October 25, 2011 | Graham

Occupy – a vacant lot

If a field full of Irishmen is called a Paddy field, what do you call a field full of Australians? A vacant lot. Boom boom. It’s an old joke and it’s what comes to mind when I see reporting of Occupy Melbourne, or Occupy Sydney, or Occupy Wherever.

They’ve had over a week to work out what they want and they’re completely vacant – bereft of a viable idea between the lot of them.

In fact, I suspect there is no development potential there at all.

If you want to understand how important Occupy really is, then check out the crowds gathering to see this old Dame, er Queen, versus the hundreds who’ve been gathering in Martin Place. I bet Sunrise gets more people gathering outside the windows of their Martin Place set hoping to get on camera day in and day out, than turn-out for Occupy.

Not that Occupy doesn’t perform a useful function. They are helping to bolster the popularity of the recently elected Victorian and New South Wales governments. Law and order plays pretty well in the outer suburbs, particularly when played out as our uniformed best beating up on our uninformed worst, or better yet members of Socialist Alliance.

And it gave the panellists on Q&A something to talk about last night, although why they should choose to discuss this crowd when the aforementioned Octagenarian constitutional superstar was pulling infinitely more is a mystery best explained by their producers, and possibly a yearning for the Vietnam protest movement when protesters did know what they wanted, and there was more of a life and death matter involved.

Not that there aren’t problems with capitalism at the moment.

I’m not sure how bad they are because the historical record is a bit short for meaningful comparisons, but there has developed a sort of crony capitalism where paid professional managers arrogate to themselves the rewards and privileges of ownership without any of the risks via unsupportably high salaries coupled with a share of the profits.

The US bailout of their banks and the subsequent recapitalisation of the bank executives is the most stunning example of this.

Should this matter to society if the returns are there? Possibly not. A recent survey by Credit Suisse International shows Australia to be the second richest country in the world after Switzerland judged on average wealth, and the richest judged on median wealth (which must mean our Gini co-efficient is better than the Swiss one).

Australia is a leader in the world in following the advice of “neoliberal” economics, so perhaps we are the dataset that says that Occupy is fretting about nothing. It’s certainly a long way from the days of the 70s protests when Australia was increasingly looking like the white trash of Asia, and with a report card to match.

Perhaps it’s time for the vacant lot to vacate and go and do some hard research. What seems obvious isn’t always right, and what is right isn’t always obvious, which is a hard lesson to learn when you’re sleeping out rough for no good reason.

Posted by Graham at 6:37 am | Comments (28) |