I worry about the Occupy people-power sit-ins that began in Wall Street and are now rolling out around the world. Though, not for the reasons you might imagine.
I’m delighted that ordinary folk are trying to spark a shift in the world’s moral compass. And I’m thrilled that the ‘Demo’ is making a comeback, but I worry that such movements will be high jacked, misdirected, defused and discredited as a result.
While I think it’s a mistake to blame everyone working on Wall Street, or in the world’s banks and financial institutions, for the mess we are in, there’s no denying we needed to draw attention to the fact that a great many guilty and conscienceless people in the financial arena are still in positions of privilege and power and have not in any way paid the price for their crimes.
And I use the word crimes deliberately. Their behaviour was criminal by any measure except, ironically, in the eyes of the law.
Why? Because these people make the laws; or bankroll those that do. In many senses, are a law unto themselves. Furthermore, they will remain so until we let our leaders hear loud and clear, that we’re not going to take this bullshit anymore.
We need to make it clear that their failure to bring liars and cheats to justice merely shows them up for the ineffective puppets they are.
And their failure to introduce measures that will ensure such flagrant, opportunistic greed won’t happen again doubly damns them.
I understand why the governments had to bail out banks to keep the country running, but the salaries and bonuses that have ensued make it clear that the financial plutocrats have psychopathic mentalities. They feel nothing. They don’t care. And it’s clear they have nothing to fear.
No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the only person who appears to have paid the price for unmitigated greed and dishonesty was Bernie Madoff; who, over and above ripping off a few super funds, made the critical mistake of robbing from the rich. That was his undoing. For him, justice was swift and merciless.
The only possible way to interpret this is that robbing from the poor night get you bad press but robbing from the wealthy gets you jail.
We need to put an end to these double standards. And we need to stop rampant pillaging of rain forests and the destruction of farming country and water tables in the name of the almighty oil or gas dollar.
We need to put the well being of people and the planet before profit. We have to stop killing people and start saving them, and educating them rather than jailing them.
We have to put an end to conscienceless profiteering from the misery of others in war or peace. That science that can save lives can be patented and marketed to only those who can afford it is wrong on so many levels; and if you cant see that, some distorted concept of capitalism has stolen your sight and your soul.
To do these things requires a shift in our moral compass and, as I see it, for all its weaknesses, that’s what the Occupy movement is aiming to do. But such messages only get heard by those prepared to listen.
The saying, ‘The one thing mankind learns from history is that mankind learns nothing from history’ is all too true.
This is part of what those hopeful, idealistic people in the Occupy movements are trying to tell us. We need to learn from history — especially recent history.
Yet … even as I’m writing this, the world’s media, some spurred and funded by the same corporate interests that control elections with not-so-hidden strings, rail against the protestors by wheeling out their usual lexicon of ‘anarchy, socialism, unemployed bludgers, the great unwashed, threats to our way of life’ and so on.
The language used by some newspapers and televisions stations, borders on vitriol and has scant regard for the truth.
Journalists who claim to tell it like it is, simply tell it as they’re paid to say it. Some have turned fear mongering into a fine art. As far as they are concerned, the Occupy movements are a threat to the ‘mainstream’, and all that’s decent and true.
Ironically, they seem to believe the 1% that holds the bulk of the wealth is the mainstream. (You might want to debate the 99% figure that’s bandied around, but surely the majority of people should be the mainstream, not the privileged minority.)
There’s an ancient saying: ‘Truth is the first casualty of war,’ and, to many, this is war. Not simply a class war, as some seek to imply, but a war of isms and moral standards.
And, although it may be farting against thunder, (as we eloquently say here in the Antipodes), I believe that the real point of the sit-ins is to remind our leaders that they are supposed to lead and do what is good and right for the majority. Not to be led by the nose by the tiny minority of self-serving, breathtakingly greedy ‘unnamed contributors’ who pay for their election.
Did you know that corporate donations to campaigning politicians in the US don’t even have to be disclosed? You could vote for someone who is beholden to some corporation or another for millions of dollars and you would never know. On what planet is that democratic?
It’s beginning to look very much like we live in a Plutocracy disguised as Democracy.
Makes you think, doesn’t it? Or it should.
I accept that capitalism makes the world go round. It’s probably the best system we have. Socialism is good on paper but, largely due to wrinkles in human nature, doesn’t really work in practice. Capitalism with a soft centre is what we need — a more humane version of capitalism, one with a conscience. Is that too much to hope for? Probably, but I hope for it nonetheless.
Incidentally, you’d be wrong to think I lay the blame for the GFC solely at the feet of the financial moguls.
I have no illusions whatsoever about the role we the ‘I want it now, I can’t wait, lend me the money right away please’ generation played in fuelling and enabling the greed and irresponsible behaviour of the financial pariahs. They simply saw what we wanted and gave it to us. That many did so dishonestly, notwithstanding.
The inescapable truth is that many people who are screaming loudest now are the very people who did not look before they leapt. Impatience blinded us to the inevitable consequences of what we were doing and, it seems, it was in nobody’s interests to scream out a warning and drag us away from the abyss.
Even if they had, would we have listened?
Debt is good for business; it fuels the economy, and sustains illusions. And in our deluded state we overextended with our eyes wide shut.
In some senses we are like smokers who sue tobacco companies when they get cancer. We ignored the warnings.
Anyway, back to the concern I confessed to at the start of this little rant.
I worry the Occupy movement will be high jacked by sinister or stupid forces.
The sinister being shadowy agencies that will infiltrate, undermine and discredit by the movement with various covert means including, but not only, incitement to riot.
This is not ‘Spook’ paranoia, or conspiracy theorising folks, it happens. It might well be happening now.
My second fear, the stupid force, one that is the perennial hazard of any people power movement, is the ever-present threat of anarchists who always attach themselves to such movements. They’re often little more than opportunistic troublemakers seeking to stir up the mass hysteria and chaos that leads to property destruction and looting. They have no political agenda, merely a penchant for criminal activity.
We are beginning to see signs of such activity now. The only question is whether it’s the work of actual anarchists who have infiltrated the movement or more malevolent covert forces that have been planted there. Chances are we’ll never know.
What I do know is that mindless rioting, even if provoked by misguided law enforcers, and rhetoric without substance and a clear and achievable agenda, will ensure that the Occupy movement will lose impetus through lack of credibility.
That would be a tragedy.
And that is why I’m worried.
JOHN HANLON, November, 2011