Monday, 23 January 2012

Something to Occupy your mind …

A couple of weeks ago I went to see the new Steven Spielberg movie, War Horse. I thoroughly recommend this epic tale of a thoroughbred horse named Joey. Reared on a Devon farm, it follows the horse’s journey through the horrors of World War One and the people he touched along the way. It culminates when he eventually reunites with Albert, the young farm boy who trained him (and who ultimately followed him to war in search of his beloved horse).

As I was walking through Dunedin’s picturesque Octagon to the movie theatre, I couldn’t help but notice the dead grass courtesy of our friends from the Occupy movement who had spent the best part of the previous three months camped there, smoking dubious substances, peeing on the grass and protesting about our capitalist system.

Because I was on my way to see a movie about, amongst other things, the rat-infested trenches and the atrocities of the Great War, I got to thinking about my grandfather Hugh.
He served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front and returned a bitter, not better, man for the experience. But he served his country because he was fighting, like all those brave souls, for democracy. As I wandered, I couldn’t help wondering what Hughie would have made of the Occupy movement?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not such a red-neck, right winger that I can’t see protesting has its place. It was indeed right to protest against the Vietnam War. In hindsight it was totally right to protest against the 1981 Springbok tour and it’s right to protest against such wrongs as starvation, sweated-labour and the lack of democracy in the likes of North Korea, Zimbabwe and Libya. Where I struggle with the Occupy movement is what they’re actually protesting about.

They claim to be protesting for a resource-based and sharing economy where capitalism is abolished. Yet, if Dunedin is anything to go by, they’re happy to take their tax-payer funded three statutory breaks for Xmas and accept the dole or sickness benefit funded by a capitalist system. My grandfather spent months marooned on the beaches at Anzac Cove. I doubt those blokes took three weeks off at the height of summer to go the beach! They were stuck on theirs.

On the Tuesday morning of last week I went for a coffee, funded I might add by selfish capitalist ways, and the Occupy protestors, who had reappeared the day before following their Christmas sabbatical, were gone from the Octagon. In a city where some short-sighted souls moan about the cost of the magnificent Forsythe Barr Stadium, there seems to have been barely a whimper about the $4000 the ratepayers have had to fork out to re-grass the Octagon. Don’t even start me on the fact that this most public of public spaces, was unavailable to the public for nigh on three months.

Maybe I’m missing the point and maybe the Occupiers have a point. But we live in a tough world. A world, whether you like it or not, where you have to pay your way, as Greece and much of the debt-ridden Euro zone is finding out.

Capitalism is far from perfect and a lot of greedy people are ripping off the system. But I’m damn sure it’s a better bet than the communal, hippy, happy-clapping, group-hugging, resource-sharing model proposed by the Occupiers.

Finally, while I’m reminiscing about family, I can’t help but think of my late father Alec. He was old school, hard-arse even. He didn’t like Vietnam war protestors in the 1960s - called them “hairy mongrels”. He couldn’t even abide All Blacks, the likes of Bob Burgess, with long hair. What would he have made of Occupiers?

“Get a haircut and get a real job” springs to mind. ENDS>

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.


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