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Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Wall Street


Occupy Wall Street. I applaud the sentiments behind the movement. When you hear stats like “in the last ten years, one-third of all income earned in Canada has gone to the richest 1%” it is hard to believe that capitalism is a good idea. Is that really the best system we can come up with? A system that allows the rich to become richer on the backs of the poor? I get it. Without the carrot of reward, it’s hard to get anyone to do much. If you have to give most of your reward away, why push yourself? Star Trek may be filled with selfless humans eager to slave all day for something vague like “personal growth” but that’s science fiction. (Awesome, awesome science fiction.)
Sharing doesn’t come instinctively to human: ask any parent how many times they had to hassle their toddler to get them to give up a toy. The idea of taking a little less than everything just so that someone else can have some, too, just isn’t the way we’re built. There is a benefit to accomplishing tasks cooperatively, but it only takes one guy to realize “I don’t have to be in the FRONT in order for us to kill that mammoth” to spoil the whole thing. One selfish person breeds another, and so on. Very few people are capable of doing their absolute best, working to capacity day in and day out when they are surrounded by slackers playing Farmville and still getting the same paycheck. In the old fable of The Grasshopper and the Ant, the ant works all summer and the grasshopper lazes about. When winter comes, the grasshopper nearly dies until the ant takes him in. The lesson we are supposed to learn, in theory, is that hard work pays off in the end. The lesson it ACTUALLY teaches is that someone else will save us if we goof off. That’s what proponents of capitalism try and promote in our minds, anyway. Hand-outs are evil. Only the indigent are unemployed. Get a job, slacker. Pull up your boots.
On a level playing field, that might be the case. But capitalism doesn’t create a level field. All humans are NOT created equal. In nerd-speak, you roll your 3d6 for each attribute, and you take what you get, no exceptions. Some get inborn gifts that allow them to thrive in their environment, whether that’s intelligence, cunning, greed, amorality, or just plain luck. Others get gifts because they were born to wealthy parents. Are we really supposed to believe that a kid born to a single mom working three jobs to pay the bills has the same chance to make something of himself that Richie Rich does? Sure there are examples of “poor kid makes good” and “rich kid blows it all away.” But for every rich-guy-that-started-poor there are a million poor-guy-that-started-poor. And I’m not sure we’d find even a single homeless person who could truthfully answer “Yes” to the question “Did you start your adult life with a billion dollars to your name?” Capitalism best helps those who already have.
So you go, Occupy people. You march wherever you want and hopefully you’ll make a positive change. In the novel 1984 there is a suggestion made that all revolutions, at best, only serve to elevate the Middle to replace the High, at which point the oppression carries on, albeit with new masters. Hopefully this won’t have the same result. Even if it does, I don’t think it’ll pain any of the have-nots one bit to see a few of the haves booted out of their mansions for a while.
The problem that exists now is one of organization and leadership. Because this movement began organically, there is not hierarchy or even concrete goals. They’re doing very well without a leader, but there is a problem looming that a prudent leader might perhaps have been able to foresee. Much of the territory that they are trying to “Occupy” is located in places that experience winter. This movement only began in September. It is a bad idea to embark on any attempt to occupy a wintery country in autumn. Bad. Just ask Napoleon or Hitler how it went when they tried to occupy Russia in the winter. It didn’t end well for them.
With October upon us, and the Occupiers only now moving into Canada, I have to say that you have already given the victory away. The late-year start means that the wealthy just need to play a waiting game and eventually you’ll crumble. Just try living in a shanty town during December in this country. You’ll be begging for an ant to take pity on you.
Too bad, though. I love the idea of socialism. Share and share alike, I say. Of course, if we expand that to a global scale, everyone is North America is going to be catapulted below the poverty line, because there are billions of people out there for whom a refrigerator is a myth.

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