Monday, November 28, 2011

Stopping elder abuse

   Elder abuse is very common, but it is under reported. Just like sexual harassment, which I dealt with last week, it needs to stop. This is why I want to raise this issue in my blog today.
   One of the more commonly accepted definitions of elder abuse is "a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. This definition was adopted by the World Health Organization.
  Anyone who is 65 or older can become a victim of elder abuse. Since I have already passed that threshold, this topic is of immediate concern to me.
  In addition, my mother, aged 91, is in a nursing home, where she receives good care, in spite of her complaints that the staff do not come quickly enough when she calls for them.
  But some nursing homes, unfortunately, do practice abuse, as many reports on elder abuse indicate. For example, see in the US. And, similarly, in Canada, see It also occurs in many other countries.

  Elder abuse should concern everyone, since abuse happens in every society, even those where the elderly are valued more than in Western ones.
  In my research for this post I read about a grandmother in India whose family put her out with the garbage. It seems that the new demands made on families in India made it difficult for her family to continue to support her, in spite of the traditional respect accorded the elderly in that society.
  Education is an important step in dealing with elder abuse. Thus through this post I want to add my small voice to those who want to stop it.
   The WHO definition focuses on harm that occurs where there is an "expectation of trust" of the older person toward their abuser. Thus, it includes any harm done by people the older person knows or with whom they have a relationship, such as a spouse, partner or family member, a friend or neighbor, or people that the older person relies on for services.
  The following graph illustrates who the most likely perpetrators are.

   There are many different types of elder abuse:
  • Physical elder abuse is non-accidental use of force against an elderly person that results in physical pain, injury, or impairment. Such abuse includes not only physical assaults such as hitting or shoving but the inappropriate use of drugs, restraints, or confinement.
  • Emotional or psychological senior abuse occurs when people speak to or treat elderly persons in ways that cause emotional pain or distress. Verbal forms of emotional elder abuse include intimidation through yelling or threats, humiliation and ridicule, or habitual blaming or scapegoating. Nonverbal psychological elder abuse can take the form of ignoring the elderly person, isolating an elder from friends or activities, or terrorizing or menacing the elderly person.
  • Sexual elder abuse is contact with an elderly person without the elder’s consent. Such contact can involve physical sex acts, but activities such as showing an elderly person pornographic material, forcing the person to watch sex acts, or forcing the elder to undress are also considered sexual elder abuse.
  • Elder neglect, failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation, constitutes more than half of all reported cases of elder abuse. It can be active (intentional) or passive (unintentional, based on factors such as ignorance or denial that an elderly charge needs as much care as he or she does).
  • Financial exploitation involves unauthorized use of an elderly person’s funds or property, either by a caregiver or an outside scam artist. An unscrupulous caregiver might misuse an elder’s personal checks, credit cards, or accounts; steal cash, income checks, or household goods; forge the elder’s signature or engage in identity theft. Typical rackets that target elders include announcements of a “prize” that the elderly person has won but must pay money to claim, phony charities, or investment fraud.
  • Other types of abuse may involve healthcare fraud perpetrated by unethical doctors, nurses, hospital personnel, and other professional care providers. Examples of healthcare fraud and abuse regarding elders include not providing proper healthcare, but charging extra for it or double-billing for medical care or services; getting kickbacks for referrals to other providers or for prescribing certain drugs; overmedicating or undermedicating; or recommending fraudulent remedies for illnesses or other medical conditions.
  Although slightly dated, the next chart uses somewhat different categories to map out the incidence of domestic abuse.

