“Evolution does not unfold in a neat, linear fashion; it is a messy complicated affair.” Palaeontologist Adam Yates
The Occupy Movement that is spreading around the world is the merging of people concerned about globalization, concentration of wealth and power, erosion of basic human rights and the economic and social marginalization of the majority. Our once progressive nations are now becoming regressive, where our current economic system isn’t working for the majority anymore. Since we became viewers instead of doers and consumers instead of citizens the road that our governments are pushing us down is the road to totalitarianism, where sooner than we think, most all aspects of our lives will be subject to state control.
The issues driving this protest are diverse; corporate greed, environmental sustainability, social inequality, income disparity, homelessness, poverty and the erosion of fundamental human rights. It is a rising up against a system that benefits the wealthy elite at the expense of the working class, with citizens feeling excluded from the decisions that are extremely important to their lives. It is about the financial mismanagement that continues to push us further into economic recession and how corporations control and influence the political agenda, for any system that promotes greed does not include accountability, with the underlying issue being the lack of morality and no ethical leadership.
This is why many, especially anyone making over one hundred thousand dollars a year, are not getting it and are confused over why the protests are happening at all. It all comes down to basic human nature and the ego. Many of the top 1% who possess the majority of the wealth, besides thinking irrationally that no matter the problems with our societies or of the degenerating environment, they will be insulated and unaffected from it and will be able to buy their way out, also possess unhealthy, excessive pride, which gives them over-confidence, arrogance and contempt. They are overly vain and become snobs, because they feel they are above others, who are to them “lesser humans”. This excessive pride does not acknowledge that others outside of their immediate circle are of equal worth. On the other hand, natural and realistic pride gives a person the confidence to recognize that the world contains natural hierarchies of both aptitude and attitude.
Many of the problems today, whether social or environmental, are caused by the globalization of market forces, which also drives income inequality. The riots in Britain this past summer were caused mostly from the barely contained anger of an unequal society. The crashing of global markets in 2008 was caused by greed and bad decision making by the principle players, by not understanding the moral implications of strategic decisions. Their problem was how they viewed their roles and as the 2001 accounting scandals that brought down Enron and others proved, they have no ethics either.
The super-rich of the 1920’s lived on income that came from holding assets; today the super-rich accrue their wealth from paid compensation. According to a survey carried out in Canada, in April/2011 by BMO Harris Private Banking, 94% of respondents with investable assets of $1 million or more said they have made their money on their own, either as self made professionals and/or business owners, with only 6% inheriting their wealth. Nearly 80% said that they enjoy greater wealth than their parents and 70% said they are currently the same or better off than they were before the 2008 financial collapse. Surprisingly, less than 58% felt their children would be able to manage their inheritance.
In 2009 Canada’s highest paid executive. Aaron Regent, the Chief Executive Officer of Barrick Gold, earned over $24 million in wages. The same year the median income for a single Canadian was $22,800. Over the last 20 years, the income of 80% of Americans has stagnated while the top 1%’s income has nearly doubled, with the richest 1% of Americans taking in 25% of the income and controlling 40% of the wealth. Startlingly, the pace of widening between those who have and those who do not is rising faster in Canada than in the United States.
In Canada, over 33% of the wealth created in the past 20 plus years has gone to the richest 1% of Canadians, about 246,000 people, with most of their wealth gained from 1998-2007. But then the bubble burst, which it will always do, for as far as capitalism goes its flaw is that it is a system based on unlimited, infinite growth working within a finite framework. Canada’s once progressive approach to social programs and tax policies aided in keeping the disparity in income in check. Now that we are becoming more regressive, minimum wages have stagnated, with real income after inflation barely increasing. Unionization is decreasing. There is tighter access to unemployment benefits and lower welfare payments, while the tax rate for the richest 1% has dropped from 80% in 1948 to about 38% in 2009, with them paying about 18% of total taxes paid. From 1976 to 2009, the richest 20% of Canadians doubled their income difference over the poorest 20%, from $92,300 to $177,500, while the median income of the other 80% of Canadians rose only 5.5% over the same timeframe. With the top 20% of earners receiving 51% of total income earned.
In a nutshell, the 246,000 Canadians whose annual income is $200,000 or more are the richest 1%. One-tenth of a per cent of these individuals make over $2.8 million a year. Anyone earning $100,000 or more annually is in the top 5%. Globally, anyone making $53,000 a year or more is included in the richest 1% of worldwide income earners.
