A couple of days ago I posted about why the Occupy Wall Street action is Green, quoting various articles by luminaries of both the environmentalist and anti-globalization movements.

Besides specific environmental issues being addressed at OWS and other similar protests around the world, the logic is plain: economic and political models based on unrestrained growth, consumerism and unregulated finance and industry are not only unfair and undemocratic, but clearly ecologically disastrous.

From dirty tar sands in the North, to dams and deforestation in the South, it’s all connected. Political power in the hands of corporations, rather than people, spells bad times for “the 99%” as well as the Earth. Governments and political parties are, as a result, less accountable to voters than they are to moneyed corporate interests, yet the voters pay for the mistakes and crimes of the rich. The “1%”, the so-called “job creators” take and hoard their subsidized wealth and continue to do as they will, protected by the political leaders they put in office.

Occupy Wall Street and ongoing European protests also have a kinship with the Arab Spring, in that there is in Slavoj Zizek’s word’s ‘a crisis of democracy’ (watch the linked video for Zizek’s brilliant analysis). For Western democratic nations, the already established structures of democracy (i.e., free elections) are perceived by many to have failed and so those who feel disenfranchised are turning to demonstrations and the occupation of public spaces to have their voices heard.

As opposed to OWS’s (at least initially) unfocused media image, protests against austerity measures in Europe are clear: experiments in supra-national government and economic deregulation orchestrated by financial institutions and corporations are resulting in the erosion of fundamental social rights (work, housing, health, education, social security, etc.). The protesters in Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain (as well as the UK) see the decay of these rights as a break in the social contract they made with their elected governments. Fear and insecurity are resulting from a perceived failure of national democracy in favor of European economic liberalization.

photo by William Murphy (infomatique on Flickr CC)

In other words people don’t like having to suddenly pay more tax while receiving lower salaries, less benefits and dealing with banks who are suddenly unwilling to lend, while someone, somewhere else, is getting even richer as a result.

Unfortunately – maddeningly to some – the answers being offered up are more privatization (read: corporatization, not the little guy setting up a small business).

Just look at the Conservatives in the UK. Any excuse and they do what they always do: sell off public goods and enable the rich to get richer as a result. Same thing in Portugal.

In the words of an unemployed man quoted in the Guardian:

I live in Lisbon and have been quite active about the debt crisis. Portugal is living a neoliberal revolution right now, with the crisis being used as a pretext for the upper class to take over all the major monopolies (health, water, education) to turn them into profit – in the European country with the lowest possible wages, greatest inequality and rising prices. It’s going to be a major disaster.

–Miguel Gomes da Costa

In Lisbon they are camped in Rossio Square; in Athens, Syntagma Square; in Madrid it’s Puerta del Sol. There is even a camp in Dublin.

Follow John Henley’s series of reports for the Guardian on Europe’s debt crisis for more.

Also check out the following articles:

The New Republic: Why Greece, Spain, and Ireland Aren’t to Blame for Europe’s Woes

Truthout: “Globalization” Is Coming Home

AFP: ‘Indignant’ protests to sweep across world

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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