Global indignation

To Take A Stand
By Rafael M. Alunan III

Posted on October 25, 2011

To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right. -- Confucius

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is an ongoing series of demonstrations in New York City’s Wall Street financial district. A Canadian activist group, Adbusters, is credited for initiating OWS, which was inspired by “Arab Spring” (the latest development being the capture and execution of Moamer Kadhafi). It was in mid-2011 when Adbusters floated the idea through its e-mail list of peacefully occupying Wall Street to protest corporate influence on public institutions, the growing disparity in wealth, and the absence of accountability of those behind the global financial crises.

Similar demonstrations have mushroomed in over 70 major cities and 600 communities throughout the US. To date, protests have taken place in over 900 cities across Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, and the Americas. In Spain, protesters known as the “Spanish Indignants” embarked on a long march from Madrid to Brussels to protest against governments bowing to financial markets and ignoring the needs of their own people. In places like Greece and Italy, the protests have turned violent.

OWS’s slogan “We are the 99%” refers to the disparity in wealth between America’s top 1% and the rest. As mentioned earlier, they are protesting socio-economic inequality; corporate greed; and the power and influence of corporations, particularly the financial sector and of lobbyists, over government. They cite data where in 1980 the top 1% earned 9.1% of all income and 18.8% by 2006. The gap between the haves and have-nots worldwide have widened to scandalous, even, criminal proportions.

The protests have been compared to “the movements that sprang up against corporate globalization at the end of 1990s, most visibly at the WTO summit in Seattle. Ravi Batra, economics professor and author of The Golden New Age: The coming revolution against political corruption and economic chaos, says that the OWS movement heralds the end of “crony capitalism.” He argues that government policies since the Reagan administration have greatly contributed to increase inequalities and economic problems in the US and that the OWS movement should push for their repeal.

Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff says that OWS is the first true Internet-era movement. The protest is less about victory than sustainability, inclusion, and consensus. He is critical of mainstream media for its dismissive attitude. “Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher.”

OWS and the global protests converge on the central point that there is a fundamental prevailing unfairness; that the very people who have damaged their economies and darkened their futures continue to get richer beyond accountability, while the rest of society continue to struggle through life. Other sectors have advanced the view that what is emerging is a global uprising against the present world order controlled by a cabal of wealthy interests that have compromised the integrity and independence of governments, as society’s equalizers, to do their bidding.

I sense too that history is unfolding before our eyes; that a global awakening is upon us. Ordinary people are taking responsibility and, more importantly, exercising leadership to restore balance, justice and equity in their lives. They have taken a stand against financial greed and government complicity that have long favored vested interests. At the very least, the protest movement is influencing public dialogue to denounce the manipulation, deceit and trampling of societies, and of the democratic ideal, for the benefit of a handful totally intoxicated to money and power.

However, the protest movement’s enlightened opposition to the obscene inequality existing between the haves and have-nots must also result in humble acceptance that, for many of them they, too, have lived a life of excess for far too long; that they lived beyond their means which mortgaged not only their future, but that of their descendants as well. Is there selective reasoning driving all this? Will this be a flash in the pan? If this is going to be humanity’s long march to real transformation, and ascendance to a higher plane of existence, it has got to be for all the right reasons.

If real transformation is to happen, then it must start with self as in “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Many though have fallen for the lure of easy money and into a debt trap that produced short-term gain without regard for the painful consequences in the long-run. Greed cuts across every social class, which is what the current world order has expertly cultivated in pursuit of its devious brand of capitalism to amass more wealth and power beyond mankind’s wildest dreams.

In the interim, while evolution is slowly turning the wheels of change, the global protest movement may yet find a way to overthrow the old order, and synthesize the best of capitalism and socialism under a regime of strong government with virtuous leaders. As an Asian, I will look out for that even if I know that things will get worse before they get any better.