02/11/2011 - 10:51

Insecurity drives Wall Street’s disgruntled utopians

02/11/2011 - 10:51

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What’s behind protests such as Occupy Wall Street and is there a need to resolve these issues?

Insecurity drives Wall Street’s disgruntled utopians

GROWING numbers of people, including self-funded retirees, are feeling financially insecure. 

The improving living standards the West has enjoyed since 1945 appear to be ending.
People are understandably asking penetrating questions. 

Clearly the concerns underlying the latest wave of staged protests, called Occupy Wall Street (OWS), are seen as valid.

Those participating in such events are demanding accountability from Wall Street operatives, and the purging of corrupt governance, as well as those seen to be materially better off.

So, the question is, how can one create a strong and vibrant community, that both defends and ensures advancement for all?  

One way is to build a tribe. Tribes have been a basic unit throughout history that have proven to be capable of withstanding harsh environments, including economic malaise.

Tribes are groups of people that care for each member’s survival, to which the individual members reciprocate loyalty.  

In his research paper ‘Tribes, Institutions, Markets and Networks’, RAND Corporation social scientist David F Ronfeldt offers an explanation on how to build what he calls “fictive” kinship; an anthropological term that distinguishes between forms of kinship and social ties not based on blood ties or marriage.

This form of kinship creates a sense of commitment that promotes loyalty to the group.

Tribal loyalty is built through story telling, narratives, and membership rituals, and often gives the impression of a leaderless organisation.

Sharing is prized among the group’s multi-skilled members, with the ultimate penalty being expulsion.

The already globally active OWS movement has set about doing precisely this – creating a tribal identity.  

OWS street occupations always commence with what their organisers call a ‘general assembly’. 

These are the story telling events with the key message conveyed that those attending are part of the world’s 99 per cent majority.
OWS events are designed to appear egalitarian and leaderless. They also deliberately seek to convey the impression of being a global phenomenon.  

Those participating in the OWS crusade have become so loyal to the movement that even after being dispersed from occupied sites they persist in returning. 

But will the major organisers remain loyal to individual members?

OWS engages in a form of tribal warfare, called ‘open-source’ protesting.

This tactic enables many small, sometimes violent, super-empowered groups to collaborate and take on much larger designated enemies and offers simple goals for those in the so-called 99 per cent to back. What this means is that, should a global financial meltdown occur, the OWS movement would already have a coterie of loyalists to participate in protests when the banks are most vulnerable.   

Open-source protests seem set to become prominent worldwide and have proved to be highly effective in toppling regimes across North Africa and even Serbia.

A small founding group called a ‘foco’, inspired by the writings of the Argentinian-born revolutionary Che Guevara (1928-67), have promoted these insurgencies. 

Protest organisers have devised tactics to manufacture dissent across societies worldwide, but at the same time seeking to create a consensus within the movement.

The term, occupy, means ‘to seize possession of’ and ‘maintain control over by force’.

Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, hosts the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), an organisation that was created by young Serbs during the late 1990s uprising against their late president Slobodan Milosevic.

Another group known simply as ‘Anonymous’ is a mysterious computer ‘hacktivist’ entity about which little is known.
CANVAS and Anonymous were involved in waging cyber-attacks on Egyptian government websites during Cairo’s Arab Spring demonstrations that resulted in the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak; they are now involved in the OWS activist.

Significantly, leading CANVAS identity, Ivan Marovic, addressed OWS’s New York protest.  

For CANVAS, the OWS protests are the latest round of supported revolutionary events that need to be backed. 

According to an article by Tina Rosenberg in the journal, Foreign Policy, (February 16 2011) entitled ‘Revolution U’, Marovic was quoted saying: “It looks like people just went into the street, but it’s the result of months or years of preparation”.

This admission means the tactics and strategy underlying OWS events are the outcome of careful advanced planning by a range of organisations. 

CANVAS adopted its clenched fist symbol in 1998 and this is now the official logo of OWS. CANVAS works to transform elements within passive societies into activists.

The Belgrade-based entity places great emphasis upon unity, discipline, and planning – tactics derived from military operations. 

A key message stressed at all OWS protests is that 1 per cent of the world’s people own 40 per cent of the world’s wealth, with 99 per cent of humanity having to survive on the remainder.

These dubious statistics originate from a 2006 paper entitled ‘The Distribution of Household Wealth’.

This paper was prepared under the auspices of the United Nations University, by an international team of economists, hand-in-hand with the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research.     

It alleges that, net of debt, adults in North America, Western Europe and several developed Asian countries, most notably Japan, possess nearly 90 per cent of the world’s entire household wealth.  

This implies that the remaining 10 per cent of world household wealth is shared by China, India, Africa and South America. 

Following on from such reasoning, those in the developed segment have no cause for complaint.

Ironically, Occupy Mumbai has fizzled because to most Indians so-called ‘capitalism’ has meant huge boosts in investment and prosperity for tens of millions on the sub-continent, something that’s never before been experienced. 

While India undoubtedly has challenges ahead, the sense of outrage being promoted by OWS in the US could not be fomented in Mumbai.

Too many Indians vividly recall the years 1947-1990, when the licence-permit Raj prevailed, and before individuals were permitted to create their own business.

What the OWS movement is opposing, therefore, is the free market system that has brought unprecedented wealth and prosperity not only to the West, but other parts of the world.

No other system of economic organisation has done so much to alleviate poverty. 

People have been freed from grinding poverty because of rising real incomes.

OWS, on the other hand, is leading a campaign that’s blackening such real achievements.

If all this is familiar and sounds like mid-20th century Marxist precents, that’s because that’s what it is.

Insecurity springing from comparisons of one’s circumstances to those of others and believing one cannot match others can promote counter-productive actions. 

Focusing upon alleged greed of Wall Street bankers may mean failing to look more closely at oneself.

• Steve Blizard is an authorised representative of Roxburgh Securities. 


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