I have a confession to make.
I keep getting really cross with the people involved in the occupy movement. I mean really cross, vitriolic abuse flingingly cross.
This isn’t like me… not at all like me. I’m not right-wing, I have socialist leanings and I support the right to free public assembly. So I’ve been thinking about why I’m cross and what I really, really think about occupy and everything that they’re trying to achieve. Bear with me if you will, I have a feeling that it’s all going to get a little bit complicated.
1. I have a problem with the people who are speaking on behalf of the movement.
I’m not an idiot, I know there are processes happening within the news media that are specifically designed to present the movement as a bunch of left-wing, student scumbags. I also know that a stereotype is not something to judge a community based movement on. These people are just asking for a slap though.
So, yeah… initially I have a very clear prejudicial dislike of, well, for shorthand let’s call them hipster hippies. Hip Hip hooray Henry haters. Urgh, alliteration. That very particular slice of white, middle-class, western society that can quite happily abandon their mortgages, jobs, whatever and go camp out for however long they feel the need to. That slice of society who seem to feel that no-one else has ever tried to use any of the techniques they have magically come up with to solve all of the world’s problems. Someone give them a city to run and we’ll see if the bins get collected and the buses run on time shall we? BAH.
You see? There I go again. Cross.
When I look at the declaration from the occupation of New York City for example, I see a list of general complaints about how unfair it all is and how the big boys are bullying them. They are gathering to let ‘facts be known’ not, we have gathered here to engage in a multi-partisan debate about the percieved injustices against the common citizen by corporations and government. Not, we’re here with a path of action that we’d like you to consider implementing. No, we’re here because we’re cross and we want to tell you that.
Fair enough, be cross. Demonstrate, make your voices heard. Do not, however, think that you are going to make a blind bit of difference unless you a) organise yourselves like a group of adults and come up with some suggestions or b) truly inspire revolution by the masses.
“*These grievances are not all-inclusive.”
Of course they’re not. They never will be. Life is not fair. This is a fact, a fact that is acknowledged by nearly everyone in the world. The difference is how an individual chooses to approach that. Fat cat executives argue that no, life isn’t but that’s the way of the world and they’ve worked hard to get where they are. They’re pure free-market capitalists and their opinions and beliefs should be respected.
That’s what I think governments are there to control. Part of the role of a state is to govern it’s people and processes, by imposing higher taxes on the rich a government can allow competition to survive whilst acting with a social conscience in the use of those tax funds.
I think we have a pretty good compromise on the go at the moment. Sure, there are people earning obscene amounts of money but there always will be. I don’t believe communism works in practice based on the historical examples of East Germany, Cuba and Russia and I think a government that can keep the majority of people satisfied enough for most of the time is doing a pretty good job.
This leads me neatly to;
2. What’s your suggestion for doing it better?
I’ve been getting really frustrated by the lack of intelligent political debate going on around occupy. It reminds me of the beginning stages of the Tea Party when it mainly seemed to be just angry noise from the middle-aged, middle-class. There’s a danger with any grassroots movement that they get caught up in their own hype and truly believe that they are representing the best interests of the whole world. At least the Tea baggers had a pretty nicely drawn up set of requests and legislative changes after a while, Occupy seems to be sticking with the ‘don’t be so mean’ tagline.
Speaking of not being so mean, I should pause for breath. I really do appreciate that it is a rubbish time to be a home-owner or unemployed, especially in the US. I don’t doubt that the outpouring of indignant outrage comes from a very sincere place for all of these people and if I honestly believed that it would make a difference, I would drag my unwell carcass down to St Paul’s and pitch a tent.
I absolutely feel for the people who honestly can’t find work, who have been shoved to the side and ignored by the system. I think America has a particularly rubbish social support system compared to the good old UK. It makes my heart break to think of families losing their homes despite working their fingers to the bone to hold onto the security that they believed effort could bring you.
It’s not fair. It really, really isn’t.
It’s also not fair for much of sub-saharan africa where children are starving to death and have been for decades. It’s not fair that there are wars going on around the world that are very rarely reported on and are being funded by our tax money. It’s not fair that one of the main trading partners of the US and the UK is actively occupying another country and has some serious human rights issues.
There are all sorts of horrible, horrible things going on all over the world. I’d love to be able to fix them, but idealism and pragmatism are working as polar opposites in my head. I give to charity, I give blood, I work in the public sector and try to keep politically aware. I also join in. I sign petitions, always vote in local and general elections, have been on marches for cause I believe in and try to raise awareness of under-represented issues in my own small way.
It’s also worth noting as a side point that as an Atheist, it doesn’t stop me appreciating the golden rule as a good guideline for living by. I try to consciously think about how my actions affect the people around me and if there is anything that I can do to make their experience more pleasant.
I guess I’m a goddamn hippy after all.
My final point is a lead on from this;
3. The 99% doesn’t include me thanks very much.
I’m a homeowner. I have a job. I’m a university graduate. I’m white. I’m female. I speak English as my first language. I’m a British citizen.
I am one privileged mofo.
Okay, so it makes me wince when I fill the car up with petrol these days. I maybe can’t have every little thing that I’d like to have. But I also don’t have to worry about where my next drink of safe water is coming from, I know that I’m not going to be thrown out of my house any time soon. I know that I will be paid for the work that I do and, because of my profession, I could find another job easily. I have a shiny TV, a computer and internet access and know that I’m unlikely to be thrown in prison for publishing my views online.
My point is that there are false lines being drawn in the sand here. It’s not them and us, it’s us and us. The system is a bit broken, it could certainly do with an overhaul but the first step has to be a conversation about it. Let’s open the dialogue. Being part of society is about compromise, it has to be. Let’s just find a compromise that works a bit better.
But please, please stop making all of this noise for no good reason. You want revolution in a democracy? The only change you’d be able to effect is to create chaos or a new dictatorship. There is no way to enact the lovely dream of a whole population in consensus and still have a working social infrastructure. We’ll never get rid of consumption based capitalism, it’s been around since there was meat to barter for flint. But there may be another way, let’s try and work it out.
So that’s that. Next time someone asks me what I think about occupy and I start to feel the confused mess of opinionated noise rise in me, I shall simply direct them here and take some quiet breaths.
Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong. I feel a bit like an Objectivist right now and that’s not a label I ever saw myself having.