There is a Tide in the Affairs of Men | JIM FURLONG

The words are those of William Shakespeare from the play Julius Caesar and they reference a critical moment when action to change things in our world is possible and will be rewarded.

So it was that a couple of weeks ago here in Newfoundland government decided it was a good time to shut down the so-called “tent city”. In St. John’s a group of tents had been set up on the grounds of the old Colonial Building, once our seat of government. The idea of shelter for the homeless is a noble one but it is not a simple one. It is not just a matter of finding homes for a group whose individual members have simply fallen through the cracks of our society. It was far more complicated than that.

Tent city was billed as a protest and a plea for housing but some of the spokespeople of the leadership group didn’t actually live in the tents. They were well meaning people but they were driven by factors other than their own homelessness. That happens often in protest movements. Consider the protests on college campuses recently across the United States against Israel and that nation’s conduct of the war in Gaza. It is a situation most worthy of protest but not all the protesters were students. Those protests were often something other than the spontaneous uprising of young people. Again, that doesn’t mean the cause wasn’t just. It just means that the energy in the whole thing wasn’t only “student driven”.

That was a factor at Colonial Building. There came a realization not lost on government that this was more than just poor homeless people. This was a protest that was becoming increasingly organized. There were donations of things to the “tent city” and the whole matter took on a different tone. The ordinary citizenry came around to that way of thinking and the government watched that with interest. The fire in one of the tents became the signal for government to move to shut the whole thing down and they did just that citing safety concerns.

In an odd way and indirect way I was reminded of the truckers protest on Parliament Hill. It came to be a protest about more than just truckers. Their great achievement was having a “bouncy castle” as if that were the highwater mark of their protest civilization. That protest ended when ordinary people got fed up with it and government saw that could act and not pay a public opinion penalty. The same was true I think at Bannerman Park. It became water cooler talk. “What are these people up to?”

The issue of homelessness and the issues of cause and solution haven’t gone away but the tents have. Government House looks the way it always did and the world spins on.

You can contact Jim Furlong at [email protected]