Thursday, 2 February 2012


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?!


  1. Occupy Margate?! looks like they got lots of people backing it...

    or not.If it means so much to them, why don't they join the force in the city?
    What do they hope to achieve at Turner Centre? What are they hoping for? Someone to come out and offer them a postcard of JMW's paintings?


  2. "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".

    They are a very small minority of banking staff. Equally culpable are politicians & trade unions, although the latter have little real power nowadays.

    Short-termism is one of several British "diseases"

    1. "Short-termism is one of several British "diseases""

      Another is judging a book by it's cover:
      Condemning anyone that is unemployed as a lazy whinging jealous anti-corporatist.

      What we have today is not "Capitalism" but socialised corporatism.

      Jeremy Jacobs you are prejudiced.
      I see you are also a self publicist for I thought you had blocked Luke on Twitter and myself, but obviously that doesn't matter if there is publicity to be had.

    2. "Socialised Corporatism" is it? So you would have less regulation and take away all safety nets? Either that or you've been reading too many US Libertarian blogs!

      If Free Market Fundamentalists had their way things like Market Crashes, Banking Crises and other failings in the current Economic system would be left to happen and stuff the consequences. It's this sort of thinking that the likes of Occupy oppose as we all know who takes the brunt of such calamities: the workers and the poor and vunerable members of society. Those who gain from Free Market Capitalism, and Coporatism for that matter, just lick their wounds and count the wonga they have stashed in off-shore accounts, ready to return to their Casino-style playing with the world's economies. Unfortunately, it's this reason that regulation and State inteference is the only way we can make sure this doesn't happen time and time again.

  3. Earlier today I had taken a group of pupils down to the Turner and had explained to them about the group of protesters. My pupils wanted to talk to them to find out more. I spoke to one man who said he was too busy to speak to us and that he was in the middle of something!! Then proceeded to spout on at me when I tried to explain about the young people I had with me and that they were interested in what he was doing. I tried to explain that I was one of the converted and that it is the younger generation we need to educate. To say I was disappointed is putting it mildly. Luckily a young man who was also part of the group spoke to them and answered their questions - which I was grateful for. But once again our youth were treated disrespectfully by the older generation - they are our future and we nearly missed a great learning opportunity which was taking place outside the classroom.

    1. First time protesters are not necessarily the most articulate. It takes a lot of courage to lay yourself on the line as the Occupy protesters are doing - they don't have a vast PR machine writing their policy - they're holding discussions and working out the best way of explaining themselves to Thanet all the time. Be patient - it must be intimidating to be faced with a teacher expecting the protesters to give his lesson for him!

    2. Seems like all they can do is blame everyone else for their problems. Why don't they do something useful like helping to clear the snow from pavements if they want to make a difference to Thanet?

  4. Now THAT'S something that would get my wholehearted support, equal rights for younger people - in particular a national minimum wage for ALL working adults from 16 upwards!

    Where's the other JW (not Turner!) when we need him?

  5. It's frightening that a teacher thinks she/he is "educating" pupils by getting them to chat to a tiny group of malcontents on Margate seafront. Get back in the classroom and teach them subjects which will give them a chance of a meaningful career, rather than imposing your own ideology.

    1. I would never dream of imposing my ideology or beliefs on any person young or old - but I do believe in making the most of every learning opportunity that give young people the opportunity to see all sides and then support them as they make their own decisions. I do work very hard educating my pupils in the hope that they will get a meaningful career - but will there be one for them when they leave school? Education is more than the end product and I feel your attitude to education is far more frightening.

  6. The trouble with Capitalism is it's present neo-liberal version, which just hasn't worked. Finding an alternative is proving to be difficult because of how deeply entrenched it has become in our society.

    Occupy are about pointing out the problems and inequalities at work in deregulated, free-market Capitalism and good on them for doing so. Anonymous@2.23 talks about ideology but the dominant one, neo-liberalism, is the one we indoctrinate our young with, expecting them to go into low-paid employment and at the same time become consumers bent on satisfying every whim and desire. Surely, showing them an alternative is both right and educational. The consumer/debt-driven economics of Late Capitalism is the reason for the downturn in recent years and yet people are still driven by their desires to have stuff and have it now!

    As for Jeremy Jacobs blaming the unions (and then saying they have no real power?!): it's the neo-liberal experiment that has taken away the power of the unions in order to foist low-paid, insecure, short-term work upon us in order to compete in a Globalised market. Please show us where unions are the problem Jeremy.

  7. If the occupy protesters are blaming free-market capitalism for our quandary, then they really [i]are[/i] wasting their time.

    Mass ignorance is the reason we find ourselves in this mess. If you are looking for someone to blame, look in the mirror.

    We've basically delegated our (immense) power to a bunch of opportunistic shysters who know the law and who know all about human psychology.

    1. I'd be fascinated to know what you suggest we do about it...?

    2. Do some research into the Cestui Que Vie Act of 1666.

      I believe that therein lieth the answer to our prayers.