Occupy Sydney 1st Anniversary, Martin Place, Sydney

[Read by Cathy Vogan]

Dear Friends

Unfortunately I can’t join you today but I’m grateful to be able to congratulate you on your first anniversary.

Since September 17 2011, Occupy protests have continued and spread around the world. In the United States, Belfast, Hong Kong, London, Canada, Madrid, Rome and most importantly, here.

I first wrote about the Occupy movement in October last year when the politics of frustration was replaced by popular action and a renaissance in political and economic thinking by people across the generations.

The feeling still resonates among millions of people, in most nations, right around the world. More and more, people see the gap between the rich and the poor, even if they don’t personally feel its sting. They see the homelessness, the debts they or their children are saddled with for higher education; they see the struggle of the underemployed and unemployed, and the price paid by a casualised workforce.

We live in silent protest under a corrupted political monoculture, where the seeds of true leadership can’t germinate.  Our self-proclaimed statesmen, servants of the monied but not of the people, lacking both substance and backbone, have permitted the commoditisation and privatisation of water, energy and biodiversity. The path set by the few presages a bleak outlook for the many.

A year ago I described the Occupy movement as a movement of the people, its language as humanity, and the language of humanity as timeless. That’s still true.

We all know that government credibility isn’t tied to government credit ratings, deficits and debt, just as it isn’t bolstered by alarmist cries about refugees and terrorists.  We judge our government by how it really treats its people.

We all understand how the neoliberal paradigm has led to this mad focus, ignoring social indicators or objectives that might point to a healthy and sustainable economy, like full or near full employment.

We all know that we should be asking, “How do we create or restore the economy to a sustainable level of economic activity?”   We all know that to do that you have to go back to basics and ask fundamental questions like “What do we want economic activity to deliver to people, to society in general?”

Without that all you’ll ever get are neoliberal, “free market” type answers, because that’s the way governments, and people generally, sadly, have been conditioned to think.

We all know that the free market is anything but free, that is manipulated and far from transparent. We all know that free markets ignore social and environmental costs, let alone objectives. We all know that free markets operate on the basis that government has no role, except of course to make sure the rule of law protects property rights and personal interests.

We all know, or need to know, that the neo-liberal agenda leads nowhere except to a dead end.  It’s the path to selfish self-destruction.  In 1944, after the horror and injustices of the Second World War, Albert Camus saw that humanity and justice are the only true aims of an enlightened society:  he said, the goal we must pursue is to make life free for the individual, but just for all.

Occupiers around the world stand for exactly the same principles.  And most people all round the world support them too, because ordinary people believe in the ideas of honesty and a fair go.  They mightn’t be out here with you, but they believe in exactly the ideals that you do. And pepper spraying peaceful demonstrators, raids by early morning riot squads, mounted police beating down on grandmothers and governments desperate to silence people like Julian Assange who show what the evil do and lend the lie to what they say, only reinforces their beliefs.

I thank you all for your persistence over the last 12 months, and I salute you all for your principle and your courage.  In case you ever doubt, I remind you of the importance of what you stand for and the importance of standing as you do.  You are the face and the voice of most Australians, who see and feel as you do but who cannot or will not yet stand up.  Your position will be vindicated when the tide turns, as inevitably it will, but in the meantime you must keep holding up the mirror to the selfishness, hypocrisy, inhumanity and injustice that brought you here a year ago.  I thank you all.

Kellie Tranter

Lawyer and human rights activist

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