Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The 99% percent movement arrives in Kiwi Land

When does a protest become a movement? One answer is when it fails to recognise whole existing political structures. The 99% percent movement is just that. While it started in some respects in the United States it is spreading across the globe, including NZ.
The people who are attaching themselves to this movement have much in common in both an economic and social sense. The present political groupings would like to co-opt them to join their particular ideology, The National Party, Labour Party, Act etc but they won’t join, why you may ask…simply because those political groupings have failed to uphold the values that once existed. Countries, cities are governed not by people but by economic control. Take the Labour Party for example, once it stood for protecting those who individually couldn’t protect themselves…then along came Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble who ripped off the system for financial gain for the few. So people turned to the National Party who did exactly the same by cutting tax for the wealthy and supporting massive pollution to continue and they too carried on down the path of individual wealth creation for a few as against the greater good.
Rip off artists, so-called financial whiz-kids or just plain crooks became heroes, they were knighted, wined and dined, and individual enterprise and greed was rewarded and became the norm.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates earns one hundred and fifty dollars [US] per second, yes not per minute or hour but each second. What that means is if Bill Gates was walking down the Street and saw a hundred dollar note on the foot path it wouldn’t be worth his while to bend down and pick it up.
Now New Zealand may not have a Bill Gates but we do have his equivalent. And they virtually pay no tax. They were the guys that brought for a song; the BNZ, our Railways and Air NZ and then ran them into the ground. The close connection between international and local corporates and political figures made both political parties corrupt and therefore deaf to social considerations…and the gap between the rich and poor raced to new heights. NZ has the dishonor of having the largest wealth gap in the OECD.

The 99% are now connecting the dots and the picture they are creating is not a pretty one for it reeks or corruption and the misuse of democratic, financial and justice processes. Just look around and you’ll see the evidence: CEO salaries and bonus have risen at an express rate while wages have remained or declined, many have been paid millions in bonuses just days before their companies went broke or received a government bale out or were sacked. Huge roading contractors have made millions from the backs of tax payers once the Ministry of Works and other public owned organisations were sold off and they brought up state assets at bargain-bin prices and we knighted them too! Movers of money have been paid billions in bonuses simply for finding credit for others. We even made our rugby players professionals and roped them into the corporate network. The rugby union Inc ran at a $40 million dollar loss during the world cup so that the corporates could feel good, while club rugby is disappearing at a rapid rate.

The 99% don’t want to take over political parties; they want to change the system totally. They don’t give one iota about converting the political leadership from smiling public relation machines mouthing a few well developed corporate slogans. They simply want fairness and that means different things to different members of the 99%. You could say they want justice but not the justice the political parties dish out but genuine social justice based on concepts long forgotten by political parties. They ask real questions that deserve answers: for example.
·    Why do we have people living in poverty, and yet the government spends hundreds of  millions on navel ships and the military to fight other peoples wars.
·    How can our PM instantly spend four million on an entertainment centre in down town Auckland for a two day party or piss-up while people can’t get the medicines they urgently need?
·    Why do we spend billions on holiday highways instead of public transport?
·    Why, are two hundred thousand children now living below the poverty line?
·    Why is the minimum wage so low that you can’t live on it?

These are just some of the questions we need to think about leading up to the election on the 26th November. My feeling is that we have to send a clear message one, that states that we are sick of being ripped off, sick of paying for big business failures, sick of hearing bull-sh-t promises. We have to stop being sucked into the pig mire of greed, greed and more of the same failed dribble as expounded by our corporate owned newspapers via spin-doctors and self-interested groups like behind the scenes manipulators. In no way am I telling you who to vote for, but I will suggest who you shouldn’t vote for. Below is a second opinion from Dr. Campbell Jones.

Dr Campbell Jones is senior lecturer in sociology at Auckland University.
OPINION: This weekend in about 950 cities around the world, a global movement of occupations rose in solidarity with the occupation at Wall Street in New York that began on 17 September.
On Saturday, there were occupations in six cities across New Zealand, with 3000 marching up
Queen St
to hold a General Assembly in
Aotea Square
in central Auckland. More than 50 tents housing at least 100 demonstrators have been set up, along with a kitchen, media centre, waste disposal and a welcome table. Occupations still hold in Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill and New Plymouth.
It is easy to make hasty evaluations of these occupations. Indeed, many have been quick to dismiss the occupations as a confused rag-bag of left-wing, social and environmental causes.
It has been said that there is no clear message and no concrete demands from this movement that gleefully refuses to have any leaders or representatives. For many, then, this movement just makes no sense.

So what is this movement about? In part, the answer is quite simple. The Occupy Wall Street movement targeted the centre of financial power in the United States and indeed the world. In this sense "Wall Street" symbolises finance, the banking and financial services sector. So let there be no mistake - these occupations are opposed to the economic power of finance capital.

The global occupations also stress that finance capital and the banking industry are made possible by specific legal and governmental arrangements. They are aware that for at least 30 years governments throughout the world, under pressure from partisan pressure groups, have encouraged the rise of finance in an effort for capital to find ever more profitable homes. Occupiers are concerned that after the series of financial crises beginning in 2008, governments and institutions such as the International Monetary Fund have chosen to rescue banks and finance companies while imposing austerity measures on pretty much everyone else.

The Occupy movement is, however, not only about economic and political forces, but equally about ideas. It objects not only to the remarkable inequalities between and within countries, but also challenges the ideas that have up until now sought to justify those inequalities.
The movement is fighting the idea that unregulated capitalism somehow benefits everyone, and argues instead that it is a system involving systematic inequality that principally serves the interests of a small elite.
Against today's reigning economic, political and ideological constellation, the Occupy movement asserts the rights of the overwhelming majority. Hence the slogan of the global movement: "We are the 99%".
MANY people in New Zealand value equality: and think of this country as being egalitarian. The blunt reality, however, is that New Zealand has become one of the most unequal societies in the world, and is in the process of becoming increasingly so. Last week, Dame Anne Salmond called for a change of heart in our country, racked as it is with social and economic inequality.
Ad Feedback A change of heart would, however, require changing the ways that we think. It would involve changing how we think about the 151 individuals in this country whose wealth expanded by $7 billion this year, while at the same time real incomes fell for almost everyone else. It would involve changing how we think about rising poverty and social deprivation. Such a change of thinking would enable us to see how 1 per cent can do very well indeed, while austerity and crisis are the fate of 99 per cent.
This movement is saying "enough is enough". It is challenging systems of economic and political elitism and the ideologies that have for so long sought to justify inequality. Earlier this year, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz identified the dangers of an economic system run "by the 1 per cent, for the 1 per cent".
For some, it will take a while to understand what this movement is about, or what kind of change might result. Clearly, a wholesale transformation of the global financial system is on the cards. At the same time, the movement is actively deploying alternative models of democratic decision-making, with general assemblies involving collective deliberation and consensus decision- making. It is also making a range of timely and potentially lasting proposals for a transformation in the way that we think about participation in society.
These occupations therefore issue a call for journalists and politicians to listen carefully and to think again.
It calls on us all to acknowledge the stark inequalities that have arisen, and the specific processes through which a remarkably small elite benefits from our current systems of finance, political decision-making and ideas.

In this growing and increasingly articulate movement, frustration at the injustices of the present motivates the call for serious change, the magnitude of which we have not been able to imagine for some time.
Dr Campbell Jones is senior lecturer in sociology at Auckland University.
- The Dominion Post

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