“Knowing what is enough is true wealth.” The Tao Te Ching
As we prepared to head out to Occupy Fredericton’s rally, I asked my 9-year-old if he understood what the whole occupation movement was about. Nope.
Ok. I drew a circle and shaded in a small segment. “Oh!” He looked excited. He’d seen this before in his math class, and before I could explain, he said, “I know, I know, it’s a pie!”
Yes. Ok. Imagine you’re at a birthday party and there are ten kids. One kid gets this whole big piece, and the rest of the nine kids have to split what’s left. Is that fair? He looked offended, “No way.”
Any kid can understand this. We take so much pains to nurture sharing and fairness in our children. But then, when we send them off into the big wide world, suddenly they’re confronted with a system where sharing is suspect and fairness is naive. If you want to get ahead and “succeed” in this system, otherwise known as capitalism, then you’d better unlearn the values you learned as a child.
But in that birthday cake scenario, our family would probably have gotten a pretty decent piece of that cake, though not as much as that 1% kid. We would probably have enough. Because within the 99%, some of us are still better off than others, some of us still have a job, a home, and a decent income. So if we’re doing so well, why did I go to the Occupy Fredericton rally?
Call me naive and my motives suspect, but I still hold to those values I grew up with as a child: sharing and fairness. Only now, as an adult, I call them equity and justice. Any movement for justice must rely on more than self-interest. It must tap into the conscience of those who are not directly suffering to recognize that we cannot live a moral life while others suffer because of us.
For years, we didn’t see how people in other parts of the world suffered at our expense. Because of our foreign policies fashioned by multinational corporations, because of our insatiable desire for cheap consumer goods, because of our careless destruction of the environment and overuse of natural resources, because of our banks and financial institutions that impoverished entire nations.
But capitalism must always grow. So now that the third world has been sucked dry, the system is coming home to do the same to us. We’re only beginning to see what others in the rest of the world have experienced for years: the amassing of wealth among the few at the top, the dismantling of social programs and the impoverishment of the masses.
Now that we are the ones suffering, we finally realize what this system does to people.
Most importantly, our system is driving us all towards ultimate annihilation. As far as capitalism is concerned, everything, including our air, our water, our natural world, is a commodity from which to make money. As long as money can be made, be it from drilling for oil or fracking for gas, the consequences don’t matter. Even if it means making it impossible for the earth to sustain life.
This is how New Brunswick’s ongoing struggle against shale gas connects with the Occupy movement. We took our anti-fracking signs with us, as did others. Some people found that confusing. It may look like the message of the movement is unfocused and too diverse, but that’s because today’s attacks on the environment, labour rights, education, social security, democracy, peace, etc. can all be traced back to our capitalist system.
This movement is urgent. It is no less than a matter of life and death, for our species and for all life on earth. Chances are, you are part of the 99%. Join us.
Taeyon Kim lives in Fredericton.