It all started with an email.
On July 13, 2011 Adbusters magazine sent out a call to its 90,000-strong list proclaiming a Twitter hashtag, #OccupyWallStreet, and a date, September 17. It quickly spread among the mostly young, tech-savvy radical set, along with an especially alluring poster the magazine put together of a ballerina atop the Charging Bull statue, the American financial district’s totem to testosterone. Despite being supported by Anonymous, Occupy Wall Street was considered a failure as less than a thousand people came out for the initial march. However, over the last month it has grown not only in Zucotti Park, New York into an encampment to be reckoned with, a global movement with over a thousand sites for protest and rallies across 88 countries. The 99% has woken up.
Who is Occupying? There are people from all walks of life; understandably it is first and foremost those who are most aware that something is wrong, very wrong, with our world. The US currently has more than the population of Canada unemployed (over 33 million people) and that number is rising, not falling. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes, seen their pensions dwindle while the cost of living rises, combined with insurmountable medical, student and personal debt. These are the people who have first come to the Occupy movement, but the rest of the 99% is slowly but surely following. Never before in the history of the world has there been such a movement! But why is that?
The ruling class elite, the 1% of the world who runs and owns nearly everything, have gone too far in their greed through the excessive acquisition of land, extraction of resources, selling bogus bonds, sub-prime mortgages, poisoning our water, selling weapons and land mines to both sides in wars, pushing unsustainable technologies as ‘solutions’, and never being held accountable for what they do.
(To fuel with ethanol all the vehicles in the US alone, that entire country would have to be planted in corn as you would need approximately 11 acres of corn per car. In terms of energy use, such as coal fired electricity to run distilleries, it takes 2 to 2.5 gallons of gasoline to produce one gallon of ethanol. This is one of dozens of subsidized corporate welfare scams that make the corporatists rich at the expense of the taxpayer.)
How about the largest corporation in the world, Walmart? Think tank studies exposed the lies of trickle-down economics as Walmart in many states gives inadequate hours and underpays employees which results in those ‘underemployed’ people needing to seek food stamps, using food banks and other forms of social assistance to survive. Whenever Walmarts move in, small local businesses inevitably close, unable to compete with the giant store and its low prices; this results in a net loss to a number of states’ coffers. The documentary titled, “Walmart, The High Cost of Low Price” sheds more light on this phenomenon.
Last year General Electric, one of the wealthiest and powerful corporations in the world, should have paid 13 billion dollars in taxes, but in reality the company paid none. A front-counter clerk at McDonald’s paid more in taxes than mega-giant G.E., tax money that is needed to keep the infrastructure of America safe and secure, schools running, post moving and more. Why didn’t they, and other big companies like them, pay? The corporations have successfully co-opted our politicians and thus our governments and our legal system and our tax system. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn nearly a century of law in its Citizen’s United decision allowed corporations to donate to politicians and parties as if they were people, effectively changing the way elections will be run by allowing those with the most money to dominate the game.
We have all had a part in it by our wanton blindness that is caused by devouring mainstream media lies and our obsession with materialism and consumption, never mind that this push towards materialism and consumption was pushed on us post-WW2 and continues to this day. This culture of consumption keeps us busy and happy (temporarily) while prices go up, wages go down, we continue to encourage the destruction of our environment at an exponential rate, all to keep the ‘Ponzi’ scheme going so we can all keep shopping! Now, in North America, 1% of the population controls over 90% of the wealth. In many countries it is worse. Angry yet? Here’s some more food for thought:
- Why are most things made in China?
- Why do one in nine Canadian children live in poverty?
- Why is the gap between rich and poor growing faster in Canada than any other country?
- Why are 75% of farmers in Canada going retire within 15 years?
- Who is going to grow our food?
- Why do 85% of farmers in Canada have an off-farm job to make ends meet?
- Why do we only grow less than 5% of our food on Vancouver Island?
- Why do we keep putting golf courses on prime agricultural land?
- Our best land is in the lower, warmer, valley-bottom areas where the best soil is, as well as access to water for irrigation. That also happens to be where we build our cities! 50% of the world’s population now lives in cities. 84% of Canadians live in cities. At least eight US cities are now totally bankrupt with more to follow.
- People preparing for retirement are told they can’t have their full severance pay or it will bankrupt the company.
Now we can see that the media’s statements that the Occupy movement does not have a “clear message” is insulting and ignorant. It’s not that we have no focus, it’s that there are too many problems to solve all at once. This is not a neat and tidy issue like ‘save the trees’ or ‘save the whales’ or ‘stop the war’. We are actually talking about the greedy having gotten so greedy that we are beginning to notice. This movement addresses issues such as class, social inequality, perpetuated and punitive student loans, and life-long mortgages where the equity is eaten by escalating property taxes. We are talking about a corrupt global financial system created and perverted by the ruling class elite who benefit from the dirty stock market regardless of the state of the economy!
Then, after going through dozens of orchestrated economic ‘cycles’ each one being lower and more destructive than the last, we the working class have to bail them out?
The good news is that we are all part of the solution.
The number one difference in this movement is that it was borne out of global discontent fed by the networking magic of the world wide web. The second major difference with this revolution is that for the first time, the survival of the human race as a species is at stake. Food, water and access to land and the ability to feed ourselves serves as a backdrop and fuel for us to move our agenda forward for real change. We are at a critical tipping point in history.
Immediately, we must distribute all wealth more equitably, we all need to reduce our personal consumption, we must wean ourselves off diminishing blood-soaked dinosaur fossil fuel, we must treat our water like the precious life-giving resource it is, we must transition to smaller, re-localized economies where we produce products locally to employ local people, we must move from talking about local food and actually begin farming again, and we must replace all unsustainable activities with green, low impact, earth-friendly, sustainable ones.
Occupy is about all of us having an honest conversation as to how we got here, where we are, where we want to be in 5, 10, 50, 100+ years and begin making the required changes now!
It is up to you and I — let’s begin!
Dirk Becker is an organic farmer, agricultural advocate and volunteers his time to edit this magazine.