A VERY CIVIL DISTURBANCE

The middle class is revolting.  They’re polite, civilised, peaceful and hygienic, but revolting.

They’re mixing it with bankers on the sidewalks of Wall Street and with tourists on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. But their global message is consistent:  a stench of inequality pervades the modern world where the greedy and corrupt one per cent is not playing nice with the rest of us.

Like their buddies on the eastern coast of the United States, Occupy London is not prepared to put up with it anymore. They’re done queuing. They’ve brought tents, woolly blankets and smart phones to the war on capitalism.  They’re waging peaceful protest on the corridors of power and privilege. They have rapacious bankers and greedy government in their telescopic sights.

The revolution manipulates the mass media and takes advantage of the latest social media technology to communicate with the put upon masses. In London, the Costa Coffee and Starbucks outlets in and around St Pauls and Paternoster Square, symbols of the new world order, have never been busier serving wi-fi with their soya lattes and white chocolate mochas ‘to go’.

Speaking on national radio today, one of the organisers drew parallels between their struggle and that of the Suffragettes, a revolutionary movement that won the vote for women, and which he probably read about at university.  When reminded by the interviewer that the Suffragettes used violence occasionally, he cited Ghandi and Martin Luther King as inspirations too.

Two weeks in, and Occupy London has thrust a rapier into the very heart of capitalism: the dean, canon chancellor and a part time chaplain at St Pauls have resigned in shame.  The corrupt millionaire bankers, stockbrokers and traders will soon be on their knees, rueing the day they celebrated the return of multi-million pound bonus cheques.

Yes, of course I’m being tongue-in-cheek. I might have been less so had these modern revolutionaries made their disruptive voices heard during the pretty obvious excesses that characterised the unsustainable economic bubble of the late 1990s and mid noughties.

Failing that, they could have found a more receptive ear and active audience as long as three years ago.  They want to raise awareness of all that’s wrong with today’s capitalist system.  The thing is, we already know that.

It has been abundantly clear ever since the implosion of Northern Rock and Lehman Brothers in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Even bankers today readily accept that the global financial system has become morally and economically bankrupt.

Nor has it been a secret for a while now, thanks to the MP expenses scandal and the true horror of government borrowing and sovereign debt, that our political leaders have less honesty and integrity than their electioneering posters and public proclamations would have had us believe.

Successful campaigning needs the right message delivered at the right time. While the ‘Occupy’ message that all is not well has resonance in today’s troubled economy, I think the campaigns’ timing is wrong.  We already get it.  They’ve missed the boat, that defining moment that any social movement means to be truly successful.  That’s why they have not found, and are unlikely to find, mass support among people more concerned about paying their bills.

I might also have had more sympathy had the revolution not got a little carried away in aligning itself with other, more fundamental struggles around the world.

The movement, it’s organisers say, is modelled on the Arab Spring, a largely armed struggle that has spread across the Arab world against autocratic regimes that, for generations, have imprisoned and murdered people who publicly opposed the dictators that kept millions of people in abject poverty.

Thousands of mothers, fathers, sons and daughters have given their lives to help enact regime change and perhaps democracy one day in Libya, and more will sadly but invariably pay the same price in the on-going uprising in Syria.

Capitalism, whilst certainly imperfect, has given the western world technology, medicine, social care, transportation, and a quality of life and opportunity that would be impossible under any other social order. One hopes and expects that the middle class demonstrators will never have to pay the ultimate sacrifice paid daily in the Middle East today to achieve their campaign goals.

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  • Jokily

    I visited the site at St Pauls recently. The demonstrators were asking members of the public to provide them with food, blankets and other goods. Great, I thought. We bailed out the bankers. Now, the demonstrators want bailing out as well.!