Sunday, October 30, 2011


From the Chartist revolts in the 1830s we saw the growth of genuine democratic movements aiming at a government “of the people, for the people, by the people”. This movement was inspired by attempts at increasing social equality through reform of “political economy”. Going on into the 20th century, such movements led to the political systems of representative democracy we have today. But concealed in the concessions was a fatal flaw. Politics was separated from economics, and while we created a democratic political system, we failed at creating a democratic economic system. Economics was said to be neutral and value free, unconcerned about the degree of social inequality. Pareto inefficiency proclaimed that we had created a perfect system that could not be improved. But this is not so. Lack of economic democracy has in the period since the early 1970s, undermined political democracy, so that today we have a political system of plutocracy – government of the corporations, for the corporations, by the corporations. But this system was based upon a lie. It was a lie based upon permanent growth.

The lie was first exposed in the 1970s when the Vietnam War inflation and the oil price shock of 1974, showed that the post war consensus of wage increases, low inflation, a market economy driven by profit accumulation, a welfare state and economic growth was unsustainable. The book “Limits to Growth” first shattered the illusion. Niko Tinbergen in Reshaping the International Economic Order, led to the “North – South Report” of German Chancellor Willi Brandt, the “Global 2000 Report” of Jimmy Carter and the failed 1980 Cancun Summit of the UN. At first what was sacrificed was wage increases and low inflation. From 1974 until the end of the 1980s, stagflation saw wages stationary or falling, and high inflation while profits and economic growth continued to grow. From the 1980s, the Reagan and Thatcher years saw the hollowing out of economies as social inequality was assumed to be an impediment, the welfare state was privatised and inflation was slowly brought under control, followed by the “bubble years” from 1987 till the present. Faced with this unreal mysticism the world went back to sleep.

And so we have arrived now in an age of double power. This is an inflection point, a place where the old certainties of power and legitimacy are shown to be mere shadows, hollowed out by corporate greed and globalisation. They are not only unable to resolve our problems, but in fact they have become part of the problem. This was seen clearly at the first talk given by Ross Jackson at the Climate Bottom Conference at the COP 15 Copenhagen Climate Summit. Foretelling the failure of the Summit he declared that politicians would declare their powerlessness for lack of a political mandate, and corporations would declare they were powerless for lack of a market for genuine sustainability. Albert Einstein declared we cannot solve the problem using the same thinking that created it, and yet that is what corporations and governments are all about. Business as Usual has failed us, dismally.

What was seen at Copenhagen was the community movement of social organisations were turning to governments and corporations to solve the problems for them. Like the others they had latched onto targets that could be blamed for inaction. But I came away from Copenhagen convinced that it was the community that had the greatest freedom of action.

And so we see, at last the communities of the world, the 99%, taking action at last. But at the same time, the new realities and networks that are emerging, which potentially do have the capacity to solve the problems, currently have no power or legitimacy. They are still shadows too, untested and untried. The Occupy movement, drawing its inspiration from Tunisia, Tahrir Square, Los Indignados, and the protests in Israel and Greece is fast showing what people power can do in the west too.

To be sure the experience of Occupy Wall Street, in becoming able to solve its own problems, of feeding itself, providing medical care for its residents and ensuring nonviolence, are commendable, but they need to be scaled up rapidly.The Occupy London has in nearly two weeks since the initial chaotic scenes on October 15 when police kettled protesters, arresting eight on suspicion of police assault and public order offences. Since then the camp has turned into a solid, peaceful working community - complete with kitchen, university, room, waste management and power generation - and speakers at the camp’s daily general assemblies have frequently voiced plans to stay “until Christmas.”[1] But the question is now “How do we move from Occupy Wall Street, to occupy Oakland, Portland or even New York? “ This requires a civic organisation that can be rapidly duplicated and disseminated throughout all neighbourhoods.

How can this occur without duplicating the elitist structures that they replace. This has been the problem with all revolutions since 1789, and France. These earlier revolutions, as Brinton showed, all descended into violence. Hopefully, Libya aside, we will not see this happening elsewhere. Nawal El Saadawi[2], the 80 year old Egyptian Feminist who was constantly at Tahrir Square during the protests that toppled Mubarak has stated that this is the beginning of a non-violent world revolution. Speaking of the Arab Spring, Occupy and Los Indignados movements around the world she stated “We have the same goal. We are speaking out against inequality, against the divide between the poor and the rich or between Christians and Muslims. We must stand against inequality, and that is what unites us.”

