---Having been invited to be this week's Social Reporting guest editor and introduce the theme of economics, the burgeoning 'Occupy' movement seemed the obvious place to start. Over the last couple of months I have been fascinated as the occupations started with OccupyWallStreet on Sept 17th, followed by others joining in solidarity around the world, including OccupyLondon, which has been the London Stock Exchange's new neighbour since Oct 15th. I've not been well lately, so haven't been able to be there as much as I'd like, but I have been following events closely online and visiting when I can. It has been interesting to note that most of those I have met at OccupyLondon hadn't previously heard of Transition, and that got me thinking about the parallels and differences between the two movements... So what is 'Occupy' all about? A lot has been made in the mainstream media about the elusive "one demand" that Adbusters referred to in the original image that sparked the movement, and the ensuing lack of a single clear demand to fulfil that call. And yet the basic point comes through loud and clear. Our economic system is profoundly unfair, and we want profound change. We live under a system in which banks receive more in subsidies than they pay in taxes, where they use their power to actually create money out of thin air, where they receive hundreds of billions in bailouts, and where the graph of global income distribution looks, well, like this: It is easy to see why 'the 99%' might have something to say to 'the 1%' (the spike on the right should actually continue upwards over ten thousand times as far as shown here, or more than a kilometre above your computer!), and it also easy for us to let our brains boggle at numbers in the hundreds of billions of pounds. What can such numbers really mean? Yet Occupy has learned the hard way that they can become terribly real when we see some of the things that this virtually unlimited money is used for. For example, the New York Police Department, which has been increasingly violent in its treatment of OccupyWallSt, was given a $4.6m donation by bailed-out Wall Street megabank JP Morgan Chase, and the New York Stock Exchange and Wall Street corporations apparently now actually hire individual serving policemen for $37/hr. Such riches also permit the big financial institutions to appear generous by becoming the chief sponsors of organisations like St. Paul's Cathedral. Not to mention of course that more than 99% of us work for money, which is apparently being magicked out of thin air by others, who then use this free resource to pay the rest of us to do whatever they see fit. It suddenly becomes crystal clear why the Oakland public were chanting "who are you protecting?" as the Oakland police force closed in to attack them for being in the streets of Oakland, threatening the use of "chemical agents" via a megaphone and throwing a flash grenade at those trying to help a wounded man:
"There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong" ~ H. L. MenckenGiven the mess things are in, it seems absurd to expect a simple set of demands that could put it all right. Instead, OccupyLondon has as yet adopted what seems to me a far more mature approach - setting up teach-ins and a 'university' in which we can educate ourselves, and then giving the resultant discussions as long as they need. It says to the guardians of the status quo "Ok, no, we don't have all the answers, but it's abundantly clear that you don't either, so let's talk it over." And it's here where I fancy Transitioners might have a few things to say (as well as much to learn!) with our growing experience of building local economic networks that make a lot more sense than this globalised mess:
"The reality is that the growth we've lived with is going away whether we like it or not - I'm hoping that this new emergent consensus that we've been screwed comes with a collective response to the end of growth - or the solidarity won't last as the system pits people against one another"So on that note, I hand over to the social reporters to explore this week's topic of Transition economics. From local e-currencies to the gift economy - what can we bring to the discussion that is sweeping the world?