   It is widely acknowledged that many non-professional caregivers--spouses, adult children, other relatives and friends--find taking care of an elderly person to be satisfying and enriching. But the responsibilities and demands of elder caregiving, which escalate as the elder’s condition deteriorates, can also be extremely stressful. The stress of elder care can lead to mental and physical health problems that make caregivers burned out, impatient, and unable to keep from lashing out against elders in their care.
  Among caregivers, significant risk factors for elder abuse are an inability to cope with stress, depression, a lack of support from other potential caregivers, the caregiver’s perception that taking care of the elder is burdensome and without psychological reward, or even substance abuse.
  Even caregivers in institutional settings can experience stress at levels that lead to elder abuse. Nursing home staff may be prone to elder abuse if they lack training, have too many responsibilities, are unsuited to caregiving, or work under poor conditions.
  In the US, the 500,000 to 1,000,000 reports of elder abuse recorded by authorities every year (the vast majority of which are proven to be true) are only the tip of the iceberg. According to data from different states, for every case of elder abuse reported, another 12 or 13 are not. 
   Accordingly there’s a great need for people to report suspected abuse. This is an important step in stopping  elder abuse. All of us can help reduce the incidence of elder abuse.
   We can begin preventing elder abuse by listening to seniors and their caregivers, intervening when elder is suspected, and educating others about how to recognize and report elder abuse.

   One type of elder abuse is easily overlooked but is the most severe of all: doctor assisted suicide. While its proponents argue that elderly and other incapacitated or severely ill people should be allowed to end their own lives, the danger that assisted suicide can be used by caregivers and others to remove the burden posed the elderly or make it possible for those who want to gain their inheritance sooner is only too real.
   Euthanasia is a huge topic that I hope to tackle soon, but I did want to mention it now in the context of elder abuse. In a truly caring society, we must be cautious in not permitting some of the weakest members to be potentially victimized in this way. 
   I will conclude with a poem penned by an old woman in Scotland who is known only as "Anonymous."

What do you see, people, what do you see? 
What are you thinking, when you look at me?
A crabby old woman, not very wise. 
Uncertain of habit, with far-away eyes,
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply. 
When you say in a loud voice, "I do wish you'd try!"
Who seems not to notice the things that you do. 
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.
Who, unresisting or not, lets you do as you will. 
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you're thinking, is that what you see? 
Then open your eyes--you're not looking at me.

I'll tell you who I am as I sit here so still! 
As I rise at your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of 10 with a father and mother, 
Brothers and sisters, who loved one another.
A young girl of 16 with wings on her feet, 
dreaming that soon now a lover she'll meet.
A bride soon at 20 -- my heart gives a leap, 
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.

At 25 now I have young of my own 
Who need me to build a secure, happy home.
A woman of 30, my young now grow fast, 
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At 40, my young sons have grown and are gone, 
But my man's beside me to see I don't mourn.
At 50, once more babies play around my knee, 
Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead, 
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own. 
And I think of the years and the love that I've known. 
I'm an old woman now and nature is cruel, 
'Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.

The body is crumbled, grace and vigor depart. 
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells, 
And now and again my battered heart swells. 
I remember the joy, I remember the pain, 
And I'm loving and living life over again.
I think of the years--all too few, gone too fast--
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people, open and see, 
Not a crabby old woman--LOOK CLOSER, SEE ME!

   These are the people who need our care. They are the reason why we must help stop elder abuse. They need a helping hand: our hand.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Stopping sexual harassment

   Sexual harassment must stop, whether at school, in the workplace, or wherever else it may occur. It is chronic today, if our newspaper headlines are an accurate indication.
   It happens in every country of the world, every society, and among all classes of people. No one is entirely immune, whether as perpetrator or victim.
   For many years sexual harassment was largely ignored, but now more and more victims are coming forward and accusing perpetrators of of long-ago deeds. Increasingly harassment is no longer acceptable.
   This is a healthy development, but it is not enough. Sexual harassment has to stop, and each of us must do what we can to stop it.
   But we first must answer this question: What constitutes sexual harassment?

