You might have heard about Occupy Wall St or Occupy Perth.
If you have, you’ve probably also heard commentators asking “why, why, why?”. That has been pretty hard to miss. Here are some answers, which are of course my own subjective personal views. They are also subject to change as the movement grows and it’s membership takes shape. But anyway, lets get to it.
There are far too many reasons behind the popularity of the occupy movement to try name them all, but they all relate back to one key issue: Wealth Inequality.
What is wealth inequality?
Wealth inequality exists where a small group of people control far more (or less) wealth per-person than the rest of society. It has been a fact of human existence throughout history, but its’ effects are more pronounced now.
Until the 1800’s, the globe only needed to supply enough resources to sustain a few hundred million people. With the same resources we are now attempting to supply a good standard of living for over 6.5 billion people. Resources ARE ‘scarce‘ and it’s starting to bite.
So what does ‘scarcity’ mean to us?
Scarcity means each individuals ‘share’ of total global resources must go down. It’s simple math. If you have 100 pieces of pie and 10 people, everyone gets 10 pieces. Invite another 40 people along and you only got 2 pieces each. But in the late 1900s and early 21st century the opposite has been the case for the richest few.
Haven’t the wealthy always had more?
In ancient times, if a monarch failed to appease his subjects, they would rally behind a new leader and kill or overthrow the old one. In a modern democratic environment, it’s not so easy.
Today it is governments ‘of the people’ who have responsibility for ensuring the needs and interests of the public are met, not necessarily the wealthy. Through this system we are supposed to all have an equal say in how the country runs, but this is not the case. Voting actually limits us to only being able to choose between the best of a few bad options, once every few years.
What do elections have to do with it?
The supposedly ‘representative’ governments we elect fail to act in our interests. Especially in regards to the economy. Essential public infrastructure and public services are privatised (or profitized) to ‘reduce budget deficits’. They even allowed the wealthy to bid average Australian families out of the housing market.
Their policy for regulating wealth is not to. If the rich get richer and the poor get poorer so be it. That’s market economics. But it’s also an affront to ‘democracy’, literally means ‘people power’, because wealth equates to power. I should not need to justify this point, because it is plain and simple for all to see. The wealthy are powerful and are becoming increasingly powerful as they become more wealthy, at the expense of the rest of us.
The rich are wealthy and powerful, big surprise?
I get it your not surprised the rich are getting richer, or that they have more power as individuals than we do. You probably aren’t surprised either when I say wealthy investors have pushed housing prices so high they are unaffordable to average Australians. Yes, it is now impossible for an average Australian, earning the average income to save up and buy a cheap first home.
Well, unless they get a mortgage of course.
Everyone gets mortgages, what’s the point?
That is exactly the point. Everyone gets mortgages, unless they are one of that 1% who is already excessively wealth. Ok, so maybe they are the 5% or 10% in some countries, but the point remains the same. The only way to avoid handing over large amounts of money for ‘rent’ every week for the rest of your life, aside from begging refuge from someone else, is to own your home, which means getting a mortgage.
Whether as rent or interest on your mortgage, either way you will hand over hundreds of thousands of your hard earned dollars to the wealthy, whose only service to you is having more wealth than they can possibly use. That’s the point.
There is something fundamentally wrong with the system when a democratic society so heavily favours the wealthy over average citizens.
Surely #occupy is not all about housing?
While housing is one of the most significant and obvious examples of wealth inequality in any country, there are many, many other examples of wealth inequality.
One such example is the ridiculous amount of tax write-off’s available to those who have enough money to continually ‘invest’. Some of the richest people in Australia pay less tax in a year than either my father or I do, while still amassing huge amounts extra wealth.
Another key complaint is the lack of action on climate change, which many #occupy members, including myself, believe is a direct result of businesses dragging their heals and others directly opposing any switch to renewable energy.
Similarly are complaints about the lack of action to repair land previously damaged by poorly regulated agriculture and industry, such as desalination of farmland and reforestation.
Don’t forget human rights and equality!
There are many other issues which people feel could be dealt with much more efficiently, if our politicians were not so heavily influenced by wealthy lobbyists. These include ALL human rights agenda issues such as poverty, homelessness, Indigenous rights, marriage equality, women’s rights, freedom of religion, refugee rights and mental health issues. Both private businesses and our elected governments are failing to meet the peoples expectations on one, some, or all of these issues.
In my opinion and that of many others involved in the #occupy movement, this is all relates back to the wealthy being so damn powerful, the rest of us just don’t get heard.
Also, feel free to check out the interview I did with 6PR radio this morning, talking about #occupyPerth and broaching on some of the issues mentioned above. Click here.