I’m someone who is employed, well paid and has never been involved in protests before. I was taught to be honest, work hard and keep my head down and believed that if I did that I would be justly rewarded – and I think I have been. While I was growing up, I also had excellent moral role models in the form of my family. They taught me concern for others and to seek out and value justice in all its forms.
I’ve become involved in the occupation because my sense of justice has been increasingly offended by what I see going on in the world. Please allow me to try and explain:
In the run up to 2008, traders incentivised by short-term bonuses did what any reasonable person in their sub-culture would do and maximised their income. Their short-term decisions would turn out to be bad news in the long-term, but no-one wanted to listen to the party poopers who dared to broach the subject. Banks and governments had created a situation in which the value of money became evermore disconnected from the work and well being of people. The mere movement of money (albeit through exquisitely complex financial instruments) was all that was required to generate a profit. Everyone basked in the glory of the perpetual motion machine that was the global financial system. Naturally the people operating the machine did very well for themselves and everyone else waited for the trickle-down.
So far so good – my morals not yet offended, I kept my head down.
Then came 2008 and the ‘Lehman Shock’ that led to the Credit Crunch. It became clear that the complex financial instruments rated as AAA investments were far from safe. As the seismic repercussions bounced round the planet, the people and politicians remembered that perpetual motion is an impossibility against the laws of nature. For a few days there was talk of putting the finance industry under the kosh; making huge structural changes to the finance system; putting the possibility of any future crisis beyond reach of future financiers. Then, realising how big a step into the unknown this would be, the world stuck fingers in ears, closed its eyes and wished the problems would all go away.
So far, still no moral outrage.
The next chapter is best summarised by the phrase “Privatisation of profit, socialisation of losses”. The politicians of the world, in a monumental act of cowardice, failed to get the too-big-to-fail financial institutions in check before handing them the money needed to save them.
The banks, as far as I can tell, continue with business as usual. Governments, on the other hand, do not. They are cutting spending, killing essential services to people in need of them – I’m not going to bore you with a bleeding-heart tirade about the cuts as I’m sure you’ve heard about them as much as I have. I’ll summarise it all by saying that it’s the nations and their citizens that have ended up under the kosh while the practitioners of the financial black-arts go largely unaffected.
Now my morals are offended. I am outraged.
There are a number of ways in which a society might seek to achieve justice: “From each according to ability, to each according to need” is one, “Reward in proportion to contribution” is another and I’m sure there are many more. But I can find no way to justify a society in which the actions of a few, unchecked by the state, result in hardship of the many. I do not wish to live under the rule of a political clique who, when they had the chance, did nothing to protect the interests of their people. I cannot live in a society where the pursuit of financial gain leaves us unable to look after the old and infirm. I do not want a world where people agonise over whether to turn on their heating as winter draws in. This situation cannot be allowed to stand.
Things can be better. I’m doing what I can to make them better.
I appeal to you to find out more about the Occupy movement.