Here I go getting political again…
Protest movements around the world are rising like a phoenix song from the sixties. The times they are a changing – I can feel it too. Recently, groups like Occupy LA http://occupylosangeles.org/ have been camping out and “occupying” locations around Los Angeles associated with the wealthy, big corporations and stock markets – protest camps are even outside Wall Street. The premise of their protests is the imbalance growing in democratic societies (the USA in this case) between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”
And it isn't just confined to America either, increasingly other protest groups in democracies around the world (like: Occupy – Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Korea, Philippines) are pacing the streets with the same message. Also, one could draw comparisons to the Arab uprisings because, for once, religion and land don't seem to be the prevalent reasons for their own protests and government overthrows. Sure, the “west” are saying the Arab risings are all about freedom but I'm beginning to wonder if it isn't more like a mixture of freedom and desperation to rise out of poverty because they see the developing gap between their own dictator's wealth and themselves. This movement has definitely gripped the whole world in 2011.
Mr and Mrs Average are Angry
Whether you support these movements or not, it is clear that something is happening around the world and I for one am not willing to discard these demonstrators as unemployed uni-students looking for an excuse for a gathering. If you watch the news, like me, you'll see an emergence of Mr and Mrs Average walking the streets protesting about the cost of living, taxes, greedy corporations and the like. These people are educated, socially stable and not easily persuaded to come out in public in this manner but something is motivating them to want their voices heard and I think 99% of us know why.
For years now (maybe even decades) the gap between rich and poor has been widening. The average person has so many organisations, government and private, dipping into their pay packets each week that it's becoming unmanageable for many of them to live comfortably. Some sceptics would say well these people could just cut back on their spending – well, that's what most people have been doing over the last several years; why else do you think the world economy has slowed down. Problem is, the cut backs are at breaking point where people are now cutting back on necessities like health care, food, and clothing and the “fair go” meter is now rising fast in peoples minds. And, these people who are hurting have jobs! Imagine being unemployed in this economic miss-match and watching big corporations busily cutting jobs on one hand and then giving humongous bonuses to higher management with the other. It's kind of confusing isn't it?
Collectively, the protest movements message is confusing too and this doesn't help their cause. Unfortunately, their message is a difficult one to get out because the hurt has many inroads. Media groups get frustrated when the story is cloudy because they like to report clear messages and themes – it's less confusing and makes for an easier story to convey on the evening news if the message is clear, with one spokes person, and set goals. But, you won't get a clear message with this type of protest movement because different people from all society levels are affected differently by this current economic climate. Also, individuals naturally talk about their own circumstances, which comes across as a disjointed protest about many things. So, if you want more information about their plight try other means like websites, longer news articles in some papers, or 24 hour news broadcasts, as the 6 o’clock news and radio won't give you much to chew on.
But, there is a Theme
Actually all the roads lead back to a common ground – greed by a minority at the top – and there are some clear messages coming out of the movement (mainly from one-on-one interviews directly from protest members) and a common theme I hear from protesters and sympathisers seems to be inequality. Not in a democratic sense (like freedom) but in a monetary sense where people are becoming deeper in debt to try and service the most basic of lifestyles. And, this isn't right – not right at all. I suspect if these people are not listened to seriously by governments we will all see rises in protests, strikes, crime, and anguish all around the world.
Can Self Sufficiency Help?
I don't want to sound like one of those crack-pot, doomsday preachers; nevertheless, the masses have had enough of being played fools and they're fighting back so it's time to pick a team and I'm on the battlers side. I feel a difference in the attitude of people around me: family, friends, tennis club associates, work colleagues, that reflects what I read and see in the news and online. People are talking about the cost of living more than I have ever heard before in my circles so I don't believe this is just another doomsday corner preacher or a short term news story. This is growing like a tumour…
Normally my posts would start morphing into a “this is why we should be more self sufficient” theme; meaning, the way we can send a message is to buy less from the big boys and grow or do our own. However, I'm beginning to think – is this the start of a protest era never seen before in the modern world. Therefore, becoming more self sufficient may actually become a necessity rather than just a way to save money, and live healthier. The disruption in the world seems to be growing and if it continues at this rate we may start to see shortages in commodities like certain foods, energy, water etc. If this happens, those who have an element of self sufficiency (even just an established vegetable garden) will be in a better position to cope with those shortages than people who do not.
In this fast information travelling world inequality has no place to hide any more. It's easy to find out what's fair and what's not – just Google it. Coupled with social media and the ability for many like-minded people to connect quickly, means what once was a silent majority not talking to each other is now a force with the power to attract together like magnets to become one and potentially over-throw governments.
Governments and big corporation CEOs will find they have to work for their bickies now. The people are coming and hell's coming with them! Most citizens understand there will always be rich individuals who work hard, have visionary ideas, and are duly remunerated for their efforts. However, the game isn't fun when only one person at the table is holding all the cash and therefore is the only one able to make a bet. People need to feel like they have a chance and at the moment many feel like they've just been fleeced and it's going to keep happening unless they take action to stop it.
Bold Policy Changes Are What's Needed
Tinkering around the edges won't solve this monetary inequality problem only massive changes in government policy can fix it. Not that I'm a politician or policy expert; but, I've written before about how basic utilities are becoming unaffordable for some; utility reform would be a good place to start for the government. Other areas could be:
reducing credit interest by legislating caps where possible (not just on housing) but business loans and credit cards so people and business owners could actually pay their debts back fairly instead of stressfully;
workplace reform – bring more flexibility into the workplace through government incentive schemes or rebates to encourage employers to adopt worker friendly policies to reduce and manage pressures and stress in the workplace;
Give more powers and resources to the government's consumer protection agencies to enable fairer policing of prices (including fuel and food);
Create a fairer tax system where the wealthy pay more and are unable to tax minimise through loophole exploitation because they have the money and know-how;
Give shareholders more power to determine CEOs salaries or bonuses; and
Raise the minimum wage for unskilled workers, and review wages for some skilled workers as some are under-paid and others over-paid – also, over-demand for skilled services/workers shouldn't be cause to “jack” the price to unaffordable levels for the average person needing these services.
What are Others Writing?
Besides the Occupy sites, an interesting article I read the other day called Gold Vs Food – the Final Showdown, illustrates a similar view to myself but with his own spin on how society has become obsessed with material wealth at the expense of well-being. It's an interesting read (if you want to have a look) from a writer who is different but passionate and inventive – I personally like his work. The blog is called Self-Sufficient-Blog by Josiah Fordahl and here is the link http://self-sufficient-blog.com/
What am I Doing?
I'm doing what anyone who cares about this issue should be doing and that's giving support to those genuine and peaceful demonstrators with the guts to get out there and be the voice for the silent majority – as long as they protest peacefully without damaging property. We can do this by following the protesters plight and/or by: writing to local papers or authorities/members; ringing talk-back radio; attending rallies; reading blogs (and commenting – just thought I'd slip that in); signing petitions; and whatever else shows the government we the people aren't happy and we want change from the excess hold the giant corporations have on our commodities.
At the same time, I will continue to improve my self sufficiency and I encourage everyone to start or expand their productive garden because it will become a valuable resource in the future. As the big supermarkets chant “down down” prices will go “up up” and I will not pay 5 bucks for a few grams of salad leaves in a packet… neither should you when you can grow it yourself or buy from the farmers market for less.
Thanks for reading and please leave a comment below – I'd like to know what you think of this issue.
Look, and see the Earth through her eyes.
Mark Valencia – Editor SSM