This is a sort of meta-post, but (a) it’s been bothering me and (b) after closing comments on my post below, I feel like there should be a venue for people telling me I'm an idiot that’s open.
I’m currently in Ghana, which is why I’m not finding ways to be at Occupy Baltimore at least part-time (I have a three year old who gets cranky if we’re out occupying public space past 7PM, though she has been asking about camping recently...). But, beyond that, I’m not sure what to make of being in another part of the world watching OWS from the outside in.
As far as I know, there are no sympathetic movements in Ghana (and the only OWS-related protest I know of was in South Africa). Which is not to say that there aren't various moments of resistance around the continent, many of which have grievances that would be familiar to OWS (I could have sworn that Tom Friedman said there was no Arab Spring in sub-Saharan Africa, but I can't find it now, so it may just be that it's the sort of thing I'd imagine Friedman saying). Just off the top of my head,
- Ugandan "walk to work" protests sparked by high fuel prices
- Sudanese food protests
- South African protests over poverty and unemployment
- All sorts of protests in Zimbabwe (this is one)
I'm sure there's more that I'm missing.
Here in Ghana, doctors just ended their strike. This was over the delay in moving publicly-funded doctors onto the new pay scale for public servants, which would raise their pay. Last week, on my walk to my office, there as a giant pile of burning tires on the median, which I’m told—variously—was either about raising tuition or increasing the number of students to a dorm room (word on the street was that the University was talking about raising it to 6).
None of this stuff is too remote from the goals of OWS, but lumping it together as if it’s a movement waiting to be born seems to level the serious differences between the situations.
And I hate being that guy, the one who’s always on about how much better we have it, and how we should worry about having real problems, but... if you’re even middle-class-ish in the US, you have it really good. I don’t know many people in the US in my circles who would be totally comfortable living the way that middle-class Ghanaians do, let alone poor Ghanaians. And Ghana’s not that poor.
This is why, in my earlier comments, I pointed out that the game many people seem to be frustrated had the rules changed, was rigged from the start. It’s rigged worse than ever now in favor of the 1%. But, I'm not in that 1% in the US, and the game was massively rigged in my favor—I would (likely) not be where I am, precarious as it may be, were I born in Mogadishu, or Lagos, or Accra.
So, on the one hand, I worry about appropriating the situation of folks around here, as if saying “global capitalism!” solves, like, chieftancy disputes and the argument over whether the NDC has been using thug tactics against Rawlings’ wife. On the other hand, it strikes me that OWS should have cosmopolitan reach.
I throw myself on the mercy of more perceptive minds to make sense of all this.