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Occupy Wall Street – 99% are the 1%

November 2, 2011

I read an opinion piece recently by Tim Blair titled ‘After the Occupation’. In it he basically lampoons and criticizes the whole ‘Occupy Wall Street’ (OWS) movement focusing especially the offshoot movements in Australia – ‘Occupy Sydney’ and ‘Occupy Melbourne’.

You can read it for your selves in the above link to the article. In whole I disagree with his attitude towards such movements, and believe that especially in the US, the OWS does serve a purpose to highlight the growing income inequality, & also due to the US being the originator of the Global Financial Crisis back in 2008 that still lingers on throughout their economy.

One paragraph that I thought was worth mentioning & which is perhaps factually true, reads as follows:

Sydney’s Occupants claim to represent 99 per cent of the human population. Maybe they should consider the fact that they are richer, healthier and more liberated than 99 per cent of people who have existed in the entirety of human history. Would an Occupant trade places with Louis XV, ruler of France from 1715 to 1774? Not unless he wanted to give up air travel, penicillin, the internet and pain-free surgery. In real terms, who’s richer?

Blair preludes the paragraph by accusing the protesters of “elemental jealousy” towards those who have more wealth than them. In other words suck-it-up-butter-cup, you are doing better than the people before you.

I will address why I think Blair has set-up a strawman argument and why he is wrong to say that people are jealous of those who are wealthier, shortly.

99% are the 1%

First, it is an intriguing thought to consider that 99% of those US & Australian protesters are probably wealthier, healthier, and freer to live as they desire without fearing what plague or harsh edict will beset them in the near future, than the people living a few hundred years ago and all before them. That would place them in the 1% comparatively.

Compare the medieval feudal serfs labouring on their lord’s land in hope of being released from bondage one day, unless some mysterious illness strikes them dead first. Or the other masses before them who were already lucky if they survived the first year of birth, and then were thankful to still wipe the sweat from their brows at the ripe age of a few decades.

Even if we go back a few decades from the present, televisions were a luxury, now every house has at least one. I would probably not blink if I saw a homeless man watching ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ on his own set top box.

Humans have raised their standards of living in Western countries higher than ever before. But guess what, this is a GOOD THING. This transitions into why I see Tim Blair’s remark as an argument fit only to scare the birds.

Tim Blair’s Strawman

The author of this piece and others who criticise the OWS movements, branding the protesters lazy and envious of others wealth miss the point. The frustration of the people are not because they didn’t get an equal piece of the pie, but because the way the pie is being cut the people receive a smaller and smaller piece while the rich receive a greater and greater portion regardless of their actions. The last part of that sentence is especially important. The lack of accountability and the remuneration packages that don’t tie in with the performance of the company makes the target executives a class of people with their own rules. It has little to do with jealously, and more to do with fairness.

When Blair was expounding how the 99% are better off than those living in 18th century France, and that they should stop complaining, the statement makes no sense. Human society hasn’t set a concrete prosperity index that states after a certain level of wealth & health the person is considered well-off indefinitely (There are prosperity indexes but they are not concrete). As societies have progressed over the centuries, what is considered prosperous increased as medical advancements improved and western societies rearranged themselves to create more democratic governments, introducing safety-net programs for the most misfortunate.

So in the end ‘yes’ people are better off then before, but they wish to continue climbing that curve, not descending it. Tim seems to have some sort of king-of-the-hill mentality where every man and woman should step on each others heads to reach the higher ground.  Blair’s blind adoration of those very rich who want to see the inequality stretch-out ever more, make him like a WW2 kamikaze pilot yelling “Long live the 1 percent”, while at the same time spiralling into oblivion.


EDIT 03/11/11

I found a satirical comic that touches on what I talked about. I thought i’d add it here

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