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Occupying DC

In DC on Tuesday 18th October, I had a chance to observe and talk directly with protestors, learning more about what they are really about. Camps and protests have been spreading throughout the city, I came across two of them. Each were occupied by a mixed age group, mainly students, retirees, and unemployed. Some had been there a couple of days, others a couple of weeks. Some supporters I met who have jobs join the protest even if just for an afternoon, to show their support.

At the first Occupy camp I visited, the protestors had laid their signs around a statue in the center of the park. They pretty much speak for themselves: (click on one to open a slideshow)

At this camp I met “Bear”, a more revolutionary protestor, who told me an elaborate story of his teeth being knocked out in the Egypt protests, many countries having warrants on his life, and his wife being in a prison in Morocco. I must say that seeing a man like him shed tears of passion when envisaging the future of America, was a moving sight. Whether or not his story was true, it certainly was true for him.

At the second camp I was lucky to arrive at the same time as a journalist, who I joined in a short interview with retired police-officer Stephen Fryburg. Stephen had been camping at the site for two weeks, continuing his original pledge to “protect the people of America from injustice.”

Stephen had several interesting things to say:

– “we need to be looking 7 years ahead, not just acting for today”

– “we need a return to the public commons, to valuing the community”

– “we need a Department of Peace” – rather than so much money going into the Defense budget, a Peace budget would work proactively to prevent the defense being required in the first place.

– “we need more of the feminine in politics – too often by the time women get to the top they are acting like men. It would help if more women were in politics and if those women acted like women.”

– “we need to hold politicians accountable for their actions”

The protests have most commonly been criticised for not really knowing what they want. I think this is wrong. The protestors seemed to know exactly what they want, even if they don’t know the legalities and logistics that surround such outcomes.

The journalist asked Stephen “what would success look like to you?” 

Stephen replied a clear answer: “above anything else success is the stopping of corporate control of our political parties.”

A year from elections, with Obama having raised 1 billion dollars for his campaign, it seems to be a cause worth fighting for. I have learned from friends here that in America “money is a form of speech” and therefore “speaking” (bribing) by paying for politicians campaigns in exchange for certain policies, is ok. This, the protestors demand, must change. People want their voices to be heard above the voice of money. Power to the people.


“Shareholder Capitalism” VS “Socialised Capitalism”

Why did our political leaders bail out banks (who caused the GFC) rather than the public (who lost wealth and jobs as a result)? Why did governments spend trillions of dollars repairing a system that, in the well-known cycle of booms and busts, is destined to crash once again? Why are they bandaiding problems caught up in a powerbroker system that is visibly failing, rather than following the advice of economists like Joseph Stiglitz, who suggest seizing the opportunity for reform? Why do our political leaders seem to support “Shareholder Capitalism” rather than investigating the process of moving toward a “Socialised Capitalism” that might be more constructive?

As the Occupy Wall St movement spreads across the world, people are questioning a number of aspects of our system that they previously left unexamined. One of those is the assumption that Capitalism as we know it today is the only version of Capitalism that is possible. While economists recognize the varieties of Capitalism that exist throughout the world, the varieties can be less visible to the average human eye.

The thing is, the Global Capitalist model as we know it today, that emphasizes neo-liberal policy, provides little regulation to banks and financial industries, and disconnects shareholder profit and public loss, is by no means a fixed and final version of the Capitalist model. In fact, it is clear that such a form of Capitalism is destined for ongoing collapse. In short, it’s time for reform.

What does a shift from “shareholder capitalism” to “socialised capitalism” involve? The Australian School of Business article that inspired this blog entry suggests this shift would involve a move from short-term speculation to long-term investments, from huge corporations to family-owned companies. ‘The differentiating factor lies in the allocation of resources‘. [1]

“Make no mistake,” Andrew Kakabadse explains, “both ideas are market-driven… which is either in short-term deals driven by cash flow to cater to the few or in infrastructure and highly innovative family businesses that deliver long-term wealth to society as a whole. Nobody takes notice of this second model, which has by far the greatest wealth creation potential in the world, despite everything that is happening”.[1]

Hang on a second, which creates the most wealth? What’s more appealing then, shareholder capitalism or socialised capitalism??? Isn’t it in our favour to create more wealth, not less?

