Thank you, Occupy
I missed the beginning of the Occupy movement. Only once it had entered the media, coloured with the required shock and horror these outlets had of the existence of protests, did it enter my world.
Occupy Wall Street was the first time I heard about the 99% and the super-rich 1% who really ruled the world, in a reversal of what democracy is supposed to be.
Since then I have kept Occupy and its message on my radar. It has followed me from my teenage years into the real world beyond, becoming a indelibly linked with my youth. Occupy is like a can of paint thrown at a wall, like a filter placed over a camera lens; it has coloured my world view with the harsh realities of corruption and inequality.
I remember the gleeful tones of the press once Occupy had wrapped up on Wall Street. But this was never a short-term game. Change begins with the awareness of issues within the national consciousness. ‘We are the 99’ reverberated around the world, even reaching comparatively quiet New Zealand. The banner photo is of the Stock Exchange building in the capital, Wellington. This is located in the vicinity of Civic Square, which attracted its own Occupy.
The call has kept its own momentum and has gone from social movement to a legitimate political concern now discussed amongst writers, politicians, the 1% themselves and supra-national organisations. Who can forget Oxfam’s announcement that the richest 1% now has as much wealth as the other 99%?
But the real test is at the organisations and governments which actively push for inequality-generating neoliberal agendas and ideologies. This includes the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the last of which has only recently published a report which names neoliberalism, let alone questions its infallibility.
These behemoths are waking up the reality that we no longer accept their word as law, or even as the best practice of macroeconomics. They are not too powerful to be criticised and brought to account. These institutions have enabled or aided the global race to the bottom in labour markets and industrial regulations.
I realise Occupy was not the first entity to speak about inequality, corporate power and political corruption. But it kicked these dirty little secrets into the global sphere where it united us and brought us into a common acknowledgement: We are suffering and we are not alone.
Without the debates going on across the world after Occupy and without the political leverage being given to people challenging the status quo, I find it hard to see the neoliberal agenda being shuffled off the table as it is now.
I know there is a better way. I can feel it. As can everyone else who has been woken up politically. There needs to be a different system for the 99% to thrive and reach their full potential.
The spirit of Occupy lives on.
- Rothwell, K. (2011, October 20). Welcome to Occupy Wellington. The Dominion Post. Retrieved from: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/5817450/Welcome-to-Occupy-Wellington
- Rashbrooke, M. (n.d.). Inequality. Retrieved from http://www.maxrashbrooke.org.nz/inequality/
- Bernie 2016. (2015, Nov 20). A rigged economy: This is how it works [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnSQVixz7wg
- Hanauer, N. (2014, August). Nick Hanauer: Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/nick_hanauer_beware_fellow_plutocrats_the_pitchforks_are_coming?language=en
- United Nations. (n.d.). Sustainable development goals: Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/inequality/
- BBC. (2016, Jan 18). Oxfam says wealth of richest 1% equal to other 99%. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35339475
- Ostry, J., Loungani, P. & Furceri, D. (2016, June). Neoliberalism: Oversold? IMF Journal of Finance & Development. 53(2). Retrieved from http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2016/06/ostry.htm