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Greedy bankers, a discredited political establishment, and a widening equality gulf (with the top 10% having incomes 12 times greater than the bottom 10%): just a few reasons Occupy London attaches to its hard sneer at the status quo. All undesirable certainly, yet also leads to the inevitable trap of being embarrassingly sensationalistic about society as a whole. Patrick Butler of The Guardian goes as far to brand our current state of affairs as a “neo-Victorian dystopia,” echoing something of Dickens. Hmm, probably not. We should return to an age of responsibility! We’re tired of our politicians’ broken promises! We want quick-fixes now!
But, ignoring exaggeration, it is far too easy to be quixotic. Popular capitalism is the most effective structure for generating income and wealth, the price mechanism being a pure system for satisfying both agents in any deal. They deliver more efficient outcomes than alternatives, and they increase prosperity for society at large. “Just work hard, be industrious, and you’ll probably do fine” is the motto – and there’s an enormously generous welfare-state to ease the burden of those ‘unfortunates’. So what do the people think of Occupy?
For all regulatory adjustment unequivocally required in the banking-sector, it is clear this is hardly 1917 or 1968. Instead it is a bourgeois protest, full of anachronisms, clamouring simply for something more. Middle-class, middle-income ‘hipster’ opportunists in tents (with Starbucks aplenty) are the exponents of this cause: forget bespectacled Trotskyites, obstreperous romantics, and others wholly sincere to a clear cause. These protesters are devoid of inspiration: just a Tea Party of the Left, without the jingoism, with the hyperbole, and much, much lazier.
And in this ever inter-connected country and world, Twitter and other social media have naturally had a role to play; presenting a forum for discussion – much like the Arab Spring, you’d think. Though, importantly, unlike in Egypt and Tunisia, social media has concentrated discussion to woeful generalisation, something studded on Twitter’s ‘trending’ list – particularly at the beginning of the Occupation of St. Paul’s. The Twitterverse is not an accurate representation of the populace at large; and, herein, is a clear magnification of what is, actually, a relatively small ‘faithful’.
Nowadays, “Yeah, don’t like them bankers…” seems to be an almost default response after the banking crisis, and its necessitation of substantial governmental bail-outs. Yet, for all the bankers’ distasteful quaffing and gorging of swan’s blood and nightingale (and their attainment of hefty bonuses), the depth of the public’s views about the system as a whole has been grossly distorted. The overwhelming majority of us, here in the UK, are enjoying the benefits of capitalism, plain and simple. We just don’t like to see the undeserving architects of the crisis like Sir Fred Goodwin, former CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland, getting away scot-free.
So, is this really a paradigm-shifting event; a process with such encompassing, widespread appeal? There are certainly foibles with the system we have, but the overwhelming majority are enjoying the indefatigable fruits of that system at this very moment! I’m not a member of The Fat Cat Corporation, but, for all Occupy’s visual achievements, their proposal of a complete overhaul of the status quo is one few would – and do – subscribe to.