Our modern economic system is broken and there's mounting anecdotal evidence to suggest efforts to effect repairs are slowly tearing apart the fabric of our political system. The Arab spring has morphed into a fall of economic turmoil. Just last week Egyptian activist Mohammed Ezzeldin told protesters in New York's "Washington Square" park that he sees a connection between the spreading Occupy Wall Street movement and the spring protests against (former) Egypt President Hosni Mubarak.
"It's time for democracy, not corporatocracy, we're doomed without it" - That's the rallying cry the Canadian based magazine "Adbusters" issued to its subscribers in July in an article asking readers to protest corporate greed by staging an "Occupy Wall Street" demonstration in New York on Saturday, September 17th. They are still there, and they've been (and continue to be) joined by like-minded supporters in hundreds of cities around the developed world.
Welcome to middle-class poverty! Since that mid-September weekend in Manhattan the protest has unleashed a global outcry against the notion that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. In the United-States (primarily) as elsewhere, there is anger and frustration over gargantuan bailouts that lined the pockets of international corporations and which have done little to help individuals and families squeezed between rising expenses, historic job losses, stagnating wages and thinning benefits.
I wasn't around during the Great Depression but the images of protesters in Zuccotti Park across from New York's Wall Street, at the dozens of other tent cities in town squares, or most probably later this week on Toronto's Bay Street are hauntingly similar to those of the "dirty thirties". And, it's not just the issue of image: In the United-States inequality has reached just about the same level as at the end of the 1920's. The 7,000 American millionaires who paid no income taxes in 2011 excepted; - Everyone has been affected. Just as with the case of the Arab Spring, it's the social media savvy young people faced with bleak economic futures, political grievances and the perils of climate change who are now effecting this demand for change.
Though some politicians have expressed sympathy with the anger towards the role the international banking and investment community has played in this endless financial crisis paralyzing the world's economies, because there is no firm grasp on solutions; perceptions remain that governments indulge the financial elites. In the absence of tangible evidence of a dramatic shift in thinking, political institutions and economic assumptions; and in the face of (what seems to many) a "big black hole," the legion of protests grows unabated into a second month.
The onset of winter is not very far. Regardless of whether the movement has unleashed the politically creative and productive changes which are clearly needed, the "Occupy Wall Street" protests are a crystalline message that a significant number of people no longer feel they have meaningful representation from those they've elected to political office. Accordingly, they are increasingly prepared to do something about it.