Putrid Modern Hell: Special Edition

by HST UK on November 4, 2011

The Occupy Movement

The late great comedian George Carlin would often rant against the powers that be, owners of the globalized world, the 1% that have been targeted by the Occupy Movement. It is no surprise that the fiery spirit of Carlin has been one of the many influential fuels that have fanned the flames of the western world’s most economically significant viral protest movement.

After the ‘Arab Spring’ a group of upstarts decided to occupy Wall Street. The Wall Street protest at first appeared to be an event that would fizzle out when the cops began swinging their batons; instead it has inspired a global movement, where even in my home city of Norwich an Occupy group has sprung up. It seems the most important initial outcome of these protests is that they are beginning to create dialogue between the people and those in power.

In the minor locations, quaint little cities such as Norwich, places of little political significance, one wonders what attention the people occupying an area containing a few tents, a gazebo and a number of homemade cardboard signs will draw towards local economic issues. The protestors occupying the Haymarket site – which is corralled between a Starbucks, a McDonalds, and large Next and Top Shop high street stores, is handily positioned near one of the man city walkways, however it is set back away from the people who walk by. In other words, not enough of the 99% are actively taking the time to stop, and have a look at what this is all about.

To quote from the Occupy Norwich website, in response to a ‘Frequently Asked Question’ of ‘What are you protesting?’ They respond with:

“The range of views covered by the group is vast but united by an opposition to the growing disparity of wealth.

We are not necessarily ‘anti-bank’; ‘anti-capitalist’; ‘anti-system’, despite the media’s characterisation of the whole Occupy movement as such. Some people taking part in the movement hold these views – but not all.

We are united in not having a single answer – we are here to think, discuss, listen, share, and ultimately press for action. And we are united in our determination that the status quo is no longer acceptable and does not represent true democracy.”

‘Good’ people don’t do nothing, however good people are also attempting to stay financially afloat, going about their business as best as they can, and whether or not I agree with the Occupy Protesters stance, since it appears somewhat ambivalent, I have respect for the dedicated few who are making a stand, exercising their right to protest. My fear is this great deal of the local 99% that the Norwich protestors are hoping to reach, for example the workers walking past the Haymarket protest site, the families shopping for clothes, the students heading down to college and university; all those people who blindly stumble onwards, struggling with a variety of their own financial issues. These people are not paying attention and lending support to the protest, or even realizing the role they could actually play in influencing important changes within the little worlds that they live in. Even the local newspapers have neglected to cover the Haymarket site in the last couple of weeks, because nothing significant is happening there.

Let’s leave Norwich, and go back to Wall Street, where it all began. The Zuccotti Park site has become a cultural hub. There have been numerous street performances, tourists have taken thousands of photos and literally brought t-shirts as souvenirs to say “I woz ‘ere too!”, celebrities and popular intellectuals have wandered by and offered their blessings to the cause, which is awfully nice of them. The message is still a little bit blurred, but I think I understand the gist of it – Capitalism is bad. Wealth needs to be shared. Just like the organic food that’s being dished out by various communal kitchens.

Not exactly; The New York Post has reported that various free loaders and undesirables have been trying to get involved, and grab a free meal or two. This has upset the kitchen workers, who believe that not all of these hungry people who’ve been feasting on the delicious organic grub are fully behind the movement’s causes. Though if they’re not in the 99%, then who on earth are these people?

Trouble is beginning to stem from this minor quibble over food, the whole essence of the Occupy Protests is that it calls for togetherness, for the 99% to unite together and bring change. Numbers are significant currency, especially since so much in today’s world is driven by numbers. Be it financial figures, or the number of followers someone has on a social networking site. The moral dilemma comes when freeloaders, those who are technically speaking in the 99%, yet are opportunistically seeing a chance to get a something for nothing. They might not understand or even support the cause, but should they be discriminated against for wanting equal opportunities when it comes to grabbing a decent lunch?

Over in London, where the tourist hot spot St. Paul’s cathedral has been closed down by London’s Occupy movement, the resulting brouhaha over health and safety concerns have led to high profile resignations including the canon chancellor Giles Fraser, and the Church of England suddenly regaining its moral relevance as a societal pillar against the evils of capitalism. A few people hanging around in tents that they previously used during the summer Festival season have somehow reminded the Christian church of its own core values.

In the case of Occupy London, erecting a camp in front of St. Paul’s has seemingly given the movement a foothold in the UK; it has already won small victories, and gained national legitimacy. The next stumbling block is how to deal with the problems of the financial system, and address a variety of issues relating to social and economic inequality.

Listening to the Howard Stern and Opie & Anthony podcasts surrounding Occupy Wall Street, several well edited interviews have comically suggested that a number of folks who were partaking in the protests were not sure why they’re there. Are you telling me that there were members of the Million Man March had no idea what they were doing?

Come to think of it, there probably were a good few people hanging around at the National Mall for the ride, the communal experiences, and the solidarity. Perhaps that’s better than pure understanding, to actually be part of something. Our future depends on cooperation, and reorganization. When one system fails, another must rise in its place. Democracy can no longer run on an empty economic engine. Togetherness is a concept that will always transcend any form of governance.

– RJW

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