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The ninety-nine per cent US

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There used to be talk of a supposed “silent majority” in society, sometimes sharing a very different viewpoint from that espoused by governments. As the world has changed, and continues to change, that “silent majority” has given way to a rapidly spreading, but informal, global movement, definitely not silent and speaking in the name of not just some vague “majority”, but the 99 per cent of people on the globe who are excluded from major decision-making.{{more}}

That movement is manifesting itself in different ways, in every continent, save for Antartica. In the Middle East and North Africa, it was dubbed the “Arab Spring”, but such is the global outreach that today it spawns not only geographical regions but climatic regions as well. In Europe, it may well be called the “European Autumn”, but the rebellion is being staged way down in the Southern hemisphere as well, so it is really, “time and season,” as we say colloquially.

Fuelled by the continued and deepening global crisis of capitalism, and the failure of governments, whether in the USA, European Union or the G20 group, to come up with solutions which address the real problems, a world-wide protest movement against the evils of the capitalist system has erupted. Led by young people who feel increasingly alienated and are seeing through the hypocrisy of capitalist society, a tide has engulfed major, and minor capital cities all around the globe.

Literally interpreting the term “occupy”, protesters have, since September 17, in New York’s Wall Street, been staging sit-ins, physically occupying the seats of greed and money manipulation. In spite of a clear conspiracy on the part of the mass media, owned and controlled by the same magnates of international capitalism, to suppress coverage of the movement, (a clear contrast from its handling of the “Arab Spring”), the “Occupy” movement, acting in the name of the 99 per cent of us, has taken root.

From Manhattan, cities and financial districts in Rome, Tel Aviv, Ottawa, Berlin, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, Sydney and Wellington, to name a few, have all been affected. The protesters point to the fact that the “fat cats” of global capitalism continue to profit at the expense of the rest of the world’s peoples, the 99 per cent of us. Massive billions have been poured by government into this financial suck well, but the result has been only greater profits and earnings for the elite and untold suffering for the rest of the world’s peoples.

Official statistics bear out this story of widening inequality. The US Congressional Budget Office has just released figures showing that while the after-tax income of the top-earning 1 per cent of households skyrocketed by 275 per cent between 1979 and 2007, and the income of the 60 per cent in the middle income range went up by 40 per cent, that of the bottom 20 per cent of households increased by only 18 per cent. The share of the total income of the 1 per cent elite is now twice what it was in 1979.

In Britain, the pay of the directors of the leading firms grew by 50 per cent last year alone, amidst a deep crisis, taking their average earnings to 2.7 million pounds (over US $ 4 million). By contrast, workers in the private sector only got a measly average 2.6 per cent pay rise and those in the public sector, zero. Such is the gap in the UK that only in Mexico, Chile, Turkey, Portugal and the USA is there greater inequality in levels of earnings.

Small wonder then that London too is experiencing the “occupation”! Prevented by police from occupying the precious ‘Square Mile’, the financial District, the protesters have occupied London’s most famous Cathedral square, that of St. Paul’s, adjacent to the financial district. It is a most interesting occupation for, by honing in on the Cathedral, which incidentally is a big income earner from tourist visitors, the issue of the attitude of the church to capitalist excesses has been brought into focus. The hierarchy of the Church, no doubt concerned about losing income during the occupation, has been uneasy about it and the Bishop of the Cathedral has joined government efforts to use legal measures to remove the protesters. But others in the Church support the protests.

The occupiers, a loose body of anti-capitalist, social and environmental activists, have been skilfully using the teachings of Christ to justify their protests. Among the passages of the Scripture to which they refer are the following:

“He that oppresses the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want”. (Proverbs 22:16)

“Lay not unto yourself treasures upon earth”. (Matthew 6:19)

“And Jesus…cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers”. (Matthew 21:12-13)

The widespread occupations indicate that more and more people in the world are no longer prepared to suffer meekly, while the robber barons of finance capital lord it over us all. The 99 per cent is awakening.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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