   Although not everyone agrees on what sexual harassment includes, I find the explanation of the Ontario Human Rights Code helpful.
   It defines sexual harassment as “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought to be known to be unwelcome.” In some cases, one incident can be serious enough to be sexual harassment.
   And it explains that sexual harassment can include any of the following:
  • asking for sex in exchange for something, like offering to improve a test score, offering a raise or promotion at work, or withholding something like needed repairs to your apartment
  • asking for dates and not taking “no” for an answer
  • demanding hugs
  • making unnecessary physical contact, including unwanted touching
  • using rude or insulting language or making comments that stereotype girls, women, boys or men
  • calling people unkind names that relate to their sex or gender
  • making comments about a person’s physical appearance (for example, whether or not they are attractive)
  • saying or doing something because you think a person does not fit sex-role stereotypes
  • posting or sharing pornography, sexual pictures, cartoons, graffiti or other sexual images (including online)
  • making sexual jokes
  • bragging about sexual ability
  • bullying based on sex or gender
  • spreading sexual rumors or gossip (including online).
    The code adds that sexual harassment does not have to be sexual. It can also mean that someone is bothering you because they think that you do not act, look or dress in the way that a man (or boy) or woman (or girl) should. And people may also harass you because you are LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender).

    Sexual harassment can also be more subtle: for example, an employer who talks to an employee by discussing her physical appearance, saying things like “Oh, don’t you look pretty today." This often stems from sexism and is highly inappropriate.

   Sexual advances or comments often come from people in authority: for example, a teacher, using a false name, who harasses a student though email by describing what she had been wearing that day, what route she took to school, and making sexual suggestions.
    Another example is a supervising police officer who makes sexual advances towards a younger female member of the force.
   This is what made the news recently in Canada when a former high-profile Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) spokeswoman says she suffered from years of sexual harassment on the job, which resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder.
   I will briefly describe this case for the sake of those who may not yet have heard about it.

   Cpl. Catherine Galliford was often the public face of the RCMP between 2001 and 2007. Galliford, who has been on sick leave for the past four years, said the sexual harassment took place during most of her 16-year career.
   In a 115-page transcript, Galliford alleges that one supervisor told colleagues they were intimate, and he once exposed himself to her.
   She also alleges that another supervisor took her on unnecessary trips on the pretext of sharing information with victims’ families. She said the trips were a ruse to get her out of town and attempt to have sex with her.
  “[Some bosses] were using their position of authority to try to get in my pants,” Galliford said in an interview.“ I could not get away from harassment.”
  She recounts how she was sexually harassed by an RCMP officer even before she entered the force. She alleges the officer told her he would prevent her from getting in if she did not have sex with him. So she did. “So, that was the start of my lovely career.”
  The newly appointed commissioner of the RCMP, Bob Paulson, has initiated an investigation of allegations of sexual harassment in the RCMP, but its term of reference are limited to the last six years, and thus do not include the period when Galliford and some other women claim they were harassed.
  The RCMP is a quasi-military police force that is notorious for its sexism and bullying, and more lately of ineptitude. Moreover, it is an "old boys club" that does brook dissent. Thus its sorely tarred reputation of late is not entirely undeserved.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who is responsible for the RCMP

   In the US, everyone is probably aware by now that the political career of businessman Herman Cain ended very shortly after it began because of the accusations by several women that he sexually harassed them. Cain has denied these allegations; whether or not he did harass them, he is history.
   He joins a long list of American politicians who have been accused of sexual harassment. Some, like President Bill Clinton, survived politically, but many did not.
Herman Cain

  The American sports and entertainment worlds are rife with similar allegations of sexual harassment. Just think of Gerald Sandusky at Penn State. While Hollywood for decades has been synonymous with sex in all its permutations, including harassment.
   Pedophilia is an especially obnoxious form of harassment. The Boy Scouts in Canada are now dealing with such allegations, with new revelations coming out almost daily, of scout leaders who misused their authority and trust.
 Sexual harassment is almost endemic in our world. There are many examples: the so far unproven charges of rape by a Guinian woman against Dominique Strauss-Kahn have nevertheless effectively terminated his career as head of the IMF and dashed any hope of him becoming the president of France.
   Harassment can also take the form of bullying, in schools and in many other settings. Thus a girl may start a rumor that another girl is sexually promiscuous and performs sex acts on boys behind the school. Or, a  disgruntled employee may spread rumors about his female director, stating that she is having an affair with the company president and that she is only successful because she “slept her way to the top.”
   Sexual harassment can take place not only between men and women but also between people of the same sex.
  The key word in determining harassment is "unwelcome." Any activity that is unwelcome to someone else can be a form of sexual harassment: an off-color joke, for example, may be offensive to some people.
  What can you and I can do? Educate ourselves, for one thing. Another is to become more empathetic by putting ourselves into the shoes of the other person: to imagine how he or she would feel.

