While I have absolutely no doubt that the Occupy protestors against global corporate greed and the ever-increasing gap between the world’s rich and poor are correct in their analysis and that their anger is justified, I’m less impressed by their methods. The logic of tent-squatting in civic squares eludes me. It serves merely to annoy and alienate the general public, whose support the squatters presumably want. More importantly, it cannot achieve its aim which is to remedy entrenched global injustice through small scale local action. If you were to ask the protestors what they actually want New Zealanders to do, other than joining them in their protest, I doubt that you would get a coherent answer. An even more interesting question might be: what would have to happen, either globally or in New Zealand, for you to be sufficiently satisfied to voluntarily end your protest, remove your tents and go away?
I’m reasonably confident that nothing they might propose would be remotely within the realms of possibility. It follows that this sort of protest action can have no foreseeable end, since there is no feasible way for the citizenry or local or national government to meet their demands. If all they are going to do is say, ‘This is really bad and it’s got to be fixed, and we’re not moving until it is,’ they will be squatting in their tents for years and quite possibly for the rest of their lifetimes. This in turn serves, rightly or wrongly, to promote the view that someone who has the time to sit in a tent for days, weeks, months and possibly years, cannot be a very productive citizen and may indeed be protesting on the public purse.
What the protestors may not realise is that their aim of reducing the gap between rich and poor is supported by left-wing political parties both in this country and around the world and that those parties are much more likely to bring about the sort of structural economic changes which they want than squatting in tents in civic squares and getting up the noses of other people. More probably they have contempt for traditional party politics and dismiss the democratic process as corrupt and serving the interests of the privileged few. It would be interesting to know how many of them belong to a political party and how many vote. I detect a note of cynicism on my part in that last comment. But watching and listening to the protestors on television, I cannot help wondering whether they see entrenched global inequity as an opportunity as a much as a cause.