Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The 99% Manifesto.

There’s something that shits me as a legacy of my lapsed political activism. It’s when the constituents of a representative movement, (the unemployed, gay men, whatever the movement) talk about what the movement needs to do before they will join it.

The latest example of this is the 99% movement. There are a chorus of voices, it seems, demanding that “they” articulate some demands and produce a model for change before “I” will listen to them. News flash; political change is not like television. You don’t flick through channels for what you want and whinge when there’s nothing to watch. You actually create it.

So I thought to myself maybe I should have a go at drafting this much demanded manifesto. I’m somewhere in the 99%. I can string a sentence together.

On the other hand, I am singularly unqualified as I have no t.v. and hardly ever listen to news radio. I mostly read books published at least fifty years ago, unless they are contemporary books about events older than that. Current affairs ain’t my thing. Blogging and even more recently Facebook is bringing me into contact with shorter news cycles but it’s a slow pick up. Bah, that’s negative talk. Let’s do it anyway.

The 99% manifesto.

1% of the world, it is increasingly apparent to us (the remainder) that we give you more than you give us. The size of the violin played for your sad day dwarfs the violin played for all the refugees of the world. Your birthday cakes are larger than the ones even bakers have. Meanwhile we plumb your toilets, nanny your kids and put food on your table. We make your profits.

1% of the world, we can see that you have no fear, not even the slightest concern that, failing a light aeroplane crash, your children will not also be a part of the 1%. They can be coke addicts and go on to buy the Presidency of the United States. Meanwhile the rest of us have no fear that our children will make it into the 1%. Instead we live in fear that unless we do everything right (or even then) our children will be a lot worse off than us. In fact for the vast majority of us that would mean imprisoned or dead.

1% of the world, these differences are so exaggerated that quite frankly we can no longer relate to you. We feel reasonably confident that you are not trying to relate to us either. Neither of us are people to each other. It’s worth pausing to mourn that fact. As a species we have lost 1% of our humanity. That would be you.

1% of the world, we do not intend to follow you into inhumanity. We have our own divisions. A percentage of us live in abject poverty. A percentage of us own more than one house. A percentage of us go to elite schools. A percentage of us can’t read. Those of us closer to you in privilege and opportunity pledge NOT to try in vain to join your class. We pledge to stop our aspirational nonsense that only feeds your importance. Instead we will be relating to the rest of the 99% as fellow people.

1% of the world, if you have what we need to relate to each other as fellow people, we will be taking it. Don’t panic. We can do without your mansion on a hill, your backyard swimming pools and tennis courts, even your personal automobile. Just let’s cut the crap. You don’t get to “own” all the farmland. You don’t get to “own” public transport or a monopoly on roads or a patent on our genes. Those things were never going to fly. (And you don’t get to own Federation Square.)

1% of the world, the first thing we will be taking back is our attention. Next will be our labour, our time, the focus of our education, the purpose of our industry, and our lives in your conflicts, but first it is our attention. We can’t do anything until we do that. We have a lot to talk to each other about and following your antics is only a distraction. This is therefore our last communication.

99% of the world, let’s talk.


Okay, the above manifesto reveals a couple of things. One is that I am uneasy about a movement that ignores my privelage in relation to others. I am not a member of the 1% by a long shot, however I am pretty comfortable in my estimation. Hence I want to shift the emphasis onto how we treat each other rather than how the 1% treat us. I don’t think this shift is really what the 99% movement sounds like in name, so yes I am hijacking it.

Secondly I truly believe that the way we are relating to each other – when we put our luxuries above others needs – is not “natural”. I think it’s actually inhuman. In order to justify it we have to dehumanise those in need but I think we only succeed in dehumanising ourselves. There’s no doubt that the 1% do this from the simplest to the most extreme ways. More importantly we allow our governments to do it for them, enforcing the eviction of those who can’t pay their rent while entitling the ultra-rich to possess entire inner city towers. However in smaller ways I do the same. In the process I am making myself into a social alien to the rest of the human species.

Thirdly the irreverent tone of this manifesto should reveal that I am NOT saying that the 99% movement or Occupy (Insert City) really have to have a coherent justification for non-violent actions. Quite frankly I would rather a week of protesting without any point over another week of shopping without any point. The Occupy Melbourne Protest was peaceful, welcoming, democratic, shared its food and created a space where people could meet across economic classes. On the downside it disrupted a small cluster of upmarket eateries. The Spring Racing Carnival by comparison is drunken, violent, unsharing and uncaring and no-one demands it have a clear manifesto. The Spring Racing Carnival is justified because it’s fun (or addiction) for those who participate even though that fun disrupts others; the streets of Melbourne run with spew during it. Occupy Melbourne, although I missed it, looked like my kind of fun instead. Minus the police of course.

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