   There are some other things you and I can do:
  • If you or someone you know is being harassed, you can ask the person to stop and you can ask someone in authority to take steps to stop it from happening.
  • Employers, housing providers and educators and others who provide services have a legal duty to take steps to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and they must make sure that human rights are respected, even if no one has raised human rights issues.
  • Employers, housing providers, educators and others can protect human rights and prevent claims by:  1. putting procedures in place to deal with discrimination and harassment; 2. responding quickly to human rights issues as they come up and taking complaints seriously; 3. making resources available to deal with the issue/complaint; and 4. telling the person who complained the actions taken to deal with the issue.
  • If the harassment continues or is not being dealt with appropriately, you can file a human rights claim.
  • If you feel the harassing behavior is getting worse, or that your safety is threatened, you can contact the police.   
   You and I must put a stop to sexual harassment. Sometimes I feel ashamed to be a man, since men are most often accused of harassment. Yet, deep down, all of us must recognize that we are capable of harassment, and we may even have engaged in it, even if unintentionally.
   Sexual harassment is a crime and it must stop. That is also our job.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Global warming is real

Global warming is real, in spite of what many people believe, especially in the US. It is real and is already happening all over the world, even in your community.

Global warming refers to the rise in average temperatures of the Earth's oceans and atmosphere during the last 100 years, with two-thirds of that increase occurring during the last few decades, as the following table illustrates.

Thus the refusal of many people to accept the reality of global warning is puzzling. Why this denial? Even when these people do admit that global warming is happening, they deny human involvement. They offer a multitude of rationalizations, such as, "It's not bad" or "It's the sun" or "There is no consensus."

On the last claim, the US public appears to be unaware of the extent of scientific consensus regarding the issue.  In fact, climate experts almost unanimously agree that humans are causing global warming.

That humans are causing global warming is the position of the Academies of Science from 19 countries plus many scientific organizations that study climate science. More specifically, around 95% of active climate researchers actively publishing climate papers endorse the consensus position.

The following chart notes the distribution of the number of researchers who are convinced by the evidence of human involvement in climate change and those who are unconvinced by the evidence by comparing the number of total publications on climate by each (Anderegg 2010).

To justify their continued denial, an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that scientists have falsified the evidence for global warming, as the next graph shows. Is this the result of willful ignorance or are these people being swayed by the popular media?

People in other countries also have difficulties accepting global warning. A September 2011 Angus Reid Public Opinion poll found that Britons (43%) are even ess likely than Americans (49%) or Canadians (52%) to say that "global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by emissions from vehicles and industrial facilities." The same poll found that 20% of Americans, 20% of Britons and 14% of Canadians think "global warming is a theory that has not yet been proven." It also discovered that global warming skepticism has been rising for many years.

The question remains: Why this denial?

An example of how deniers twist the truth about global warming

A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary called "The Denial Machine" cites a 2006 British report which estimated that the projected costs of global warming could be as costly as both world wars and the Great Depression added together.

In spite of this enormous cost, which may well be understated, or maybe because of it, many people deny that global warming is happening. If nothing is done about global warming, there are indeed enormous cost involved.

But there are other costs which help to explain this denial as well. We should also ask the question: "Cui bono?" This legal principle questions who benefits, in this case from the denial of global warming.

"The Denial Machine" investigated the roots of the campaign to negate the science and the threat of global warming and it discovered that fossil fuel corporations kept the global warming debate alive long after most scientists believed that global warming was real and had potentially catastrophic consequences.

The program showed how companies such as Exxon Mobil are working with top public relations firms, which use many of the same tactics and personnel as those that were employed by the major tobacco companies to dispute the cigarette-cancer link in the 1990s.

Exxon Mobil sought out those who were willing to question the science behind climate change and provided funding for them, their organizations, and their studies.

"The Denial Machine" also explored how the arguments supported by the oil companies were adopted by policymakers in both Canada and the US and helped form government policy.

