Rejoice, people! Soon we will be freed from the bonds of corporate oppression, the healed from the scars of injustice and greed and given back our freedom, our lives, our humanity. Yes, the Occupy movement has taken grip of the world, and they will bring about change, if only in the amount of leeway the police are going to give to demonstrators. And what are they fighting? They are fighting our old arch-nemesis, the cruel and villianous face of Capitalism.
I can’t say I followed the story massively. Apparently it was quite large in America, and, of course, the internet’s various forums are burning with righteous indignation against the fact that ‘hackivist’ (read bored pubescent teenagers) group Anonymous had something to with the whole operation. However, it hasn’t really hit the worldwide scene until Sunday, when, all of a sudden, people from all around the globe attempted to occupy their national stock exchange and perform the various actions of the free love dance that they learned about from their parents who went to Woodstock. And at this point I suddenly perked up.
Now, while I don’t necessarily agree with capitalism as an economic theory, I am of the opinion that I cannot see a better alternative, and it generally works if there are enough checks in place. However, to see so many people campaigning against this age-old ‘enemy of the people’ was more than slightly heartening. I am of course sure that most of those shouting, waving placards, and taking drugs in the wild demonstrations are simply attending for the chance to meet ‘fit birds’ and other such vulgarities that we must accept from the feral underclass. However, one had to understand the power of so many people, while small against the measured, considered, and completely impartial opinions of such political figures as Dr. Liam Fox etc, is important to show that we do not, as a society, and as a group of Western powers, believe that Capitalism is perfect.
Let’s face it, the form of capitalism that we use now isn’t perfect. We saw that in the crashes of the 2000s. When economics breaks down most often is when we have to consider the population at large. However, our current system is a lot better than anarcho-capitalism, the ultimate destination of true free-market capitalism. The problem here is that suddenly we take humanity out of consideration completely. While anarcho-capitalist (AnCap) ideas generally bring about extreme efficiency, much of that efficiency is based on a sacrifice of the rights of the human population. Indeed, it is hard to see in a true AnCap society how lawlessness, poverty and slavery do not develop, at least in the underclasses, while the rich stay rich and in control.
However, the ‘traditional’ solution is communism, and we know from experience that complete equality is something to be worked for, not given, if it is aquired at all. To find perhaps the most obvious example of this, we should travel back to the days of the Berlin Wall, and the Soviet influence over East Berlin. Here there was a direct contrast between the one-size-fits-all ideas of communism, where everyone was equal and government-owned, but choice was extremely limited, and the pick’n’mix attitudes of capitalism, where there could be huge disparity, but competition ensured that there was constant innovation.
So we know now that neither of these ideals work in their extreme limits, and we’ve been able to move on, perhaps still tainted by our memories of the Cold War and war of ideologies, but nonetheless ready to try out what the future offers us. And that has lead us to the various melded forms of socialism and capitalism that we see around us. Many western countries have some sort of healthcare, and almost all have a handouts system, but in the same way, no western country is complete without a stock exchange controlling their finance situation. So we balance these ideas in the way that seems most appropriate.
But what the danger is, and what the Occupy movement is reminding us about, is the way we can fall into the trap of worshipping our chosen ideology. Let’s not forget that the current meld of ideas has produced a major financial collapse. But stock exchanges are treated, in some circles, as centers of worship for all that is good about society. The problem here is that we are worshipping something imperfect.
We have a tendancy to worship many things in our lives. The usual ones are cars, food, drugs, a better lifestyle, public opinion. We pander to the needs of these ideals, and look up to them, with adoring eyes, jumping on every bone offered, and ultimately attempting to become the best, most fanatical worshipper. It is, if you will, human nature. The problem is that, all too often, when we worship the imperfect, it breaks down. And this is something that, when it happens, can cause great damage to the worshippers. An example of this could be Stockholm Syndrome – with nothing else to put their faith in, a victim can end up worshipping their captor. Upon release, they have to deal with the major psychological issues of finding out that the thing that they worship is not perfect.
So what Occupy are doing is reminding us that our current economic beliefs are not perfect. They are probably still acceptable, workeable, useable, but not worshipable. They are not worthy of our unadulterated praise and belief. They are merely our tools. Even if we do eventually find a new idea or system to make everything work slightly better, we should remember this: Economics is not to be worshipped. It is to be used.