Commentary

Can Occupy NS halve student debt?

Today's commentary on the local protests.

Occupy Nova Scotia protestors at Grand Parade Square in downtown Halifax on October 15. Photo: Bianca Müller

Occupy Nova Scotia is the local movement of the global occupy protests aiming to end corporate greed.

That may sound vague. And that's because it is. Finding definite aims of Occupy Nova Scotia (and occupy protests anywhere else) is not easy. Every Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube channel and discussion board expounds the need to end corporate greed and take power and wealth away from the one per cent.

But I don't know what that means. For some websites and commenters, ending corporate greed means eliminating multinational companies, for some it means increasing government regulation of corporations and for others still it means loosening government regulations and letting other organizations step in. That's a diverse and somewhat conflicting creed. The 99 per centers appear to be fed up with a lot of things, from healthcare funding to bank interest rates, with many a thing in between.

Student debt crops up often in discussions I've found online. And that is something I understand, all too well unfortunately.

The discussion board on the Occupy Winnipeg website holds lots of interesting commentary. A certain user suggested one way to battle corrupt corporations and governments was to cut student debt in half. Sign me up. The commenter said cutting student debt in half would, rather self-servingly, generate support for the protests, but also stimulate the economy. Which is true. Students, a significant portion of Canada's population (and an even more significant portion of Halifax's population with seven universities and colleges here), would have more money to spend and stimulate the economy if they didn't have to fork it over to pay off loans.

So, if one of the goals of the occupy movement in Halifax or Canada is to lower student debt then I guess it's time to dig out my tent and get myself a set of bongos. But I'm not rooting through my closet looking for a tent. And that's because ending student debt, as an example, isn't the goal of Occupy NS.

Whether the point behind the occupy movement is to achieve broad, global change or something specific like halve student debt, there are more questions than answers. If the 99 per cent can't figure out their goals, how are the 1 per cent supposed to help? The Internet is abuzz with protest websites. What we want to know--those of us standing outside of the occupy protests--is simply, what do you want? And this is exactly where the problem lies.

Everyone wants something different.

Even the Occupy NS website says that if you interview someone who's part of the movement, that person may not actually represent the group. If you're looking for more information on the protests, whether to write about it or join the movement, they're not making it easy for you. 

I support the occupy protests because if they somehow succeed, there's a chance I might not have to eat instant mashed potatoes for the next 10 years as I pay off my debt. But I'm not going to pitch a tent in the less-than-welcoming November air because no one can tell me, in less than a 400 word rant, what the point of the protests is.

And who knows, maybe the protests, or at least the Canadian ones, are short-lived. Occupy Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon have already had some snow and we all know more of it is on the way. As a CBC story published Sunday night touched on, winterizing a tent isn't exactly easy, even with foam insulation.

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