This is another example of the 1% at work. If global warning is a hoax, they will not be obligated to pay the cost.

The fact is that fighting global warning is going to hurt the bottom line of many more "dirty" corporations, not just oil companies. That cost will also be enormous, but weigh it against to cost of doing nothing.

The 1% always want to privatize profits, but they are only too eager to socialize costly debts. Hence, a campaign of fear and misdirection: according to them, global warning is a hoax.

 "In the denial of global warming, we are witnessing the most vicious, and so far most successful, attack on science in history.” Those strong words are from James Lawrence Powell in his recent book The Inquisition of Climate Science. This book chronicles the campaign of denial which has resulted in the widespread failure of public understanding of climate science and the long delay in addressing what is now an urgent and pressing threat to the human future.

This book reveals that the US media have played a key role in aiding the denial industry. Right-wing outlets like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal make no bones about their plain espousal of denial, but media pillars like the Washington Post and the New York Times are also guilty of complicity by their failure of understanding or their laziness or their misguided attempt to be balanced.

Powell insists that there are no research findings that falsify global warming. The denial industry is built on discredited claims and ultimately can only resort to the ridiculous notion that a global community of thousands of scientists have joined a vast international conspiracy without precedent in human history – “a corrupt criminal enterprise to dwarf the Mafia”, to quote him.
The claim of falsification is absurd, Powell adds, yet it is openly entertained by prominent US politicians and voiced by eager propagandists.

Global warming is not a scientific theory, it’s a scientific fact. The time for debate has ended. People can still argue over tipping points and minutia -- like when the arctic will become ice-free during the summer months, or how much world sea levels will rise by 2050 -- but the core truth is as solid as the rock of Gibraltar. Global warming is a scientific fact. It is real. It is not a hoax.

Most Canadians, for example, believe that their country is getting warmer, but they seem to think the real problems are a century away, or that technology will solve the issue before it gets out of hand.

On the contrary! What we do in the next five years will determine the fate of humanity. If we fail to convince governments in North America to tackle climate change with the same steely resolve that we displayed during WW II, then we are putting the health of our bank accounts before the physical and emotional well being of our children and grandchildren.

There are many things that we can do, many of which cost very little and will even save you money. Do not let big corporations fool us into thinking that fighting global warming is prohibitively expensive. It may be costly for them, since they will somehow have to curb their carbon dioxide emissions as well as other chemicals that contribute to global warming.

Check this final chart and do what each of us can to help deal with global warming.
As a Christian, I believe that this world belongs to God. God made it, and he has appointed us stewards of it. He gave us the responsibility of taking care of the world, including the environment. Global warming is a reality, and thus we must do what we can to help deal with this problem. God has placed this world in our hands. Let us take good care of our world--it is the only one we have.
P.S. This post have been exceptionally well received. Thus far it has averaged about 6,000 views per month. You are invited to read some of my more recent posts where I again wrote about global warning:

Please write and tell me if you find these posts helpful. I wrote them because of the urgency of the problem: Global warming is real!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The ninety-nine per cent and poverty

   In many cities where the Occupy movement is protesting homeless people have joined the protest. They do that not because of the food and shelter that they receive, but because they more than the rest of the 99% are most aware of the enormous disparity in wealth between the super rich and the poor.
   Many of the protesters are often comfortably well off, thus they can afford to skip school or work in order to protest. They can bring the amenities they need with them, including libraries.
   The real poor in the world do not enjoy the luxury of protesting. If they do not work for a day, they and their families will starve.
  I define poverty as an absence of choice. As long as you can decide whether to do A or B, you have a choice. Many people in the world live in absolute poverty: they have no choice whatsoever.
   Absolute poverty refers to a set standard which is consistent over time and between countries. The World Bank defines absolute poverty as living on less than US $1.25 per day. This is determined not by the exchange rate with the US dollar, but by purchasing power parity--how much local currency is needed to buy the same things that this amount could buy in the US.
  The following chart maps the percentage of people in various countries that live on only $1 per day.

    Many regions of the world have insufficient food, but some have experienced setbacks and thus more people did not receive even $1 per day in both 1990 and 2001, as the next tables show.

