Friday, 28 August 2009
There’s a demonstration on my jogging route. ‘Capitalism Is Crisis’, the banner reads. A couple of hundred people deciding to spend the weekend camping out on Blackheath. Well, the Beachdown Music Festival has been called off, so next best thing.
What’s my problem with people demonstrating? After all, unfettered capitalism is clearly not a force for good, so why shouldn’t they take a stand?
Except... if you’re taking a stand, it helps if it isn’t completely futile. That’s the difference, the crucial difference. The mass demonstrations of the seventies at least had a purpose, a link between cause and effect; they might not have influenced the government of the day, but they demonstrated support behind the unions, that there was a constituency out there to be won.
But if you’re taking a futile stand, if you’re attempting to reverse the direction of the wind by pissing into it, what is the point? These protestors might as well be holding the protest virtually by forming a Facebook group, for all the difference it will make, because there are so pitifilly few of them, their cause is so nebulous, their goals so abstract.
So the cynic in me makes me question their motives. This isn’t about making a difference; it’s about being seen vainly attempting to make a difference. It’s about consciences being salved. Often, one suspects, middle-class, privately-educated consciences. Railing against mummy and daddy.
And, like all lefties, there’s nothing I hate more than other fair-weather lefties and trust-funded extremists giving democratic socialism a bad name. The idea is to make capitalism work for humanity rather than against it; it’s a necessary social mechanism, ever since the first hunter decided to become a gatherer. The alternative is that we all go and live in the woods and eat twigs.
(Plus, of course, they're protesting about the wrong thing; it's not capitalism that causes climate change, it's overpopulation.)