Oct 18, 2011

What the One Demand of the ‘Occupy’ Movement should be and why.

Today was Occupy Wall Street’s first Global Day of Action. We’re on our way home from our local urban occupation, feeling inspired, hopeful and slightly unsettled. Inspired and hopeful because people of all ages and backgrounds from around the world joined in protest against a corrupt economic system; unsettled due to a heated difference of opinion about what to do and who to battle (thankfully, and topically, resolved democratically and peaceably).

History is strewn with social movements that imploded through infighting, or where, for lack of a clear aim, the chaotic forces of moral indignation were steered by groups, with a plan and organisation, towards their own agenda (and, usually, more of the same).  For either to happen to this beautiful movement would be a tragedy of inestimable proportions.

So is there a single aim that could unite the 99%?

The answer to this, we believe, lies in a further question: how is it that in a democratic system the 99% can be so flagrantly disregarded? This points to a problem with the machinery of Democracy itself. Perhaps, if we could locate the faulty part and fix or replace it, these diverse opinions would be enriching collective solutions rather than jeopardising their own vehicle for liberation?

There follows a 2-part systems dynamics analysis to this end. 

PART 1 proposes two Vicious Circles at work in the current system. These are series of events where one trouble leads to troubles that further aggravate that first trouble, and so on

(N.B. It’s easiest to click on the diagram to open it in a new browser and then refer back to the explanation here. Depending on your screen size, you may also need to zoom in-and-out in order to read the smaller text by clicking on the relevant area).

Vicious Cycles


The best place to start is at the bottom where government policies that serve corporate interests are pursued at the expense of those that serve the 99% and the natural environment.

Whilst this enriches the 1% and motivates them to even greater future investments in manipulating Government policy (the 1st Vicious Circle – inner), it also exacerbates a range of hugely-profitable (in the short-term) c21st century ills: war, recession, inequality, loss of public services and assets, our increasing dependency on corporations for life’s essentials and, most critically, a severe threat to Earth’s life systems.

These factors, together with diminishing quality-of-life and broken political promises intensify our apathy and denial, and reduce time or inclination for political action, thus eroding a key constraining factor on the corporate policy abuses with which we began (the 1st Vicious Circle – outer). And so the Circles turn.

The analysis suggested two potential intervention points (highlighted in red) where action could positively transform the Vicious Circles. These are: –

(1) Dependency on corporate relationships for political success. In short, a business wouldn’t bestow cash or media coverage on a political campaign that didn’t promise a significant return on investment. A third of the world’s 100 largest economic entities are now transnational corporations. Without bowing to these giants, no party has a hope of achieving or maintaining office, irrespective of good intentions and promises. Why pursue a policy or preserve a public service, asset, safeguard or freedom when losing it stands to make somebody a tidy profit?

(2) Ability for politicians to benefit materially from political office as a result of corporate relationships. Whilst we do not share many of Plato’s views (on Democracy, for example), we do agree that the worst form of government is one where the actions that satisfy the desires of the ruler become law. A tyranny. It was with good reason that The Republic went to great pains to isolate its philosopher kings from the temptation of riches and military stardom, the great corruptors of wise governance.

Under the Republic, for example, a former Prime Minister who made $40bn out of a dubious war he instigated whilst in office or a secret council assembled to draft laws to serve its own self-interest would have faced certain execution.

Corporate SponsorshipTo put it simply, if we wish our countries to be run by people motivated by a desire to serve its citizenry and not by material self-interest then, within the political sphere, constraints on the latter must be codified in law and regulated independently. After all, corporate management takes conflict-of-interest very seriously. They know, as Plato did, that a person cannot responsibly wear two hats when money is involved.

For PART 2 of the analysis the ‘Occupy’ Movement collectively waves its magic wand and divorces the public and private sectors, turning our Vicious Circles into its cheerful alter ego, a Virtuous Circle, where a delight leads to delights that further promote the first delight, and so on

(N.B. Again, it’s easiest to click on the diagram to open it in a new browser and then refer back to the explanation here. Depending on your screen size, you may also need to zoom in-and-out in order to read the smaller text by clicking on the relevant area)

Virtuous Circle


Here, diverse opinion (with better access to information about actual environmental and economic constraints) is braided via participatory democratic processes and well-behaved politicians into policies that best serve both public and private interest.

This leads to a host of positive socioenvironmental effects that increase faith in people-power, government and the future. It also confers the time to get involved, thus contributing to even greater participation and ever richer solutions. And so the  Virtuous Circle turns: driven by a commitment to a better world in the long-term.

Call us idealistic, but we believe this vision of an equitable sustainable society where stakeholders are actively engaged in Government is wholly imaginable, achievable and necessary. Moreover, It will not require earth-shattering change and would improve general quality-of-life.

However, we acknowledge that, as evidence of the Arkadian worldviewsteady state economics, new economics principles, Just Transition , equality, environmental restoration, nurturing new values etc. – seeps in here, it would be best to declare the pertinent aspects. We ask that anybody who posts comments extends us the same courtesy as it makes discussion of opinions easier and so much more fruitful.

Arkadian Systems Worldview: That the current economic system has been proven environmentally unsustainable and thus we must explore and enact alternatives or risk socioenvironmental collapse and extinction. That social and environmental justice are so intimately intertwined that treatment of one leads inevitably to reinforcing effects on the other. That decision-making is always wiser when all stakeholders with an interest in the relevant situation are meaningfully involved. ”  

We should also stress that it is only the last of these  – the principle underpinning a true Participatory Democracy that should be considered relevant here. If Democracy is reformed and re-fired, we’re confident the rest will happen all by itself, the right way, and our opinion will be one of millions that make a contribution. So, to conclude,

The One Demand of the ‘Occupy’ Movement should be: 


Insert a robust legal and regulatory framework between the private and public sectors, which enables Government to draft policy and law without conflict-of-interest and according to the principles of Participatory Democracy 

Specifically, this framework should render it impossible for politicians to benefit materially from political office as a result of corporate relationships and should define equitable and corporate-independent alternatives to campaign funding .

For us, this is eminently preferable to smashing the bankers, police, politicians, Capitalism, Consumerism: THE SYSTEM. Trying to fight The System or one of its organs, inevitably results in giving oneself a bloody nose and the awful realisation that, yes, it also includes ME!

1 Comment

  • Great analysis. It’s important that a central demand be established as the mainstream media will continue to develop the narrative that the movement is without a coherent aim. A critical point for me is that to claim to represent the 99% you need to have a something that 99% of the population can see the sense in and will want to sign up to. When portrayed as an anti-capitalist movement, or a movement based on a sense of entitlement, which are also emerging narratives then there will be backlash from people who will claim that you are not representative of them – this is also happening now. Of course, this demand needs to be quickly adopted by the occupy movement and will need a similar ‘soundbite’ version to go along with we are the 99%. I don’t know what this could be – get the money out of politics now perhaps?

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