Two players in world politics died recently: Vaclav Havel, the ex-Czech president and Kim Jong-il, the North Korean despot. Vaclav Havel was a remarkable man who was in the main responsible for ushering in “the velvet revolution”, so-called due to its smooth and bloodless nature, thereby ending communist rule in what was then Czechoslovakia. Havel was one of very few artists to have become the head of state in any country. Given our penchant for the dramatic it makes sense that he is the least known of the two figures. Kim Jong-il on the other hand is rather well-known. He inherited his country’s rule from his equally despotic father and had been single-handedly responsibly for inflicting untold horrors on the people of North Korea. We should be glad that he is dead but his son is ready to occupy the vacuum left behind and continue the politics of oppression.
You must be wondering why am I essentially repeating what everyone has already read or heard through various news media. The reason as always is that the two events got me thinking about various forms of governments that have been tried throughout our civilized history. These two figures in their own completely different ways did a lot to prove that democracy is the only viable alternative, however imperfect it might be. Any form of government that does not grant full freedom of speech and the right to organize is not a true democracy. Just for that reason alone we should celebrate the occupy movement. You can argue for and against the motives and debate if it was done right ad nauseam but you cannot doubt its legitimacy. It was just a group of people frustrated at feeling left out of the democratic process who were simply asserting the power of the people, which is the very essence of democracy. I will attempt to describe the circumstances leading up to the occupy movement and the varied reactions it provoked. See what you make of it.
Money is power, it always has been so, and it is never going to be equally distributed. The role of the government is to ensure that the weakest members of the society (disabled, elderly, children, mentally ill etc.) are taken care of and that everybody has access to basic necessities such as food and shelter and also to make sure that a system exists in which anyone can get ahead if they try hard enough. Of course government pays for all that thru taxation and it must be so. But it does not mean that we start taking money from the rich and start handing it out to the poor. Anytime we talk about redistribution of wealth we start to inch closer to communism and history shows that it does not work. It kills all individual incentive and breeds a dead society. We are all responsible for our own fortunes in the end and if we start to have a victim mentality that the government needs to take care of us we can kiss good-bye to a thriving society. I don’t mean to sound all self-righteous and preachy on this one but it is an important point that needs to be made. There are far too many people in the country who feel a sense of entitlement and it is because of them that the occupy movement had its fair share of detractors. There is no smoke without fire however and there were legitimate reasons behind the whole movement.
The unfortunate reality of the current state of affairs is that the free market capitalism in this country is degenerating into a deviant form of capitalism that carries with it no risk of failure. The one basic tenet of free market capitalism is that everything is driven by forces of supply and demand, which in turn dictates the profits and losses of any enterprise. Now this system has broken down big time in the nebulous world of financial industry aka wall street. What has transpired there in last few years is nothing short of outrageous. The big banks made risky bets with public money, lost their bets of course and still came out smiling at the end of it all. They had become too big to fail and had to be saved with public money again. It’s as if their actions had no punitive consequences for themselves, only for everybody else. Isn’t this a sweet set-up? In effect the general public provided the big banks with an insurance policy that the banks did not have to pay for. It was a win-win situation for the banks: if their bets panned out they stood to make enormous profits and if they failed their bets were protected anyway. Last time I checked this is completely antithetical to the basic ethos of capitalism; risk must come with its own rewards and failures. Any tampering with those basics necessarily violates the essence of capitalism. I am not saying that the bail-out for the banks was not needed. Of course it was needed, the consequences for the economy would have been catastrophic. But what is also needed is more regulation of the financial industry so as to not let the situation worsen to a point where the whole country is held hostage to the banks’ fortunes. The financial industry as a whole has become far too powerful because of what it specializes in: Money. We need to act to correct the balance of power (driven by money) that has become concentrated in too few hands. Our democracy is threatening to turn into an Oligarchy and the occupy movement was our democracy’s cry for help. And that’s what it was all about.