The occupy movement is providing a forum for self education of a whole generation, the children and grandchildren of the most consumeristic generations in US history. In fact we could be witnessing at last the final finishing of the long US Revolution. The belief in US equality has been challenged by the collapse of the progress towards social equality that characterised the US from 1940 to 1971. It is not just in the US that we see such crony capitalism. Britain’s top executives gave themselves a 40% increase in their salaries, benefits and bonuses in the past year. Similar distortions are happening everywhere. The Occupy Movements propose a regeneration of a debate on social equality that has been quiescent for the last 40 years. The Guardian reports that “A rough survey of the occupation movement in New York found that about two in three of the protesters are under 34. This is not just because protesting may be more attractive to people with unfurred arteries, but because the young are suffering disproportionately from a crisis not of their making. Youth unemployment in Britain is at record levels: 20% of the under-24s do not have work. In Spain, youth unemployment has surged to a staggering 46%. These protests are an alert to explosive issues of inter-generational unfairness which most politicians have yet to wake up to, probably because their trade is dominated by the middle aged.”

Dragon Dreamer Andreas Merta of Vienna today shared a fantastic vision. He spoke of a world full of songlines linking dream circles and world changing projects, as he said from families to nations and beyond. Transition Towns, Villages, Cities and Streets all building for a better world. Occupy cities, towns, streets, slowing the pace of destruction, paralysing the cancerous culture, and allowing the new to grow. Love in action, transforming people's relationships, building skills, capacities, wisdom and understanding of who we really are and what we are really capable of being and doing. And above all the great cry of celebration as billions of dreams come true.

Deep in sleep the dragon lies,
it a has returned from all the skies.
Within it holds the greatest powers,
-over there you see the cowards!

Will they get up, face their fear,
or will they sit forever here?
Will they circle share their dreams,
will they see what life then means?

So watch them as they break the fence,
and join the mighty dragon dance!

(Andreas Merta)

The 500 people on the steps of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London showed what is required in their “working declaration”

  • The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.
  • We are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities dis/abilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world.
  • We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis.
  • We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable.
  • We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.
  • We want structural change towards authentic global equality.
  • The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.
  • We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others in causing this oppression.

Deep Ecologist and anti-nuclear activist Joanna Macy clearly lays out the work that must now be done.

Firstly we have the work of our hands: The slowing down of the pace of destruction through non-violent protest, lobbying, direct action and other similar acts. This will buy us time and save lives, both human and more than human.

Secondly we have the work of our heads: The building of the new sustainable organisations, institutions and systems that can keep people fed, clothed and housed in a world of climate change and declining resource bases.

Thirdly we have the work of our hearts: building the shift in human consciousness, awareness, spiritual and intellectual understanding that our crisis is one of a fasle and misleading belief system about what is real and what is false.

To this list I will add a fourth that is proving essential in all three. We need project support – advice, information and training, that does not duplicate the work of the above three, but adds value. This fourth level looks at what the other groups are doing that could be done more effectively elsewhere, growing from the top downwards. It looks at what different groups are doing that is unique and could be rapidly disseminated elsewhere. And finally it consistently looks at what is missing that, if present, would make an effective difference.

Occupy Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide in Australia; Rio in Brazil; Den Haag and Rotterdam in the Netherlands; Islamabad in Pakistan; Vancouver and Victoria, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Toronto, Quebec, Ottawa and Montreal in Canada; Cork and Limerick in Ireland; Newcastle on Tyne and London in the UK; Occupy Namibia; Ljubljana in Slovenia, Toulouse and Strasbourg in France; Occupy Cologne in Germany, Samstaða Seydisfjordur and Reykevik in Iceland; Vilnius Kudirkos Aikštės Okupacija in Lithuania; Valadolid and Barcelona in Spain, are at present our social, political, economic, spiritual, cultural, technological, artistic and environmental laboratories for the future.

When the people lead
the leaders they will have to follow
and all their lies and their alibies
they will have to swallow
and it's you that has the authority
for the one who is right
is the majority

when the people lead
people take the lead
children you've got to take your lead
or you shall be led astray

so as long as someone else
controls your history
the truth shall remain just a mystery
for you can lead a horse to the water
but you cannot make him drink
you can put a man through school
but you cannot make him think

when the people lead
people take the lead
children you've got to take your lead
or you shall be led astray

watch them try to hide
this world's imposition
but like disease that has come round from remission
when it seems
as if it has left your person
all the while it has only worsened

when the people lead
people take the lead
children you've got to take your lead
or you shall be led astray

[1] Occupy London Times, 1st Issue 26th October 2011