The other day H and I attended a free forum called “OccupySWF” as part of the Sydney Writer’s Festival. It looked like an exciting line up of political commentators and authors coming together to talk about the largest and arguably most important movement in social justice in recent history. Occupy is a big topic and one that has occupied (ha!) a lot of my thoughts, conversations and ideas. In a nutshell, the movement is primarily about addressing the abhorrent disparity in wealth between the top 1% of the population and…… well, everybody else. Multi-national corporations and the laws protecting them are one of the main targets as, for example, executive pay in the largest corporations has quadrupled since the 1970’s (even after adjusting for inflation), whereas the average employee now earns approximately 10% less.
quadrupled vs 10% less??
Moreover, the richest 1% of the U.S. population owns more than a third of the overall wealth.
1% owns a third?? Now, I’m pretty shit at math, but even to me that sounds pretty fucked up.
And – 42 million American’s now live below the poverty line.
Um, that’s like, double the population of Australia.
Jesus. Did I go to sleep one day and wake up in some screwed up, 21st century version of feudal society?
Anyway, when I hear dissenters of Occupy say things like, ‘Their message is baffling and incoherent’, I just take another look at the statistics mentioned above, in plain old black and white, and think, ‘really??!!’ And when they say ‘Occupy is irrelevant and meaningless’, I say ‘to who? Me? The millions of people who will never move above the poverty line? The thousands of us being pushed outside the city limits due to the gigantic ever-widening gap between earning capacity and cost of living for the everyday middle class? To the thousands sleeping on the streets every. Single. Night? No? Just you then?’
And then I think ‘asshole’.
Anywaaaaaay, the forum. It was billed to ‘incite, inspire and inform!’
It did not.
Lots of things were wrong with the forum. The use of the language of the speakers was a bit off putting. Loretta Napoleni kept identifying the movement as one of the most fascinating, important and unprecedented actions ever but kept referring to the people as ‘them’ and ‘they’. I’m sorry Loretta, but your use of the word ‘them’ infers that you believe yourself to be of something else, which in turn implies you do not identify with the 99%, which means you are the 1%, which means we don’t give a shit what you think.
Academics on their high horse, wanting to study the little rats so that when the movement is successful, instead of having been a part of it, they can just write about how good their research was.
Give me a break.
And then there was a bit of a pissing contest between speakers and a lot of academic toshery (word?) It was not all annoying though. The good thing about this forum was that even though these academics all had different opinions on the movement, what to call it, how history will view it, where it will end up – they all agreed, unanimously, unequivocally that this was something incredibly important. It was something they were all taking extremely seriously. It was something that they all recognised as having the potential for worldwide historical relevance. And that, is a very good thing indeed.
Occupy is not a quick fix solution – it is not a protest about one specific thing, the demands of which can be simply met, tomorrow. Occupy is the beginning of a worldwide change that started today but will take decades. It would be a mistake to ask Occupy for immediate results and call it a failure when they don’t appear. Big results are a long time away – but the all important rumblings of dissatisfaction, the questioning of why things are like they are, the demand for respect, for accountability, the opportunity to think about how things could be done differently – these are the roles that this generation will play in the change.
I hope that in centuries to come people will look back on this section of history and view the rule of the corporate class with the unfathomability we now view slavery. As in, ‘well, that was so obviously wrong’.
It is so obviously wrong. Dare to dream of a better way.