I don’t know the pragmatic details of how such a shift could be actualized. How could you stop short-term speculation (derivatives, hedge bets etc) deals going down? How could governments encourage a move from corporation to family-owned companies? How can resources be reallocated to promote a more people-friendly system? It is too late at night, and I’m too tired from recent adventures in Chicago, DC and car accidents (which I’ll blog about soon), for me to contemplate such answers. I will therefore conclude with my take-away message from this article, that some kind of “socialised capitalism” is an appealing direction to be heading… do you agree?

[1] “Off the Record: Spilling the Bilderberg Secrets” Published: October 11, 2011 in Knowledge@Australian School of Business.

“Occupy Sydney”

If you’re not in Sydney (like me) or can’t make it to protest, you can still spread the word about this peaceful protest to change the rules of our global capitalist game.

Stop banks and corporations:
– reducing humans to commodities
– controlling media
– funding both sides of wars
– destroying the environment


Reserve Bank of Australia

Martin Place and Macquarie Street
Sydney, Australia

Occupy Sydney:

Occupy Together:!/OccupyTogether

Occupy Wall Street:

Occupy Australia:

Occupy Sydney:

Occupy Melbourne:

Occupy Brisbane:

Occupy Perth:

Occupy Adelaide: Sydney acknowledges the Traditional Indigenous Eora peoples’ custodianship of the land upon which many Australian’s now live and work – the place the world knows as Sydney – and the genocide perpetrated against that people by the colonists from whose occupation the current governments claimed right to govern descends. Occupy Sydney also acknowledges that such #humanrights crimes of genocide continue to be committed against aboriginal peoples across Australia today- in particular the Northern Territory Intervention, a racist bilaterally supported denial of humanrights and cultural genocide which continues today.

“Occupy Wall St” – bringing down The Pyramid?

What is #OccupyWallSt? Who are the 1%? Why did it take the media so long to report on it? What do protestor’s want? Are they trying to bring down The Pyramid? Will they succeed?

I am teaching a class on the Philosophy of War and Peace in North Carolina, with a specific focus on the Arab Spring. Yet here in America I might be witnessing the greatest revolution of them all: the “OccupyWallSt” movement, and its children.

When I showed RapNews to students a few weeks ago, I had no idea that it would become prophetically true:


People have been camping out in Zuccotti Park (formerly “Liberty Plaza Park”) for almost a month, and yet the media in America only started reporting on it just over a week ago. Why?

What is “OccupyWallSt”?

OccupyWallSt (and OccupyChicago, OccupySydney, OccupySeasameSt etc) are peaceful protests against the foothold that corporations have over the state of global affairs including economic injustices, environmental destruction, providing weapons to both sides of wars, controlling the media and making politicians their puppets.

Like the Arab Spring, the demonstrations don’t have a leader. It began with 1000 people walking down the street,and 100-200 sleeping in the park. The idea was originally proposed in an Adbusters (an advertisement-free, anti-consumerist Canadian magazine), who suggested protesting against the lack of holding Wall St responsible for their actions re the global financial crisis, global poverty and their pervasive influence on democracy.

Why did the media take so long to report?

Because the media is owned by corporations, of course.

What do protestor’s want?

I will be able to answer this question much better in a couple of week’s time, after I visit Chicago and Washington DC, and even more so after Thanksgiving when I visit NYC… but for now, this is what I can gauge:

Protestors are holding signs like:

“I am a human being, not a commodity”

“I will believe corporations are people when Georgia executes one of them”

“Money for jobs & housing NOT banks & war”

“We are the 99 percent”

Nobel prizewinning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Jeff Madrick (former economics columnist for the New York Times and author of Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America) recently spoke with Wall Street about what caused the global financial crisis. On Australia’s ABC, Peter Lloyd interviews Jeff Madrick click here. Despite the mainstream media’s attempts to make out the protest is “inefffective action”[4], Madrick says that “The fact is the gut feelings of these people or the informed feelings of some of them because there are a lot of educated people there, are essentially correct. They are correct that Wall Street was the principal cause of the great recession, that greed and outrageous pay was a principal cause and that Washington has not properly dealt with it…”[5]

There is talk of the protest being the left wing response to the “Tea Party”, with one big difference. Madrick notes “These people don’t march to one drummer like the disciplined Tea Party. These people think for themselves, have independent frustrations, have independent agendas.”[5]

Who are the 1%?

