I am unsure of what to make of the  'occupy somewhere' movements. As has been said many times in many different places, the demands of the protesters are almost as numerous as the protesters themselves. There is no real alternative vision of socie...

Protest

I am unsure of what to make of the  ‘occupy somewhere’ movements. As has been said many times in many different places, the demands of the protesters are almost as numerous as the protesters themselves. There is no real alternative vision of society being presented. At least not one that is workable. Some have written of its egalitarian and anarchic roots. Yet to organize a society with massive numbers of individuals being provided  essential services by large public and private organizations on the basis of consensual anarchy is nonsensical. I understand the frustration with high unemployment. I am old enough to have experienced it in the past. It is beyond my level of expertise to decide whether more government spending and higher taxes or less of both would help the most vulnerable at this point . (I have my suspicions that government spending is much more inefficient than spending by individuals or corporations for their own particular reasons.) There is room for fundamental disagreement on which approach to take. Politicians and protesters need to understand this.

There is tremendous emotional satisfaction for those involved I would think. They are ‘doing something’. They get to feel like they are sticking it to those who are responsible for their frustrations. I do not know that they are. What a visual, as the police show up in their riot gear. How noble and peaceful the protesters seem in contrast. (It is interesting that the authorities are getting better at denying that experience by maintaining a low profile.) It is of course a charade. And in this country the sympathies of the larger part of the public lie with the men and women in the uniform in any case.

The claims to represent the majority made by the protesters are common in this kind of activity but entirely mistaken. Even they must know it. Unless they are true believers who ‘know’ that they have the answer to the economic, political and social issues facing us today.  So they represent us because they know what is best for us, even if we don’t. Danger there.

Lastly, equality is such an attractive ideal. We all know political and legal equality are enshrined in our constitution. Material equality however, as history has taught us, is a more difficult exercise. There are open societies that are less stratified than ours, but there are none that promise what many in the protests seem to want and that is a great levelling. Appeals to attack the lucky and the successful are ultimately self defeating as open societies need the opportunity for success to be there as much as the actual successful person.  

It is hard to say what will happen as the change the protesters want does not come, because it won’t. Partly because even they don’t agree on what kind of changes they want, partly because it is impossible to implement most of what they do want, and partly because the people do not want it. What happens then, especially if the economic situation worsens, is a good question. Perhaps the relative civility will start to unravel. On both sides.

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One comment

  1. You’re also painting with a pretty broad brush here and not providing any facts to back up your suppositions. Claiming the protestors know what’s best for us is no different than what you’re doing here.

    For example, claiming to know where the sympathies of most people in this country lie. It might not be a stretch to say that electing governments that have the most seats but not the popular vote and low voter turnout suggest a dissatisfaction with the powers that be.

    If you’d watched any video longer than the 3 second clips shown on TV you’d see plenty of examples of loud – but non-violent protestors – being treated very roughly by police. (It looks like the 60s again; long-haired young people in t-shirts being manhandled by uniformed men with short haircuts). But there’s no defending the disproportionate level of violence shown by police in these instances.

    The protestors may not all be non-violent – the appearance of anarchists at these sorts of protests is well documented, but to call this a charade would be the same as sanctifying the behaviour of what may well be a few trigger-happy police officers.

    You’re missing one of the main triggers for these events; there’s a sense of powerlessness. No one is held accountable, there’s no payback or retribution, no negative outcomes for the people who abuse our trust. The system isn’t balanced. It protects its own at the expense of justice and there are countless examples of this fueling the protests.

    The desire for this to be fixed appeals whether your politics are on the right or the left and is why these protests are spreading.

    People who succeed aren’t simply ‘lucky’. They’re often hard-working and very smart. No one is opposed to success. People are opposed to how the system manages, rewards and protects success.

    Not everyone wants material equality; communism showed us that doesn’t work because you can’t just overwrite basic human desires to advance. You can however narrow the scale to reduce the extremes at both ends and/or have a system based on fairness instead of who can afford the best PR and the best lawyers.

    As to societies that work, I’d suggest you take a look at any study of pretty much any human condition, from health to happiness to infant mortality, and you’ll see the same countries alternating in the top positions; Sweden, Norway and Denmark are examples of societies that work. Sure, they aren’t at the top for productivity or per capita income, but it’s overvaluing those measures that are part of the reason we’re where we are.

    Our humanity means that we can never achieve perfection, simply because everyone has their own definition of what that means. But countries with open governments driven by values-based, (not religious-based), principles that focus on improving quality of life through inclusion instead of exclusion show how close we can come.

    Don’t make the mistake of a lack of clarity from the protestors undermine the truth of their basic argument; our society needs fundamental change to truly be what it is now only pretending to be.