A huge fallacy has been countries using the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to show that an economy is doing well. GDP is used to measure a country’s total economic value. It measures total output produced within a country’s borders, whether produced by that country or not, in a given period. GDP per capita is not a measurement of but is considered an indicator of a country’s standard of living. Countries base many of their legislative, financial, social and economic decisions on the GDP which seems ludicrous considering the facts that the GDP does not include assessment of quality of life, does not indicate growing economic and social inequalities or for variances in income, or for such things as household production, volunteer or unpaid services. It does not account for any “underground” economies or account for the value of all assets in an economy. It also does not account for amassing objects of value, increase in wealth or creation of wealth. It does not adjust for quality improvements or new products, does not include environmental and social impacts, costs for environmental clean-up and restoration nor for births and deaths. The GDP is what props up the world’s financial plutocracy and the concept that with capitalism, especially in the banking sector, people don’t matter. It robs us of any financial democracy. But then we are in societal denial about many things, especially thinking that we can continue to try to fit the square peg of our self-indulgent, consumer society into the round hole of the environment.
During the first decade of this century, under the guise of the GDP indicating a rising standard of living, steady growth in the world’s economies, very little oversight and hardly any reform 2008 came along and the proverbial shit hit the fan. The global financial market imploded. Corporate controlled media had been giving the story that we were in an age of wealth, while in reality it is the age of debt. Marketing, spending, entertainment, sports and politics have kept our eyes diverted, while drugs and alcohol keeps us occupied and complacent. It is no wonder that the worlds #1 health problem will soon be the state of our mental well being.
There was no public inquiry into the causes of the crash and no calling to account of those responsible. They were allowed to simply walk away from the crash, uninjured and would be actually compensated very well for their inferior and irresponsible driving. To bailout their greedy and irrational behaviour they were paid from tax revenue diverted from medical care, education, social security, jobs creation and addressing climate change. Many corporate leaders were given multimillion dollar bonuses, with the added dividend that the speeding up of the dismantling of public service resources makes populations dumber and more controllable. Incredible amounts of public money were paid to save the system without fixing it. The United States bailed out their villains on Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion, about the same amount they spend on their defence budget annually ($670 billion), and about the same amount they owe China, their largest foreign debtor.
Believing that some of the bailout money would trickle down is sheer fantasy. Left to the current devices of capitalism money always floods upwards. Politicians simple become cheque writers and do not have the will to stand up to global finance or the wealthy because those are the people they actually work for and represent. Much like all the empires throughout history, as they fall there is inherent corruption within the system. Members of a political party do not follow the concerns of those they represent, they follow the concerns of the party and what the corporate lobbyists, who wine, dine and play them, tell them what the concerns should be, in confidence of course.
The Canadian Government, currently called the Harper Conservative Government received 39% of the votes in the last federal election yet rules by a large majority of the Parliament and is every day becoming a classic case, which time and time again has proven, will eventually rot from within from apathy, smugness and placidity. Politicians are no longer men and women of the people but men and women of the governing class who preside in the realm where honesty and openness are rarely seen and their false vanity soon becomes cynicism. Eventually they will very nearly believe they have been placed in government by god himself. This has happened more often than not over the past few thousand years.
On certain levels, we the people knew this was going to happen because we could feel the changes in our personal lives. The huge majority of people do not live so grandiose lives as do those in the corporate world. For most of us life is earning enough to eat, having a decent job and having a modest home to live in. Our lives are the daily contacts we have with our fellow human beings, our interactions and our relationships. This year (2011), polling has determined that well over 60% of Canadians are living pay check to pay check.
Politics in Canada and the United States is an affair where few actually vote, especially among the young. Elsewhere in the world people are literally sacrificing themselves, and often dying for even the right to vote. When we do vote we are voting for a party instead of whom one represents.
The Occupy movement is being accused of having no leadership or definition. Instead, so far it is being led by everyone standing up and being allowed to voice their concerns. Though the powers that be have the media clamouring for a definition, they must remember that our current modern age began over five hundred years ago, when our need to understand led to definition. To get the Occupy movement to announce a definition of what they represent now would be clearly skipping the understand part. And once defined, accurately or not, would put itself in the hands of the richest 1% whose primary activities are transaction and consumption, and at which time the cool-aid would be then passed around.
What the world needs now and is craving, is ethical leadership. Unfortunately in the past whenever great ethical and empathic leaders would appear they would eventually become marginalized or killed off. But that is changing, for there are many wealthy people today who are very concerned about their fellow humans and the environment, there simply is not enough of them. Our banks and our economies may soon sink into bankruptcy, but we should not allow ourselves to become morally bankrupt at the same time. One can only imagine the difference if more corporate leaders, bankers, traders and political lobbyists were actually morally enlightened. Corruption, the stink of capitalism, would be rare. Imagine politicians speaking for and representing the people that they live alongside in their communities and regions instead of living in fear of speaking out against the party and being just puppets, putting in just enough effort and time to receive obscene pension packages. A far changing difference would be having the 10% of humanity who manage the various societies for the wealthy, continue to be educated in accounting and economics but also in the values of self reflection and the study of virtues, such as humanity, justice and courage. Developing responsible business ethics is not the answer we need now, but might be what’s needed to prevent any future damage.
