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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Making sense of Occupy Wall Street Movement

The protest by Occupy Wall Street Movement group has now gone on for quite some time, almost a month. Interestingly it hasn't created a traction across the world, as probably one would have imagined. But, I think it's quite a significant landmark in the post-Soviet, post-socialist era.

We all depend on businesses in one form or the other, directly or indirectly. Even the most communist and the most socialist of human being has no way of escaping a business organization, however big or small. Take the very simple instance of daily shopping.

One hard reality I have always understood is that no business is out there on charity. Even a recognized charity organization! If anyone is selling you anything for 100 bucks, then the cost of that item actually is much less than that, because that guy has to make some profit out of selling that stuff to you. Making profits is part of the game.

Is that cheating? No. Right? After all, businessmen too need money to survive. Their salary is the profit they get, right?

Then when does business become cheating and looting of our money?

Probably it is when the margin of profit is too much? Probably when businessmen don't care for the welfare of the very people to whom they are selling their products or services? Probably when in an organization there is a huge disparity in income between the top management employees and lower level employees?

I guess so.

What I understand from my friends is that in many organizations the income gap among employees is very wide. Top management officials earn a huge sum. And the general impression is that they do much less work compared to the lower level staff who are paid much less and end up doing a lot of work. The disparity and the disproportion is all too glaring.

This is not a new development. This has been the way, for a long time. But then, why these protests now?

Because, in these times of recession, when hard cash, the liquid cash, that we all turn to when we actually need money, suddenly seems to have vanished. No one seems to have money. All the guys who were rich till yesterday, seem to have become poor!

In Japan, I am told, the income disparity among employees in an organization is very less. Not that there is equal pay for every one, but the margin of difference is far less than what one would find in the US or Europe.

Occupy Wall Street Movement, I guess, is not a protest against big business houses or corporates. It's not that no one wants them. It's not that they haven't done anything for the society. They have. Of course. The whole movement is more about the resentment and frustration of middle class people, who feel cheated and looted by the top bosses in big corporates.

It could be a matter perception, as a big corporate executive told me. This is a critical time for the US. Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg says, “The Constitution doesn’t protect tents ... It protects speech and assembly.” He was referring to the tents put up by the protesters. His remarks show a sense of frustration in the administration.
 
As the saying goes: "If US sneezes, the rest of the world catches cold". May be the US isn't so much concerned about the rest of the world, as much as it is about itself. Fair enough. That should solve the problem. At least in the interest of the US, there has to be an intensive introspection about how the whole ultra-capitalist methods of management has brought the corporates and the Americans to this pass. The earlier some solution is found, good for America, good for the world.

Will such a thing happen in India? Can't be ruled out. Already we saw it some form as Anna Hazare led huge masses of middle class people in their a campaign for Lokpal. Issues are not same, but very similar. Here also there is a groundswell of frustration and discontent among the middle class, as people think corporates and politicians have joined hands to take everyone for a ride.

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