The Occupy movement came to Margate last week, pitching up tents outside the Turner Contemporary to protest against the injustices of capitalism and to stand up against the cuts. Quite why they've chosen to base themselves on a windy beach front on possibly the coldest area imaginable is beyond me, but fair play to them for having the guts to do it.
I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to risk pneumonia in the name of a political ideology, but each to their own I suppose. I've read that snow has been forecast over the next few days so whether Occupy Margate will still be there this time next week is anyone's guess. Let's hope they've been watching Bear Grylls to learn how to keep warm in arctic conditions!
The Occupy movement, for those not in the know, is a non-violent protest movement for activists who are actively campaigning against social and economic inequality by 'squatting' in various locations and recently made headlines by camping in front of St. Paul's Cathedral. Their emphasis is on representing the 99% (with the other 1% being the small minority of people who control a vast proportion of the country's wealth).
Love it or love it, the Occupy movement has encouraged a big debate about corruption, tax evasion, bailouts, bankers bonuses, direct democracy and the moral nature of capitalism itself. Some activists – not the ones in Margate, I might add – have gone so far as to call capitalism evil, but I don't think that's the case. Capitalism is an amoral system. It does not have any intrinsically moral imperative woven into it, it is flexible to whomever and however people choose to use it.
If an unscrupous, money-hungry Gordon Gekko wants to exploit people by any means necessary, capitalism enables him to do that every bit as much as it allows the likes of Anita Perilli to set up The Body Shop and inject some environmental ethics into the mix. It's this amorality that makes capitalism quite a productive and enabling system, but in my view that doesn't mean people shouldn't condemn those who operate within the system for nefarious purposes.
Ideally, most businesses should – and I believe most of them do – operate by firm moral principle and only be compelled to deliver or supply a good service or product. Those who deserve to be chastised are those who are only motivated to cheat, exploit, hoodwink or place too much emphasis on fiercely competing with their rivals and stoop to maraudery and bully tactics. That's the law of the playground so, in essence, I think capitalism needs a dinner lady on patrol to watch over things.
In the end, profit should not come at a cost of misery to others; it should always be of emotional, social and financial benefit to all. So my point is that capitalism is not necessarily bad, but it is capable of fostering injustices and citizens should be vigilant and call for reform in areas where the system fails to deliver, be it on moral grounds or otherwise. The Occupy Margate press release appears to acknowledge this by stating that they are taking a stand against a capitalism which operates "without constraint or conscience" so for that reason, I have no problem with their presence.
Besides, never has it been more blatantly obvious that the majority of people are paying a price through public sector cuts for a crime that most of them did not commit. The real culprits are the short-sighted buccaneers in the City and the fat cat bankers playing Double or Quits with people's hard-earned cash. I'm inclined to agree that government debt is a problem that needs to be addressed, but to see those in the financial sector toss currency around like it's monopoly money and reward themselves enormous bonuses is farcical when you think about how many cuts that sort of money could reverse.
If the Occupy movement gives people a voice and calls into question the standards to which the ruling classes have been abiding by over the last thirty years, then that can only be a good thing in my book. Let's hope it marks a sea change in how the status quo conducts its affairs. First thing's first though, let's see how the Occupy protesters handle the snow, shall we?!