“If you are under an illusion that class warfare is non-existent in our society, then look no further. Today an incredulous Deborah Hill Cone took aim at the Occupy Movement. She cunningly opens her piece with a suggestion that “I’d have thought Aotea Square was more an embodiment of what is wrong with socialist-type centralised planning.” From this opening position she descends into a one-eyed rant that can really sum up everything that is wrong in Modern New Zealand society.
Her first line of attack blindly follows the wider mainstream media reaction to the movement around the world,
I don’t have much of an inkling of what the Occupy This and That movement is really wanting. Do they have a clue? As some wag quipped at a few hundred ragtaggle people with signs saying “We are the 99 per cent”, it seems they are rather bad at maths.
After pointing out no facts, offering no logical reasoning, she goes on ask “why is it that I find myself thinking the protesters seem not inspirational but a bit brattish? Anyway, I suspect many of the Occupy protesters are not so much against capitalism per se, as feeling miffed that they personally are not rich capitalists.”
But she reveals the ‘truth’ later in her rant,
Back in 1994 when The Bell Curve was published, Murray sounded a warning, arguing that those with high intelligence (the “cognitive elite”) are becoming separated from the general population of those with average and below-average intelligence, and this was a dangerous social trend. He was right, but it is probably not a conclusion the protesters in Aotea Square would like to hear. As T.S. Eliot said, humankind cannot bear much reality.
Can you believe this? Fortunate as I am to enjoy the luxury of conscious thought and a reasonably rational mind, I was skeptical. Then I remembered, just yesterday I’d read comments from one of New Zealand’s top academics, Dr Campbell Jones of Auckland University. The article is entitled ‘Occupy Wall St has a message for Kiwis’. In it, Dr Jones says,
“So what is this movement about? In part, the answer is quite simple. The Occupy Wall Street movement targeted the centre of financial power in the United States and indeed the world. In this sense “Wall Street” symbolises finance, the banking and financial services sector. So let there be no mistake – these occupations are opposed to the economic power of finance capital.”
“MANY people in New Zealand value equality, and think of this country as being egalitarian. The blunt reality, however, is that New Zealand has become one of the most unequal societies in the world, and is in the process of becoming increasingly so. Last week, Dame Anne Salmond called for a change of heart in our country, racked as it is with social and economic inequality.
A change of heart would, however, require changing the ways that we think. It would involve changing how we think about the 151 individuals in this country whose wealth expanded by $7 billion this year, while at the same time real incomes fell for almost everyone else. It would involve changing how we think about rising poverty and social deprivation. Such a change of thinking would enable us to see how 1 per cent can do very well indeed, while austerity and crisis are the fate of 99 per cent.”
Dame Anna Salmond is a great New Zealand writer and academic, she has excelled in her career and deservedly gained recognition. Last week she wrote ‘We could do with a change of heart”
The problem, it seems, is a loss of balance. In the pursuit of profit, everything in the world – the earth itself, other species, knowledge and indeed, other people – has been turned into a “resource” to be exploited, often without care or conscience.
In the process, ideas of justice, truth and the common good have been undermined. Without these bulwarks, democracy falters, capitalism fails to share wealth and the distribution of income shifts dangerously out of kilter.
Since the 1990s, income inequality in New Zealand has soared.
The philosophies that persuaded many Kiwis to betray their own best values are bankrupt, and our future is at risk. A nation that does not care for its children has a death wish. A society that destroys the environment that sustains it will fail.
This, then, is the puzzle. Why do people support policies that are not in their own interests, let alone those of future generations?
Some suggest this is because the middle 40 per cent of income earners aspires to join the top 10 per cent and does not want the bottom 50 per cent to displace them. This may help to explain the rise in consumerism and household debt, but it is only part of the story.
People also have to be persuaded that there is no alternative to the policies that beset them, or that external factors are to blame, or the likely impacts on their lives are misrepresented.
Here, the freedom of the press is vital. If the independence of the media is compromised, the flow of information is in danger and independent voices are silenced. The press becomes a tool in the politics of diversion, with stories about celebrities and scandals displacing reporting on serious issues.
The truth is, the world cannot be made perfect: the protesters are like toddlers having a tanty. “It’s not fair!” Why should some people be born into money while others are born into poverty? Why should some people be healthier or prettier or more charismatic than others?
I know how they feel, but let us try to face this reality together, like adults, rather than running away from home and setting up a tent at the bottom of the garden like sulky children.