   There is also relative poverty, which views poverty as socially defined and dependent on the social context, hence relative poverty is a measure of income inequality. Usually, relative poverty is measured as the percentage of population with income less than some fixed proportion of median income.
   Sometimes a specific figure is used: everyone whose income lies below that figure is considered poor. This figure is then the poverty line.
   The next table illustrates the levels of poverty in the world, using different poverty lines.

   According to the US Census Bureau, in October 49.1 million Americans or 16% of the population live below the poverty line of about $24,000 per annum for a family or S5,500 for an individual.
   This is a sizable increase from the previous month, but a revised and more accurate measure was used in October. Another indicator of the level of poverty is that 15% of Americans now receive food stamps.
   From the previous tables it is readily apparent that much of the world's population would be happy to receive $2,000 per month. This shows how relative poverty can be.
   This does not diminish in any way the terrible nature of poverty in the US. Millions are suffering every day, especially Hispanics and Afro-Americans. The US is a very expensive country in which to live. But it is criminal that so many Americans have to suffer in this way.
   The cause of the Occupy movement is legitimate. The disparity between the rich and the poor in the US is higher than in most of the developed world. All countries have disparities.
   One way to measure this disparity is the Gini coefficient, which is a measure of the inequality of a distribution, a value of 0 expressing total equality and a value of 1 maximal inequality.  The Gini coefficient does have some weaknesses, but it is nevertheless useful and offers a simple comparison between countries, as the following chart illustrates.

   In particular, the growing disparity between the 1% and the rest of the population, as well as the inordinate influence of that 1%, is what motivates the Occupy movement. The middle class is shrinking in the US. Canada and most European nations are more egalitarian than the US, with Sweden the most egalitarian of all.
   But the 99% are not equal either. There is also a wide disparity both within the middle class and between them and the steadily growing under class that lives in poverty. All have made a common cause in the protests that have now spread over much of the world, but the gap between them is enormous.
   It is thus simplistic to lump all the 99% together. They all suffer at the hands of the 1%, but in their suffering they are not equal.
   This inequality is even greater when the 99% in North America and Europe are compared with those in Africa and Asia. The Occupy movement has not yet reached the shores of those continents, at least not in the form of massive protests as in the richer countries.
   The inequality is greater there than anywhere else in the world, but few Africans or Asians can afford the luxury of joining the protests. Increasingly voices are being raised of prominent individuals who signal the inequality of their societies, but there are not yet any massive protests.
   In Africa, the exceptions so far have been Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, where dictators have been removed, but these were primarily political movements to rid their countries of tyrants. Economic inequality has played a lesser role. In the future, as more tyrants are removed, it will become more important.
  The Arab Spring inspired the Occupy movement, but the latter has so far not led to any revolutions, even though the goals are revolutionary. It may yet become a political movement that will change the world as we know it today.
   I hope that the powers that be will not evict the protesters but allow them to herald a new age. In many cities evictions have already started or are threatened. In the northern hemisphere, there is also the threat of winter.
   The Occupy movement will not necessarily end because of these threats. The cause is too important to let that happen. It is spreading and will continue to spread, although it may soon take other forms.

   The protests in North America, Europe, and elsewhere may yet inspire more Africans and Asians to join them. These continents certainly need it. Their people are among the poorest in the world.
  Sub-Saharan Africa especially is ripe for revolutions. Many people are clamoring for change, but until the protests achieve a sufficient critical mass, little will happen. The tyrants who rule these countries remain firmly in control. Yet there too the winds of change are beginning to blow.
   Blow hard winds!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Wall Street: the deification of greed

   The main message of the Occupy Wall Street protest is crystal clear: Wall Street is synonymous with greed and this greed must stop. But this message is not new.
    The Bible describes greed as the worship of Mammon (see image below). In Dante's Purgatory, the greedy penitents were bound and made to lie face down on the ground for having concentrated too much on earthly thoughts. Thomas Aquinas calls greed "a sin against God." Greed is indeed sin, although the modern world rejects that term and the idea that greed is therefore wrong.

