Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Meet the Canadian rebel who sparked OccupyWallStreet

The spark for the insurgency that now grips the heart of Wall Street, and has spread to many other American cities as well as cities in other parts of the world, was struckin Vancouver during a brainstorming session led by the Canadian rebel, Kalle Lasn:
Kalle Lasn, Canadian rebel

Several thousand kilometres from the heart of the growing anti-Wall Street protests in New York, Kalle Lasn says he is astounded that an idea he and a few others hatched in Vancouver is now expanding across North America and beyond.

“Of course, we had some hopes and dreams, but we had no idea it would turn into a movement in the United States, then into Canada, and become global,” said Mr. Lasn, co-editor of the influential, Vancouver-based, anti-consumer publication Adbusters, which first called for a people’s occupation of Wall Street.

Just who is this rebel, and why did he and his fellow brainstormers come up with this idea to occupy the heart of world capitalism?

Born in Estonia, Kalle spent his childhood in a German refugee camp towards the end of the Second World War, before ending up in Australia. The peripatetic Kalle lived and worked in Tokyo before moving to Vancouver where he worked on movies for the National Film Board of Canada.  He founded the Adbusters magazine.

In the summer of 2011 Kalle was doing some brainstorming with a small group when the idea was formed:

The escalating wave of protests stems from a routine brainstorming session of five or six people this past summer at Adbusters.

“We just felt America was ripe for a Tahrir moment of its own,” said Mr. Lasn, referring to the throngs who congregated in Cairo’s central square earlier this year to bring down Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.

The group conceived a centre spread in the magazine’s July edition, depicting a ballerina delicately balancing on the iconic Wall Street bull, with the words: “What is our one demand?....#OCCUPYWALLSTREET, September 17, Bring tent.”

The slogan quickly captivated Adbusters’ 90,000-strong network of self-styled “culture jammers.” Word began to spread.

“We just did this thing and watched as it started to grow and grow,” Mr. Lasn marvelled. “Then some groups in New York got behind it. The buzz grew, and suddenly it took off, and now it’s a real movement.”

Mr. Lasn believes that the swelling anti-corporate protests, which have yet to focus on specific demands, have the potential to revive the long-dormant left wing in the United States.

If OccupyWallStreet succeeds in restoring courage to progressive Americans, and results in significant changes to the predatory and irresponsible type of casino-capitalism now practiced in the US, then Americans will have this small band of Canadian rebels to thank.

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