In early February of this year, I issued a rather scathing critique of the worldwide Occupy movement for its lax progress and staunch inactivity, and I stand by it, though with some amendments.
I berated the perceived failure of those in Zucotti Park and outside St. Paul's in London, and closer to home in Auckland, Dunedin, and Christchurch for their lax provocations and all-encompassing (and thereby dangerous) love. This came just prior to the tentative re-occupation of Zucotti, resurgent marches, and alignment with already established protest movements, so inaction has become action, finally.
But there are some aspects that I will stand by: New Zealand does not need an Occupy movement in the same vein as that of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) or Occupy London (OLSX). It is simply not necessary.
One of the main purposes behind OWS from the first instance was the notion of education - both figurative and literal. OWS organizers can openly and easily claim to have drawn attention away from talk of debt ceilings, defaults, and credit ratings, swinging the spotlight back to the same topic of conversation that was initiated in 1999 with anti-corporation protests at the WTO in Seattle: plain and unadulterated, yet debatably legal, theft from the American people, and interference with democracy.
And yet the small media contingent we have in this country (rated at number 13 on Press Freedom Index, 34 places above the United States) chose to report on the Occupations throughout late October and during multiple evictions.
The reports from the Million Hoodie March that aired here, and those published in major newspapers (thanks largely to the growing number of aggregated stories from The Independent appearing in The New Zealand Herald) noted the solidarity of OWS with those marching for the arrest of George Zimmerman, albeit briefly.
Such coverage renders any possible educational assistance that OccupyNZ could provide as null and void.
Part and parcel of such calls to remove financial influence from the democratic and parliamentary processes requires accountability for those who stand accused, not just in the petitions of those who protest for justice, but in very real and tangible terms: fines, jail sentences, indictments, and to a certain extent, public humiliations.
The United States are notably void of these convictions - it took more than five years before Kenneth Lay was convicted for his part in the Enron fraud in May of 2006 - and continues as such despite the calls and sentiments of many throughout the Republic.
There is a notable counterpoint to this inactivity found amongst New Zealand's rule of law in relation to the private sector.
Recent months have seen a number of failed financial institutions go under the spotlight as those in charge of running them appeared in the dock, one by one.
The directors of Nathans Finance, Lombard Finance, and Bridgecorp have all been convicted of varying degrees of criminal financial mismanagement. Hanover Finance are facing a civil suit, whilst South Canterbury Finance members are facing 21 SFO charges between them.
Six more companies have cases before the courts, with a further 17 failed investment groups still under investigation.
Although barely comparable in economic terms, the U.S. simply hasn't engaged in any action resembling such utterances of blame:
The Securities and Exchange Commission, a US regulator, charged 73 persons and entities with misconduct including misleading investors and concealing risks.
None of those concluded cases have resulted in a criminal conviction or an expression of guilt or accountability.
The desire and need for a direct democracy group that can mobilize vast swathes of the effected and disaffected population is clearly necessary in the U.S.
As I've highlighted before, the presence of Occupy Christchurch prompted the hospital to which the encampment was adjacent to pay more than NZD$17,000 a week to maintain security guards in order that hospital property and staff be protected from "less-socialised elements" (in the words of the ill-mannered spokesman Rik Tindall) of the movement. Although OccupyChch vacated voluntarily, the eviction of Occupy Auckland cost taxpayers more than NZD$350,000, an unforgivable result that stems from sheer laziness at the hands of organizers.
Therefore, the only role that any Occupy movement needed to play in New Zealand was to maintain the role of an educator, yet this same role was played out by the news media automatically.
Indeed Occupy NZ's presence, in hindsight, has done little more than damage the reputation of the cause, as a whole, in this country.By James A. Robins
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