I have just spent the better part of two weeks moving house. Although I was told what a desirable tenant I would be, being older, and therefore more stable than the younger people, I was suddenly confronted one day with the news that the owner of the building in which I had my apartment, having previously lived in British Columbia, had decided to relocate to Ottawa, wanted to live in my apartment, and here, thank you very much, is your two months’ notice.
This came just after the students had arrived and filled up most of the places. However, being ever resourceful in such things, I started looking for a place on a Friday, and by Monday had decided to move to a two-bedroomed apartment in a high-rise building, just to make sure the same thing could not happen to me again.
So, for the first time, I find myself living on the fifth floor of a building with many dozens of tenants, with a swimming pool and a gym and an immense laundry room, on the 21st floor, and with all manner of things you can and cannot do, in the general interests of the tenantry at large.
So far I like it. The hot water system is amazing: instanter, immediately one turns the tap; and the toilet whooshes away like a rocket machine.
And now, having put my remaining pictures (I sold most of them a year or so ago) back up on the walls, I have time to look around the world and see how things are going.
Some amazing things have taken place while I was preoccupied with establishing myself in a place that is right downtown in Ottawa.
Many things have puzzled me. For example, the panic that ensued when the Greek Prime Minister announced he would have a referendum on the proposed bailout for his country’s economic crisis. Has it not been an article of faith that the Western, capitalistic model of society is based on democratic decision of the citizens, and that this is what distinguishes it from draconian systems like dictatorships, communist or fascist, oligarchies, and the like? So how can these same propagandists for democracy raise such a hue and cry over a democratic vote on a proposal put forward by a bunch of economic technocrats? The very idea was not only frowned upon, but was met with panicked dismay, was said to be likely to scuttle any possibility of what these people call progress. In fact, the thing was so unthinkable that the Greek Prime Minister with this dangerous idea had to be removed from power, and this is exactly what has happened.
He has been replaced by a banker, or a collection of bankers. And the same thing has happened in Italy, where a group of banking technocrats have begun to impose the bankers’ favorite solution to all problems, which is to impose austerity on the living standards of the ordinary citizens.
That is one thing that has happened that has bewildered me somewhat. Another amazing revelation that literally set me back on my heels was that Bernie Sanders, the only socialist in the American political system, has managed to force out of the Federal Reserve in the United States information that that body was desperately anxious to hide: namely, that during the bailouts by which they prevented the whole capitalistic system from collapsing, the Federal Reserve put up --- wait for this, you’re scarcely going to believe this figure! --- $16 trillion dollars, paid out to bankers, individuals and government agencies in the United States and in some other countries. I am going to try to write that in figures.
$16,000,000,000,000. Would that be right?
It is an unimaginable figure, an amount of money that, I am quite sure, doesn’t really exist, except in the books of banks and government institutions. No one has ever had that much money, ever. But the enormity of what happened is even greater than I had imagined.
Let’s see: banks and insurance companies, and other similar agencies that have, all my life, ranked number one among by unfavorite demonic institutions, were granted sums in gazillions of dollars, for the most part without any conditions, to rescue them from their own horrendous mistakes that were caused by their own massive greed and lack of the qualities of citizenship. Meanwhile, the many hundreds of thousands of people who had been forced from their homes by these same institutions have been left to swelter, or freeze, depending on their location, without any aid of any kind. Many other consequences have been borne by the ordinary people: for example, education has been priced beyond the reach of everyone except the well-heeled, and food costs have spiraled upwards, as has the cost of living in general. Students leave university now crippled with a load of debt so huge that they probably are never going to be able to pay it off. And it has become common to hear people moan about how can a young couple ever aspire to owning a house?
It is too discouraging to go into all the many ways that ordinary people are stewing as a result of these machinations by the financial lords of creation.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has been an impressive response to all this: that it should have spread to more than 900 cities around the world is an indication of how close people must be to saying: we have had enough. We need a huge change in this self-sustaining, criminal, greedy, appallingly amoral system of capitalist goverance. The only problem is that unlike the situation in Egypt, the movement has been unable to mobilize the milllions into street demonstrations in their support. That is the missing ingredient that would lead to the overthrow of the whole rotten system.
I can conclude this by quoting (not for the first time, as readers of this blog over the years will know) the Indian novelist and polemicist Arundhati Roy,who recently made a speech in New York to the Wall street occupiers. In response to the bleatings of the establishment media to the effect that the Occupy movement has no comprehensible objectives, she produced four objectives, which I support:
“They (the 1%) say that we don't have demands… perhaps they don't know that our anger alone would be enough to destroy them. But here are some things – a few 'pre-revolutionary' thoughts I had – for us to think about together:
“We want to put a lid on this system that manufactures inequality. We want to put a cap on the unfettered accumulation of wealth and property by individuals as well as corporations. As 'cap-ist'" and 'lid-ites', we demand:
• An end to cross-ownership in businesses. For example, weapons manufacturers cannot own TV stations; mining corporations cannot run newspapers; business houses cannot fund universities; drug companies cannot control public health funds.
• Two, natural resources and essential infrastructure – water supply, electricity, health, and education – cannot be privatized.
• Three, everybody must have the right to shelter, education and healthcare.
• Four, the children of the rich cannot inherit their parents' wealth.
“This struggle has re-awakened our imagination. Somewhere along the way, capitalism reduced the idea of justice to mean just 'human rights', and the idea of dreaming of equality became blasphemous. We are not fighting to just tinker with reforming a system that needs to be replaced.”
And so say all of us!