For these “occupiers” to liken themselves to those living in third world dictatorships where civil rights are simply a dream is insulting to say the least. I even saw one person vacuously  claiming that medieval peasants have better standards of living than Canadians do.

On twitter and facebook I have seen people try to claim that if we evict these squatters from our parks that we will violate their charter rights. Sorry folks but that is complete, total, unadulterated bullshit. These guys have full free speech. They have been exercising it on the latest apps as they tweet about their trials and tribulations with their Iphones. We have free expression. The protest and march was allowed and demonstrations will continue to be allowed. That covers free assembly too. In most of the other countries in the world this group would have been locked up in the planning stages of their protest and definitely assaulted when the march began. We rightly have and protect all of those rights to assemble and speak here in Canada.

The self-styled occupying stooges however feel that they have a charter right to camp in a city park. Sorry guys, simple by-law enforcement is not a violation of your rights. I used the analogy before in that if I kicked out people squatting in my backyard I have not violated their rights to assembly, speech or expression. They have all of those rights. They just can’t camp in my yard. It is not that complicated.

It is clear that this handful of people truly do have nothing better to do. To appease and wait them out will be to allow them to turn our beautiful city park into a shantytown that city citizens and visitors will avoid. These guys are playing the game that kids would do where they put their finger as close to your nose as possible and repeatedly chant “Im not touching you” until the victim of the annoyance finally slaps the hand away. The child then will claim they have been wronged of course. It is time to give these kiddies a lesson in life and kick them out of our park. They can go to a campground, back to their mom’s basement or even get a job and a home. Playtime in the taxpayers park is over.

This cause and this group has become an outright laughingstock and even folks on the left are distancing themselves from the remnants squatting in parks. Corbella at the Herald went and visited the park and interviewed the squatters in person. They indeed proved themselves to be as vapid and directionless as they appeared on the outside. In a followup Corbella found that they are not learning anything as time passes.

City bylaws exist for a reason. I don’t agree with all of them and I often feel that we have too many of them. That being said, when you are going to have over a million people living in an area, a degree of regulation is required. I can’t  simply ignore parking rules if I feel the federal government did something I disagreed with and my free assembly rights will not be violated if my vehicle gets towed away. I can’t dispose of motor oil in my garbage and I cant open a commercial production facility in a residential area. I can’t camp in city parks as well.

As I said in the beginning, it is time to kick these kiddies out of our park. If we want to simplify it lets just say it is a matter of bylaw enforcement.

Perhaps (though I hold out limited hope), the eviction of these complainers may help inject a dose of reality into their worlds. We have a myriad of democratic and free means to pursue changes to our governance and system. People can form/join political parties and activist groups. Rallies can be held and marches can be organized. Letters can be written and doors can be knocked (all that work terrifies some though). Sitting around in a park complaining is not an effective (or legal) way to get anything done. Perhaps the bylaw boot to the collected bottoms of this bunch of squatters will encourage them to move on to something productive.

Our city council has been unsurprisingly reticent on this issue. With members such as Farrell and Pincott in there this sort of turning a blind eye to our laws is to be expected I guess. Some on council have some common sense though. I strongly encourage everybody to email members of city council and demand that they enforce our park bylaws as vigourously as they do with our parking bylaws.

If we are going to have regulation and laws, they must be evenly enforced.

Edit:: I want to add this fellow’s video. He hits the nail on the head quite well in describing a day in the life of an “occupier”

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