According to the Washington Post the top 1 percent are those American households who “had a minimum income of $516,633 in 2010 — a figure that includes wages, government transfers and money from capital gains, dividends and other investment income.” [2] Their average wealth was $14 million in 2009 (down from a $19.2 million peak in 2007).[2]

Documentaries like Inside Job names and shames some of the 1% who were responsible for the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).


Who are the 99%?

The rest of us! Anyone who makes less than $516,633 a year.The 99% are the ones who paid (and are still paying) for the GFC. The 99% want to work, and there’s lots of work to be done, but there’s no money for them to pay one another because the greedy 1% have sucked it out of the system and put it in their pockets.

Ezra Klein in the Washington Post breaks this down further: “the bottom 60 percent earned a maximum of $59,154 in 2010, the bottom 40 percent earned a max of $33,870, while the bottom 20 percent earned just $16,961 at maximum.” [2]

What influence does money have on politics?

For a simple explanation check out the “Story of Stuff”:



“Story of Citizens United v. FEC”:


The Pyramid: Laws, Population, Poverty & Ecology

My Master of Peace and Conflict Studies taught me that global politics, economics, military, society and psychology are intertwined and extremely complex. My attention has been drawn to the intersections of growing population, poverty and the ecological predicament they create: (1) For global population to stabilize we must help people at the base of the pyramid out of poverty; (2) We need six Earths to sustain 7 billion people living like Americans and Australians do; (3) Technology will only solve this problem if the people at the top invest in it.

In short, a sustainable habitat and lifestyle for humans requires the priorities of corporations need to change from the legalized goal of profit for shareholders, to the moral goal of improving the lives of people in the world today and in the future.

Let me recap a useful metaphor: The Pyramid. In Preserving The Pyramid: Why things are the way they are I proposed that things are the way they are because they have been designed this way: poverty, religion, education systems, health-related issues – all of our problems are (at least in part) designed to preserve “The Pyramid”.

Changing laws and priorities isn’t easy, particularly when The Pyramid has guardians around all its walls, protecting the wealth and power of the elites at the top.

Are protester’s trying to bring down The Pyramid?

I don’t think so. It seems to me these protesters are using non-violent conflict to demand a more mobile hierarchy of power, a global social and economic pyramid that doesn’t exploit the people it is supposed to protect. That makes them my heroes.

What can be done?

The power in The Global Pyramid today lies with the bankers and stockmarket – people with a license to print money or make  money from nothing – shuffling papers, or giving letting others shuffle papers for them.  If shareholders invest to make profit, then companies will continue to put profit before people and our planet. Even if shareholders personally care more about life than money, the system has become bigger than it’s parts.

Madrick gives some more specific suggestions: (1) “get over this obsession with austerity economics”; (2) “reinvest in this economy in significant ways”; (3) “we really need a different regulation scheme for Wall Street”. Unfortunately this latter suggestion, Madrick suggests, “will be very difficult to do given the power and money on Wall Street.”[5]

How can the rules that govern Wall St be updated to prioritize life and our ecosystems over monetary profit? Which laws need to be changed? How can the economy be stimulated without needing to fund both sides of wars? How can Wall Street be better regulated?

Will the #Occupy Movement succeed?

“Can I say this will end in complete victory?” Madrick asks, “No, you can never say that. But it may begin to change public opinion enough to give Congress people in Washington the courage of their own convictions. Many of them are disgusted by what’s happening and can’t get any traction for their own ideas and maybe they will begin to get the courage to come forward… The American establishment has the courage to ask one fundamental question: what is Wall Street for?  Do we need a Wall Street that takes 40 per cent of American profits? No way. Let’s rethink that. But the American establishment seems anyway afraid to ask that question and we have to start asking that.”[5]

The protesters give me hope. They are turning words into action, demanding their (and our) basic human rights, they are making peace a verb.


[1] ^ What’s behind the scorn for the Wall Street protests?, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, September 29, 2011; accessed September 29, 2011