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Around the world groups are protesting under the "Occupy" banner ... Occupy Wall Street being a "leader" and Occupy Toronto being one of several Canadian protests. It happens that the Occupy Toronto protesters are camped in a park across the street from my apartment (see picture) so I have experienced their protest at close range. Generally speaking they are a fairly amiable group (to date). In between marches they seem to be enjoying themselves, communicating through "mass repetition" of messages, playing bongo drums, smoking their fair share of pot and drinking their Starbucks and Timmies coffees.
One of the criticisms of these particular protesters is that they don't seem to have any unifying message, in fact there are many groups joined together in a mass "we are not happy" kind of message. This comprises mostly environmental groups and anti-capitalism groups. My initial reaction and one that I heard from a number of people was that if they had no specific agenda and no potential solutions then what do they actually want? I likened them to a small child who is not happy and has a tantrum ... stamping their feet, making noise but not really knowing what would make them feel better!
As time goes by I have come to the conclusion that while the protesters have not come out with specific demands, never mind specific solutions what they have done is highlight the need for a dialogue. The BIG question for me is how will that play out ... who will take the lead, who will be involved and how will it effect any kind of change?
Many improvements in our society have been driven by protests ... examples might be union driven protests to improve working conditions, protests to rethink wars, protests to improve human rights such as the recent middle East "uprisings. So just maybe this protest will be the spark that gets people thinking differently.
There is no doubt the world has changed ... but our society has not really kept up with those changes. The spread of these protests is yet another example of how modern communications has created a flat world.
What can we do about inequalities in wealth?
How can we create meaningful jobs for people?
How can we engage a greater cross section of our society in a way that is meaningful?
These are BIG QUESTIONS that do deserve debate.
We need to discuss solutions with eyes wide open, knowing that these are inter-related problems and fixing one might easily hurt another. We want to encourage business to create jobs but we don't want to demotivate the "movers and shakers" from working to make that happen.
We are competing for talent in a global economy so we can't create a "homogenized society" that does not attract innovation ... there needs to be reward for success, but do CEOs need to earn their average employees salary * 1,000?
We live in interesting times and I will be interested to see where this all leads ... but like most business owners I will be focused on the health of my business, creating jobs and hoping governments don't get in the way of my doing that!
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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