A billionaire media baron presiding over a deeply corrupt plutocratic government -- no, not Berlusconi; Bloomberg -- has swept in to crush a small protest movement that dared question the legitimacy and efficacy of the ruling oligarchy. The 'ideological cleansing' of Zuccotti Park -- in the dead of night, with no warning, by hordes of heavily armed police, and the press literally penned up far from the action, all in the classic police-state style to which most Americans seem happily habituated -- is a temporary setback to the Occupy movement in New York.
But over in London, where -- at this writing at least -- the Occupiers are still firmy ensconced before St. Paul's Cathedral, John Gray has some thoughts on the movement's implications. From the Guardian:
The Occupy movements have been attacked for being impractical visionaries. In fact it is the established political classes of the west that are wedded to utopian thinking, while the protesters are recalling us to the actualities of human experience. Based on economic theories that left out human beings, the global free market was supposed to be self-regulating. Now a process of disintegration is under way, in which the structures set up in the post-cold-war period are visibly breaking up.
Anyone with a smattering of history could see that the hubristic capitalism of the past 20 years was programmed to self-destruct. The notion that the world's disparate societies could be corralled into a worldwide free market was always a dangerous fantasy. Opening up economies throughout the world meant ordinary people were more directly exposed to the gyrations of market forces than they had been for generations. As it overthrew existing patterns of life and robbed large numbers of people of any security they might have achieved, global capitalism was bound to trigger a powerful blowback.
For as long as it was able to engineer an illusion of increasing prosperity, free-market globalisation was politically invulnerable. When the bubble burst, the actual condition of the majority was laid bare. In the US a plantation-style economy has come into being, with debt-servitude for the many coexisting with extremes of volatile wealth for the few. In Europe the muddled dream of a single currency has resulted in social devastation in Greece, mass unemployment in Spain and other countries, and even, for some, reversion to a life based on barter: sucking society into a vortex of debt deflation, austerity policies are driving a kind of reverse economic development. In many countries a settled bourgeois existence – supposedly the basis of popular capitalism – has become an impossible aspiration. Large numbers are edging closer to poverty and a life without hope. ...
The demands of the Occupy movement may be inchoate, or else conflicting. But it is not the protesters who threaten the world economy. The danger comes from denying the fact of systemic crisis. By trying to prop up a system that is chronically dysfunctional, our rulers are making a cataclysmic collapse more likely. ...The people camped outside St Paul's may have no clear solutions. But it is they – not ruling elites in thrall to a defunct market utopia – who are engaging with reality.
** Photos of Occupy London site by Avalon Floyd.
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- Published: 15 November 2011