How not to win an argument
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Nov 28, 2012  |  Vote 0    0

How not to win an argument

Ottawa East News
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The other day, my six-year-old got caught up in a whirlwind of whining --blaming, complaining and name-calling.

It was Saturday. He’d had an unusually late night. We were at our wits end.

“You need to stop and apologize for the way you’re speaking to everyone,” I said, as we were trying to get out the door. “You need to say sorry to your brother for calling him a name and ask how you can make it right.”

“It’s not my fault I said that,” he said.

I felt a tingle of rage go up my back. “It’s not my fault.”

We’re trying to teach our kids to take responsibility for things. We’re trying to teach them respect for others. We’re trying to teach them that if you don’t like something, you have the power to change it.

But sometimes, as parents, we fail. Perhaps a more realistic way of explaining it – these things take time.

I have a sense, however, that an entire generation of parents failed on a larger scale than we did last Saturday morning. Their inability to impart responsibility to their children has culminated in a movement called the Occupy Movement.

Although it’s largely believed to have started in Madrid, the Occupy Movement first garnered mainstream attention when it held a protest on Wall Street for months starting in September 2011. From there, the movement garnered momentum, as like groups organized simultaneous protests in major cities across the Western world. The movement’s focus – if you want to call it that – is to protest against social and economic inequality. Their mantra is “we are the 99 per cent,” stemming from the idea that one per cent of the world’s population controls 99 per cent of the wealth.

They advocate things like tax evasion and simultaneously argue for the government to pay for social programs. They use their iPads, smartphones, and wireless infrastructure daily to blame big business and banks and politicians for the state of the world. They get on gas-fuelled buses and protest outside oil companies; they takeover the streets of Montreal in their Nike shoes and burn the place up because they’ve been asked to start contributing an increased percentage of their tuition fees. (Of course, unless they succeed in their goal of tax evasion, they’ll pay for those tuition fees eventually).

Occupy Canada and its sibling organizations have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and all the things needed to take the momentum of the first four months of active protests and keep it going in the virtual world. I like a dissenting voice as much as the next gal, so I signed up, and started to read what was being posted a gazillion times each day.

Every article posted by the administrators on Facebook, every subsequent comment posted by the 54,000-or-so members of the Occupy Canada group represents a big whine-fest. They don’t like the government’s policy on Israel. They don’t like oil. They don’t like meat-eaters, but they don’t like people that eat imported food either. Whatever the subject of the day, the message is, “I don’t like the world, but it’s not my fault the world is like this.” To get this message across, the group uses a lot of hyperbole -- including name-calling -- comparing Stephen Harper to Hitler and other such ridiculous things.

Finally, one day, I got fed up. This group claims to represent the other 99 per cent. So they’re supposed to represent me, right? I’m not a bank, nor an oil company. The last time I checked, as a freelancer, I don’t work for the establishment either. 

In a way, I wanted to help the movement, so I posted on its wall.

“Hey, you have a lot of complaints about the establishment,” I wrote – or something to that effect. “But you haven’t presented any alternatives.”

As I expected, a few of the loyal members wrote back to call me names.

“I’m just saying, if you want to grow your movement, you’ve got to stop preaching to the choir,” I wrote. “What are the alternatives to big oil and banks? People inevitably turn away from ideas and ideologies that don’t match their own. If you want to change people’s minds, you need to give them something more positive, some action steps.”

Occupy Canada blocked me from writing on its wall. It criticizes but can’t handle constructive criticism that incites its members to action. As a result, I predict it’s maxed out its membership at 54,000, (which is hardly 99 per cent of Canada’s population).

In short, the Occupy Movement is destined to remain on the fringes – because, frankly, it can’t win “the argument.”

Name-calling, complaining and blaming are ineffective means of forcing change to the establishment at my house. Imagine what little effect they have in the big, bad world.

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