This week I read what the global ‘Occupy’ movement is really all about. It’s basically a global mourning for three iconic figures: Steve Jobs, Johnny Cash and Bob Hope. Their deaths have left us in a world with no Jobs, no Cash and no Hope!
Okay, so maybe we need to dig a little deeper for the real meaning of this worldwide phenomenon.
In Copenhagen outside the City Hall this past weekend, I came across the tents, the ‘We are the 99%’ banners and warmly-clad overnighters of the Danish expression of the movement that has mushroomed across Europe and North America in recent weeks.
Obviously it is a movement spawned by the internet, Twitter and Facebook. Less obviously, it is a rare example of the west following a Middle Eastern initiative, particularly the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which in turn were triggered by a Tunisian market-seller setting himself on fire less than a year ago.
Some describe it as a ‘democratic awakening’, a protest calling for solidarity of the 99% against the 1% elite who control the world’s wealth.
Democracy Village, set up last year outside Parliament in London, was a precursor of things to come. A movement began to rumble late this summer around the globe. Picked up and encouraged by existing networks, it found resonance in a deep disgust towards the growing rich-poor gap, the sham of a democracy where political decisions are made behind closed corporate doors, and the failure to bring key figures in the recent global financial crisis to justice.
Exhorbitant bonuses paid to bankers, and the award-winning documentary Inside Job, have stirred broad sympathy for the protestors’ cause. Inside Job names names like Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers, still scot-free and calling the shots in Washington, as those responsible for the global financial disasters. (see www.sonyclassics.com/insidejob)
Occupy LSX (London Stock Exchange) has squatted on the grounds of St Paul’s Cathedral under the noses of The City’s traders and brokers for two months now. It’s presence has been controversial, causing the closure of the cathedral to the public for a while at a daily loss of £20,000 per day, and leading to the resignation of three senior clergy.
‘We need alternatives,’ declares the Occupy website; ‘you are invited to join us in debate to create a better future for everyone.’ The movement may well be more about expressing frustration and discontent than in providing practical alternatives. Some dismiss it as a naïve and romantic protest which will die with the winter cold. Others however see a potential long-term influence as networks mature and birth new ideas.
Prabhu Guptara expects the Occupy movement to continue to spread as it demands moral justice. He warns of an unsustainable and uncertain future spawned by a ‘godless, amoral Ayn Rand-ist post WWII elite’ which licensed uncontrolled speculation. Guptara also named Greenspan as part of the elite that created the global crisis.
He is one of a number of economists working quietly for change from biblical assumptions. A few days ago I met German consultant, Klaus Henning, at a meeting of Together for Europe in Rome, where he presented practical alternatives to rampant ‘casino-capitalism‘ (see www.osto.de).
Michael Schluter, with colleagues from Relationships Global, has just presented an excellent downloadable document on transforming capitalism from within, particularly concerning company law (see www.relationshipsglobal.net).
Most of us are not economists. But all of us are called to ‘occupy’, according to a parable Jesus told his disciples. They were nearing Jerusalem with mounting expectation of some imminent event to usher in the Kingdom of God (see Lk 19:11-13), when Jesus said: A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, ‘Occupy till I come.’ [King James].
In this context, this quaint English phrase implies we all should do business and be fruitfully engaged, working towards the growth of God’s kingdom on earth, undistracted by end-time speculations, as were the disciples. God has gifted each of us, and wants a return on his investment!
In truth, we’re all called to join God’s Occupy Earth movement!
Till next week,