   Karl Marx called high finance "the Vatican of capitalism." He was probably thinking of London, which was at that time the financial center of the world, just as New York City is today.
   The financial center of Canada is located on Bay Street in Toronto. The City and Bay Street are just other versions of Wall Street. There are many more "Wall Streets" all over the world. If something walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.
   Wall Street is not merely synonymous with greed but it has deified greed. Greed has become a god. Thus it is assumed to be good.
   Ivan Boesky, who is infamous for insider trading, defended greed in a well publicized commencement address on May 18, 1986, at the School of Business Administration at the UC Berkeley. "Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy," he famously declared. "You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself." 

   His speech inspired the 1987 film Wall Street, which is noted for the well known lines: "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind."

   The 2010 sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, followed on the heels of the 2008 financial crisis and tries to put this crisis into context by reducing it to the personal level. Yet this film too, as its predecessor, is built on the greed of the main characters. Greed is still perceived as a god, a good god, one in whom people place their trust.

    The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have tapped into is a long and vibrant tradition that culminated in the Great Depression. Then, as now, there was no question in the minds of "the 99 per cent" that Wall Street was principally to blame for the country's crisis. 
   "Stop the Greed" aptly expresses the mood of "the 99 per cent" today, but it was equally appropriate many decades ago. Little has changed.

   During the past decades many more stories have accumulated of Wall Street greed and arrogance, and astonishing tales of incompetence and larceny. The economy slowed and has now stalled. People have lost their homes and jobs. No wonder people are frustrated and have taken to the streets in protest.
    Meanwhile, the political system has proved to be as bankrupt as the big banks. A bipartisan consensus has emerged, but only around the effort to save the "too big to fail" financial goliaths, while nothing was done about the legions of victims their financial manipulations had left in its wake.
    This was true not only during the Great Depression but also today. History is repeating itself. 
    Then the political class prescribed what people already had plenty of: another dose of austerity, plus a belief in a "recovery" that, for 99 per cent of Americans, would never be more more than an optical illusion.
    This is happening again. In the Depression the hopes of ordinary people for a chance at a decent future withered and bitterness set in. People today too are suffering "a hangover" from the shenanigans of the one percent.

    The American people elected President Obama because of his promise of change. But on Wall Street little has changed. The arrogance and corruption have continued unabated. Wall Street tycoons received their bonuses while millions lost their homes. 
    These millions and others like them have now cried, "Enough!" They want to storm the bastion built on greed and tear down its walls.

    People are enraged that only a handful of executives of major corporations have been sent to prison. The majority have escaped even a slight rap over the knuckles. They have purchased the services of the best lawyers and accountants so that their financial shenanigans are hidden from public purview.
   When exposed, however, they can still avoid any legal repercussions for their morally reprehensible actions through their political influence.
   They control the levers of power at every level of government everywhere, as the Occupy protesters are quick to point out. They finance the Tea Party movement, and manipulate it to serve their own ends. Why else do Republicans resist all attempts to raise taxes, especially on the rich?

    Greed is a sin that all people are heir to, not only the rich. The people who bought homes with sub-prime mortgages were just as greedy as the bankers who lent them the money. They wanted to purchase something that would ordinarily have been beyond their means. Their behavior, of course, does not excuse the excessive  zeal of these bankers to lend money to them.
  While greed is endemic, the actions of the one percent who personify Wall Street are reprehensible and merit moral if not legal condemnation. This is what the Occupy movement is doing not only in NewYork City but in cities all over the world.
   The powers that be are using every tool at their disposal to evict protesters from their venues. So far the protesters have refrained from using violence. Non-violence is the only way they can retain the moral high ground, even when the police resort to violence.
   In the US the Occupy movement has called, among other things, for a constitutional convention starting on July 4, 2012, to propose many changes to the current system. That seems a reasonable demand.
   None of the changes suggested thus far will eliminate greed, but they would help to restrain the major excesses that are currently on display. The movement is striving for a more egalitarian system which will aid all the people and not only the rich. Let us pray that will happen soon.

Protest sign in Ghent: "Save us, not the bank"