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Friday, November 18, 2011

ANY HOPE FOR THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT?

It has now been exactly 16 weeks since the first Occupy protest was held in...KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, not New York City...and has now spread to 82 countries, 95 cities worldwide and 950 communities in the USA.  Known as Occupy Dataran because the gathering occurred in Merdeka (independence) Dataran (or square), where the Malaysian flag was first flown in 1957, the driving motivation is participatory democracy, and a group still meets every Saturday night from 8 to 11 in that square. 

Stay with me now, for, in parallel, the Wall Street protest on September 17 was orchestrated by the Canadian Adbusters Foundation to peacefully grieve against corporate influence.  Then you add Anonymous (the  Guy Fawkes mask is associated with them), and you now have a formidable range of 99 percenters, those that don't have corporate influence.  In many ways, this is the developed world analog of the Facebook/Twitter revolution of North Africa.  The internet savvy younger (and some older) generation has found a way to combine the virtual social networks with active protests to gain attention.

The first Tea Party in Boston, 1773, was a key event that led to American Independence in 1776.  The second Tea Party, an effort that resulted in Republicans taking over the House of Representatives and making a stand on no new taxes, was also, you might say, successful.  In many ways, the Occupy Movement represents the other end of the socio-political spectrum from the second Tea Party supporters, as fewer than 3% are Republicans, and will thus have the opposite effect, perhaps auguring a Democratic sweep next Fall.

Certainly, lobbyists are controlling our governments, and democracies seem powerless to do anything about it.  The Occupy mentality is sick and tired of business as usual and is doing something about it.  Just before the Great Depression, the one percenters controlled almost 24% of the total income.  This percentage dropped to the 10% range from the 50's through the 80's, but rose to near 24% (but 35% of the wealth) again in 2007, towards the end of the George W. Bush reign:

Thus, the Occupy Movement has a heck of a good point.  Here is where, though, I am troubled.  College students rail against university budget cuts.  The jobless want jobs.  Sure, the one percent rich is greedy,  but so is each of the elemental causes.  The fact of the matter is that the zero-sum game has changed.  The availability of worth has shrunk, the resource base is now smaller and there are more people.  The world is now at the stage of diminishing benefits.  Everyone will need to sacrifice in different ways and the Occupy Movement wants only the 1 percent wealthy to share.  This is a cause without any realistic hope of success.

The Movement will attenuate for the Winter (even Malaysia is in the Northern Hemisphere), as it will mostly be too cold to occupy public squares, even in California, and as much as there are supposedly 82 countries involved, the concept has taken hold mostly in the USA.  However, if it does have any legs and recovers in the later Spring, the effort will be better organized with more specific goals.  Should anything close to a viral reaction occur, first, President Obama will be re-elected, and, second, the House of Representatives will revert back to the Democrats.  The U.S. Senate leadership should remain unchanged.  This dominance should break the deadlock in the Federal Government, and maybe, maybe, there can be some progress for the common good.  Maybe there remains in me a semblance of optimism.

On this happier note, I had tonight an enjoyable dinner with Marilyn and Andy Trenka at Mariposa:


We tended to agree on most things related to renewable energy, but nothing much else.  In many ways, Andy was the greater optimist on things.

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