The leaders that are needed today are men and women of good character. Leaders, who will admit their mistakes, humbly seek advice and retain their personal integrity. Such corporate leaders today have led companies that are holding their own through the current financial crisis. They possess a strong value system and with an ability to reflect on these values and tendencies have encouraged better communication and more transparency in their business transactions.
What started as a global financial crises became a debt crises for individual nations, which is now seeping back into the financial system causing further bailout plans. But austerity measures won’t work and will probably simply speed up the downward economic spiral. The Occupy movement has many issues that are important to humanity and how we do things, as well as issues vital to the earth’s deteriorating environment. They don’t have the answers but do agree that something has to be done now, today. And that everyone must start making a difference equally. We have arrived at the point in time of our history where we have become aware that communism and capitalism don’t work. As to what will work is what we need to find out, but we must first understand what we need before defining what it is we need.
There are a lot of sound ideas out there on what should be done. A huge step in the right direction would be getting away from global and national banking. The enormous profits big banks make do not create new jobs, fund the renewal of our infrastructure, build a new green economy, eradicate poverty or tackle climate change. The new money that is created only enriches the wealthy. Far too many of us are becoming slaves of distant lending and credit card companies. Household debt is climbing drastically, even though we can’t afford it; student fees rising to life-long debt levels, rents and a housing market that is becoming as fantastical as thinking one will be alright as soon as they win 20 million dollars on the lottery. Instead we should perhaps ponder about having local, public savings banks which support small business and ordinary people.
Another need is for more dispersed ownership and control of a nation’s natural, human and financial capitol, whereas the financial industry returns to a more mutual ownership. For example, all print, whether newspapers, books or magazines; publishing houses: television, film and radio is all owned, in Canada and the US, by about 2-3 corporations, which is very scary close to being all owned by just one.
Instead of hiding behind the curtain of the GDP perhaps each community could discuss what each sees as its future and what opportunities are there for locally based businesses and lasting, stable jobs. And to also incubate initiatives among diverse groups that perceive and think ahead to future dangers and make long lasting decisions to correct its course.
As to the gap between rich and poor, the reality is that when equality is greater in a society it brings about such things as; with everyone having at least a decent standard of living with their basic necessities taken care of, it brings about the elimination of poverty, which translates into better physical health thus less health costs. More education would bring higher levels of trust between peoples, which would reduce imprisonment and prisons and also bring about less drug abuse and less obesity.
With rising health costs and the fact that in North America in 2011 the largest wave of the wealthiest, most educated and professionally accomplished people in the history of mankind, the proponents of what is happening today, as well as a majority whose illusions of retiring to a life of leisure is now compromised, reached the age of 65 yrs. This generation has been very lucky in that most of their wealth was gained from a housing boom that saw the average home value rise nearly 80% over their lifetime. Housing values over the next decade is forecasted to either go sideways or decline. The new generation are already in debt and their future will be living in a debited society. With the majority of people in Canada now elderly, it is interesting to note that of the factors determining our health in Canada, only 25% of the quality of the health care system accounts for our good health. For 50% of us Canadians the factors determining our health includes childhood development, education, social status, community connection, income and work history. While for 25% of us our health is determined by biology, genetics and physical environment.
The Occupy movement started with people looking around empathically and finally standing up and saying enough is enough. With lists of issues and needing answers, the dialogue already created is going a long way and is growing with each passing day. The movement is global, for the gap between those that have and those that do not is widening everywhere. People are simply fed up and it’s not that they won’t, it’s that far too many cannot take it anymore, not just what the world has become now, but as to what it will be like for our children and their children. Far too many of us continue to believe in the naive concept that, “My father did better than my grandfather. I did better than my father, while my children, i hope will do better than me”.
The wealth, prestige and respect of a few leaders gives them the freedom to go out into the world and instil change, to care and to stand up and speak for their fellow humans no matter where they were born on the earth. This is their passion and who they are, but as mentioned earlier they are but a few. Others who have wealth have passions as well but it is for the need of more wealth. Instead of being an important person to their family, community and the world they are simply trying to buy themselves the title and the respect that comes with it. The rest of us only want a fair shake and need to realize that for about 70 to 80% of the world’s population, any changes will have to be done collectively and individually.
The irresponsibility and greed of the super-rich have already caused one crash but we the public bought them a new vehicle, which we are once again standing on the sidelines, watching as it speeds headlong for the edge of the abyss sucking everything along with it, with all the principle players fighting over who is going to steer or at least who gets to sit up front.
The collective consciousness of our world is what must be changed and has nothing to do with where and to which environment we were born into. All wise men and women, who we have deemed as being true prophets, throughout the history of humanity, have always stressed the point that each person must strive to create positive change only into their own lives to affect change globally.