Friday, 28 October 2011

Occupy St Paul's - where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts

It’s always easy to poke fun at people, especially when they’re intense. The media have been doing a great job on the St Paul’s protestors, who apparently go home at night, don’t know what they’re protesting about, have jobs, don’t have jobs etc. etc.
I’m sure there will be many protestors who are awful, or silly people … but there are times when the whole is greater than simply the sum of the parts.

The telling point for me is the official hostility. Cameron denouncing them in Australia … the hatred of the St Paul’s hierarchy … the eviction threats.
When you get the forces of establishment lining up to deliver studiedly-moderate denouncements, you smell a rat.
These people have touched a nerve.
‘You’re embarrassing us, please shut up and go away.’

An indefinite threat elicits an undefined response
Politicians like to think in terms of defined factors. Elections and majorities and coalitions. The ayes and nays in a debate. Lobbyists. Campaigns.
They like the issues defined … encompassable … limited.
And they respond (nowadays) with soundbites – ‘Broken Britain’, ‘Big Society’ etc.
(We tend to despise these as trite and ineffective, but we need to be careful … in the olden days they used to send in the yeomanry, so perhaps soundbites are not such a bad response after all.)

Anyway, the St Paul’s protest is not defined. It is inchoate and amorphous.
And the politicians don’t like it. I am sure it is incomprehensible to them. But to us out here, for us, it touches an insecurity. WE understand why they are there.

I would relate it to the popularity of ‘armageddon’ films at the moment. Filtering through society at a subconscious level is a feeling that something terrible could happen … that the pack of cards could collapse at any moment.

Capitalism is an unsustainable lifestyle
We live in a society where capitalism is triumphant – 1989 confirmed that.
THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE. When that most-perceptive-of-political commentators Sandi Toskvig recently suggested Baltic socialism on so-analytical-a-programme as the News Quiz she was mocked off the stage. The ‘alternatives’ have been reduced to a joke.

But, underneath the official pronouncements – there is a growing feeling that capitalism is unsustainable. Why do you think capitalism feels the need nowadays to stress at EVERY possible juncture that what is happening is ‘sustainable’!

And it’s not just the euro crisis and the recession – those are the tips of the icebergs beneath.
It is Global Capitalism itself which is ultimately unsustainable.
There are 7 billion people in the world today, and the only reason that capitalism can deliver to me the lifestyle I enjoy is because a huge number of those people live in poverty.
I hesitate to come out with some trite aphorism like ‘capitalism only succeeds where it has populations to oppress’, but it’s true enough.
There is a growing realisation that the world simply does not have sufficient resources for all 7 billion of us to live at the level – and with the profligacy – that I do today.

And there’s this feeling that the west’s period of economic dominance – which was based, first on slavery, then on colony-imperialism, and then on economic-imperialism – is coming to an end.

The Rats Leaving the Sinking Ship

When the protestors at St Paul’s seek ‘a new and better way’ OF COURSE they don’t know how it will work itself out!

But don’t think for a moment that the capitalists who are ridiculing them don’t believe that there is a storm coming. They are busy pulling up the drawbridge as fast as they can, dismantling the Welfare State, privatising its constituent parts, cutting future obligations (pensions), maxing-out their salaries – taking what they can while they can take it.

And that’s why they are so annoyed by the St Paul’s protestors.
They know as well as the rest of us that the quickest way to go bankrupt is to announce to your creditors that you are about to go bankrupt.

The Switch
Capitalism has survived crises in ages past, but the problem is that it has done so simply by expanding its operational scope. Now we are in a whole-global economy, it has nowhere more to go.
And the fear is that it will collapse.

My son has dimmer switches all over his house. You gradually turn the lights up and down. I have no such sophistications. I have switches. I press the switch – more and more – and for a long time nothing happens; then there is a click and the light goes off all of a sudden.
The problem with the capitalist economy is that it has a switch mechanism, not a dimmer knob.
When things change, the danger is that they will happen suddenly, like some disaser movie.

The protestors may not know what is going to happen, but I can suggest some possibilities – that we become the economically-oppressed of the world, or a world Depression where everyone is needy, or war as nations try to make sure that others suffer not them.

Years and years ago, we lived in real fear of nuclear war. We made our plans – my father had found a cave on Ilkley Moor which he reckoned would shelter him and his family. Thousands went to CND rallies, not because they had any solutions personally, but because they were aware of a terminal threat to our existence.

The St Paul’s campers are the 21st century equivalent of the Aldermaston marches.
Time to suss out that cave, I reckon…

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