Voices from the Occupation
Wake Up and Smell the Over-produced Coffee
The financial crisis, a climate in peril, government sold to the highest bidder, unemployment rising, underemployment skyrocketing, depression and drug dependency climbing; and I’m excited to be alive right now.
I’m thanking the universe for the luck to be right here, right now. Why? Because inside of these myriad disasters, an ever growing group of people from the farthest corners of the earth and just next door, are creating a conversation.
I feel truly sorry for every last person who is not yet involved in this conversation. All they have are the crises in the first sentence- none of the inspiration or creativity. So, why would anyone choose that?
Money, Money, Money
Firstly, an astonishingly small number of people know what money is. Do you know what money is? If not, then it is no surprise that much of the Occupy Movement makes no sense to you. It will seem logical when the newsmen and women tell you that this was all caused by poor people with too much debt, too many immigrants stealing jobs and depressing wages, all those people on benefits and in council houses, all those over paid civil servants.
Why don’t people know what money is? It is information hidden in plain view. No one will stop you finding out what money is or how it works. But we are drip fed, almost from birth, the idea that we are free. We are in a post ideological world. Communism is an ideology, Socialism is an ideology, Fascism is an ideology. But it’s ok; we live outside of all that. You are a free individual, with the equal opportunity to become a self made person. Money is what you earn by working, and spend as a consumer, donate as a philanthropist, save as a pensioner.
What no one will tell you is that money itself is debt. There is not enough of it ever to repay the debt, and from the first moment they print the first note they set us all off scrabbling over scraps so we aren’t the unlucky loser. Individuals, states, corporations, pitted against each other to generate security for the minority through the subjugation and outright theft of the resources of the majority.
How do you find out what money is? You can Wikipedia ‘fiat currency’[i] for starters, or watch the movie ‘Zeitgeist’[ii] online if you prefer moving pictures. I have no shame in admitting I was 27 years old before I knew what money actually is, where it comes from. Now I understand a little more everyday just what a ridiculous concept it is, and how it provides such a context of scarcity and desperate competition for a society.
Fractional reserve banking, collateralised debt obligations and credit default swaps are the next three concepts to get your head around. You can watch The Money Fix[iii] or Inside Job[iv] to get a fairly grounded understanding of how these work to shaft the world of its resources. You don’t need a business school degree.
Education, Education, Education
So, when people say ‘what are they achieving living in tents?’ Firstly, they are learning. People may not know these things before they come to camp. They may simply have a feeling that something is off. That although the news is saying we should blame a ‘bloated public sector’ for our fiscal woes….wasn’t it the banks that failed? Didn’t we just foot a very large bill for someone else’s greed? Isn’t that group of people still behaving in the exact same way, with none of their malignant financial instruments legislated against? Didn’t their pay just rise by 49% in the last year?[v]
One key aim of each camp is education. There is a tent city university and library on most camps. There are books, films and talks by people who do understand what money is. They create debate and the ideology of capitalism – because it is an ideology – gets properly thrashed out.
The second achievement of the Occupy Movement is that this debate has made it out of the camps. It is happening on TV, radio, independent and mainstream. It is happening in homes across the world. There is a debate about capitalism and its relative merits, when just a few months ago, capitalism wasn’t mentioned outside of documentaries and lecture theatres. The myth of a post-ideological world has been proven false.
Shock and Awe
Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine[vi] describes wonderfully exactly where our society is right now. Corporations and their governments have spent the last fifty years leveraging the disorientation caused to a society by a big shock – natural disaster, financial crisis, social unrest – to seize great chunks of power, resources and those bothersome freedoms and rights. Meanwhile, the society is so dumbstruck with shock it either doesn’t realise, or doesn’t know what to do or how to react, and therefore simply accepts the changes in a tragically supine manner.
In the last week, two democratic central European democracies were replaced arbitrarily by unelected technocratic governments of national unity. These appointees are about to sell off huge amounts of national resources, slash the public sector to shreds and reorient the economies of both countries to prioritise debt repayment to banks – over roads, hospitals, pensions, safety nets, jobs. One might think this encroachment on democracy – which after all, we have been to war several times in recent years to spread – would have been met by widespread outrage and resistance.
No. According the babble box a.k.a. the mainstream media, this is all for their own good. The lazy Greeks and slovenly Italians have got us all in a right mess. It’s their fault we’re all in crisis. About time someone with some proper qualifications came in to sort it out, yes a Banker for Greece[vii] and an Economist for Italy[viii]. Oh and look the markets went up a point or two this morning so it must be the right thing to do.
Really? One might look to the African and South American continents to see just how badly you want to take an IMF loan and agree to their Structural Adjustment Programmes. It doesn’t work. It guts the economy, drives down employment, kills growth, kills people in the end.[ix]
But inside the current system, the only other option is to default or take out more debt, default or take out more debt, default or take out more debt.
Meanwhile, in the US, Bank of America received approval from the Federal Reserve to move $140trillion of toxic debts, from its investment arm, to its commercial bank, meaning that if and WHEN the debts go unpaid, the US taxpayer is on the hook to foot the bill. To put this in perspective, US GDP is circa $13trillion per annum, global GDP is circa $65trillion. So more than two times everything produced on earth per annum, has just been guaranteed by the tax payers of the US. Without a vote. Without, infact, any democratic intervention whatsoever. Most Americans will be unaware of this development.[x]
In the UK, the government has launched into a public sector pension reform under the aegis of stabilising the UK economy, gaining credibility in the world financial markets and paying down the deficit. So, while Goldman Sachs, Vodafone and other corporate giants are being given sweetheart deals and tax breaks, the teachers, doctors, care workers and emergency services workers are being asked to foot the bill. The proposed deal sees a 50% increase on worker contributions. This money goes direct to repay the bank bailout. They are being asked to work 8 years longer. They are to receive the same or less in pension when they finally retire.[xi]
As a result, a 3 million person protest is scheduled for November 30th 2011. However, there are still a great number of public sector workers practically queuing up to hand over their meagre pensions and wages to the government, completely buying into the myth that THEY are the problem. In response, the government minister responsible, Francis Maude has offered workers the option to have a 15 minute strike. Yes, a fifteen. Minute. Strike.[xii] Poor little public sector workers. Have a cup of tea, a biscuit and a whinge. Then please get back to work and forget all about this nonsense.
The Silver Lining
People have figured it out.
People are pitching tents to set up micro-communities where they can unplug from the system they are currently in. Take some thinking time and discussion time with other human beings.
People are reconnecting with themselves and each other.
They are remembering that humans are social beings.
They are discovering that their fear of each other isn’t real and doesn’t need to be honoured over cooperation.
They are learning just how deliberate and cynical this current ‘crisis’ is.
They are becoming aware of their own potential and power.
They are establishing networks across the globe with their own direct media.
They are learning, by sharing a space together, how to operate a direct democracy based on consensus.
For each person on a camp, supporting a camp or just inspired by the ideas of the Occupy Movement, the world is on the threshold of something terrifying and jaw droppingly exciting. There is personal growth, creativity, cooperation and challenge.
For the people yet to get it, or never to get it, what is there? Constant crisis, constant war, scarcity, the deserving and undeserving poor, winners and losers, fear and self loathing of humankind, such that THIS is the best we can hope for. A lonely, dark world full of ghost stories and bogeymen. And never, ever enough.
We are the 99%
My experience of being on camp is a full heart, a busy head, a sense of responsibility for my opinions and contribution to the world and a hunger to cooperate with others to make something from scratch which works for everyone. This is not a protest, it is a process. I am the 99%, we are the 99%, you are the 99%.