To the Editor, The Nelson Daily
I write this from a big city, Victoria, during the holiday.
The new year has begun today, and I am moved to reflect on what Nelson might expect from the downstream effects of the Occupation events in 2011. From an urban landscape, which is the habitat of most planetary residents, I can see more clearly.
Does Nelson have any persons who are in the so-called “rich 1%” ?
This question pushes forward all other issues about inequality, democracy and degradation by our economy. Who among us represents the capitalist system -- so unjust, inequitable, devastating earth for profit?
A big city is so much worse than Nelson, I am tempted to say we have nothing to worry about in our rural town, in a relatively unspoilt area of the woods and waters of B.C. But we have plenty to worry about, beginning with our own unwillingness to let go of our systems of money, work, and power.
Nelson’s ruling class is not part of the 1%, but it is absolutely a part of the capitalist social order.
No one in the middle class really has a stake in overturning a system that gives us bourgeois material comforts and the individual freedoms to develop our personal notion of a good life. We bourgeois do not want to end this system, just make some gentle cosmetic reforms in its banking and environmental policies.
With our good educations, alternative lifestyles, and good health, the Nelson middle class will not be on the side of a fundamental transformation of how capitalism shares wealth and “creates jobs.”
The 1% has a long, long trailing coat-tail the middle class rides upon. Our tables do in fact receive sufficient off the top 1%, the trickled-down crumbs of the massive wealth of the rulers, that we do not suffer from material deprivation. The main suffering we have is psychological and spiritual, for we know the system is broke, unfair to planetary billions of people, and dangerous to the earth. Is guilt going to alter us? No.
A lawyer I know met me during the Nelson election campaign and poured his intellectual scorn on the Occupy movement and its lack of what he called an “articulate agenda for change.”
He considers himself a veteran of the 1960’s radical movements. He says his peers had intelligent radicalism, for their aim was reforms... an end to the Viet Nam War, environmental protection laws, democratised university authorities, and broad cultural shifts in matters of sex and individual liberation.
Occupiers? Not so smart.
True, the 1960’s brought change, but I am sure he, like I, did not think the changes we had won by 1979 were the end. We wanted a good deal more than that. No one expected the astounding rise of the political right, the counter-revolution that made the Boomers more materially-consumptive than their parents, and the obscene abyss opened between rich and “developing” nations. But that’s what I see.
My lawyer acquaintance is a smug boomer, like the majority of our middle class. He got the right education, then a handsome income, social prestige, a wife to match his status, and children who have also prospered by getting the right jobs.
Professionals, employees of the public sector (if they are unionized), members of the business sectors, and workers in the information/electronics economy, are the potent foundation of the 1% whose wealth is shaved just enough to keep this support class affluent.
I am a member of that support class, as an educator, media worker, wanna-be politician. As a cab driver, where much of my income was earned, I was not middle class.
As a self-identified “bohemian” in my rejection of materialism and career ambition, I feel repugnance for the politics of liberal reformism.
I can let my standard of living slide. I can face not owning a home or retirement savings. I can call for revolt and rebellion without fear I will be one of the enemies of mass transformation. The bourgeoisie cannot say as much. They have staked their working lives on serving the ruling class and its systems.
I know what side I am on when the merde collides with the fan. But violence will not be the means to globe-altering change. Methods and crises as yet unforeseen or imagined will turn the world upside down.