17 November 2011

The "Occupy" movement

I have been struggling with the question as to whether I ought to comment on the Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Melbourne etc movements, and, if I do, what I ought to say.   Should I keep a low profile, or would it be OK to let my feelings show?  After some thought and a lot of re-writing, here goes!
It seems that most of us in fact have some sympathy with what the people in these movements are saying, for example in relation of large payments to executives of companies that have gone backwards.  In other words, we all see ourselves as being part of the "99%".
Another take on this is something I read on the internet (not sure if it's true or not, but it feels like it) -
"The reason for the demonstrations [is] that ...  it is no longer true that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer -- it is, some people have pointed out with figures and graphs, that the super-rich are getting richer, and that the rich and the poor are getting poorer."

So, we're probably all in agreement that our political system isn't perfect.    Frankly, I don't think that's anything new.    Nor is capitalism perfect.  But I just happen to think that the systems we have are less imperfect than any other system that anyone has yet come up with. 
Thus, I do think that anyone who is complaining about the "system" or aspects of it needs to say just where they think the problem is and give some sort of indication as to what they think ought to be done to fix it.   In particular, are they complaining about the "system", such that they want it completely changed, or are they unhappy that it isn't producing the outcomes they would like to see?   In other words,  so the people in these movements aren't happy, but just do they want?   Didn't I read somewhere that the "Occupy movement" was being very careful only to say what they didn't like ( the "system") and not to define what they did want?

This brings me to the Uniting Church's magazine, Crosslight.    I respect the fact that the Uniting Church has strong views on many social issues, although I often don't agree with many aspects of what it says or the way in which  its views are expressed.
However, I was unnerved by the unquestioning attitude adopted by the Church's Crosslight magazine in relation to the Occupy Melbourne movement.  It quoted without qualification or reservation one of the participants in this movement as saying, "The people have a sense that they've lost their democratic right.  The rich can change and shape policy and get rid of governments they don't want while we can't, so we're occupying our country, our workplaces our streets reclaiming our democracy".
The implicit acceptance of these assertions by Crosslight (and in particular, that our political system as a whole was at fault) got to me.   This seems to be going a lot further than saying something to the effect that "I'm annoyed that our political system isn't producing the outcome that I want".  Yes, the Moderator of the Uniting Church at the recent Synod is reported to have said that he was worried about the  all-­too-­common  reliance on ‘tradition, habit and comfort', but I think you need to know where you're going before you chuck out the old.  And I suspect that 99% of the 99% would go along with this.

PS My source for the Moderator's worry is Rev Kylie Crabbe's Theological Reflections at the Synod, see
http://wr.victas.uca.org.au/synod-meeting/2011/theological-reflections/(Kylie is Minister at Armadale Uniting Church).

1 comment:

  1. Professor Geoffrey Blainey once commented that our democracy functions because 10% to 20% of the total population share a belief in the common good.