It should come as no surprise that, despite the lack of blogging, I am hugely inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement and the resulting occupations over the US and the rest of the world. And I am definitely going to be part of it when it comes to Melbourne on Saturday when protestors are set to occupy City Square in the city.
Now, the occupations around the world inspired by Occupy Wall Street are partly an act of solidarity with the much larger movements in the US, but it is also about extending out the argument that all over the world there is the divide between the 99% and the 1%. And this applies even if the crisis and the economic conditions aren’t as bad here…yet.
It is true that economic conditions in the US are much more dire, that working class people are being squeezed of everything and being abandoned. It is the sheer extent of the crisis and how badly people have been fucked over that have pushed people to take to the streets, occupy parks and stand together in their thousands.
But there is an argument to occupy Australian cities too. For one, just because the crisis hasn’t hit, doesn’t mean it won’t and we’re immune. This is a world system, with national economies linked by trade, and so when countries like China fall, we can go with them. Australian can’t live in a bubble forever.
But even without crisis, capitalism in Australia is greedy, exploitative, corrupt and unequal at the best of times. One of the main slogans, “We are the 99%” applies under capitalism 24/7. There has always been a small minority who own most of the wealth in Australia and the world. The majority have always had to work to get by and to make them richer. The role of the crisis is to squeeze people even further and it has angered people that whilst the rich have so much, we are the ones being blamed, being forced to pay, especially when it is the rich and their gambling that has caused the crisis.
In Australia, some people have responded to plans to Occupy Melbourne with claims that we’ve avoided the crisis, that our working class are well off, or have even gone as far to imply that class doesn’t exist in Australia, that we’re some egalitarian society unlike the ugly US. Crisis, crisis or no crisis, this could not be further from the truth.
We still have a clique of the mega-rich, getting richer and richer off our hard work. We have mining bosses like ‘Twiggy’ Forest, Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer raking in millions a year to add to their wealth of billions. Australia is home to Macquarie Bank, that millionaire’s factory where the only way you earn more than a CEO is if you take a golden handshake and leave.
Already, the gap between those rich parasites and the average wage earner, or even better paid workers, is too much to bear, and it totally unjustifiable. But crisis or no crisis, there has always been a whole section of the working class that have had it much worse. In Australia, millions are part of the working poor, those that work full-time but still aren’t paid enough to pay rent, feed a family. We are not the ‘lucky’ country as some people make out.
And then there are those forgotten by the system, the unemployed, the disabled, and people unable to work. It is indicative to me in a small way that one of my most visited blog posts is a rant I had a few years ago about being cut off by Centrelink. Everyday people find my blog by Googling poetic search terms such as ‘Fuck Centrelink’ or ‘Centrelink fucking cut my payments.’ There is a whole chunk of people in Australia that have absolutely no economic stability.
Some people look at our unemployment rate, around 5%, and say it’s not that bad. Perhaps – except for that 5% unemployed. And this ignores underemployment, those that can’t find enough work. Then there are students who are racking up thousands in debt for arts degrees that won’t even get them a job at McDonald’s. These people are not living in this ‘lucky’ country that some commenters claim we live in.
Basically capitalism is shit at the best of times, there is still a gap between workers and the majority, the 99% – and the 1%, those that will never worry about being able to find somewhere to live, how they’re going to get by. And to make matters worse, the government blames other minorities, like refugees, for our standard of living instead of facing that the fact the government isn’t willing to take this wealthy minority to task because that’s who they really work for.
Crisis or no crisis, the 99% need to stand up. We need to stand up better conditions now. We need to stand up before the crisis hits.
I will be down there standing with people we are willing to occupy Melbourne. I’ll have my cameras and laptop and will be trying to blog as it happens because I am part of the 99%.