THE TRUTH ABOUT OCCUPY DAVOS: Lots Of Grievances, Few Answers

Photo: Flickr/JUSO Schweiz

I couldn’t leave Davos last week without visiting the igloos.Which igloos?

The Occupy Davos igloos–the ones some protesters built to protest the World Economic Forum.

Those igloos captivated the international news leading up to the conference, so a lot of people at the conference knew about them. But no one seemed to know where they were.

Eventually, on Friday, a couple of other journalists and I found someone who thought they knew, and we headed off in that general direction. A mile or so up the road, across the train tracks, near some ski condos, after a few wrong turns, we eventually found them.

And after we’d checked out the igloos, we talked for a while with the protester who came over to greet us, Edward Sutton of Minnesota.

We asked him what they were protesting.  He had some clear answers for that.

We asked him what the world would look like if he and the rest of the protesters could redesign it however they wanted.

He didn’t have any clear answers for that.

And that led one of us to remark that this sounded a lot like the conversations he had been having at the World Economic Forum up the road: Lots of grievances, few answers.

Which led me, at least, to stick with the view I’ve held since the beginning of the Occupy movement: Yes, there are serious problems to solve. And, yes, capitalism is the worst economic system on the planet–except for all the others.

About a mile up the road from this...

In a parking lot with a view of this...

Is this... Occupy Davos. Some igloos and yurts. And about a dozen protesters protesting the World Economic Forum.

There are about a dozen protesters here. They sleep in yurts and igloos.

There's six feet of snow in Davos now, and it snowed another foot or two early in the week. One of the igloos collapsed.

The other is still standing, however. And it is adorned with another clever Occupy sign.

I asked Edward what society would look like if he and the other protesters could redesign it however they wanted. He didn't have a clear answer for this. More communication, he said. Making sure every person had a voice.

That's what the protesters were doing when we arrived, by the way--communicating. They had been told that Klaus Schwab, the founder of the WEF, might be willing to meet with them and hear their grievances. And they were discussing whether they should accept that offer. The circle seemed symbolically important.

I asked whether there would be private companies in the world-designed-by-Occupy. Shareholders? Profits? Or would the world be organised more like socialist collectives? More like collectives, Edward said. He did not offer a lot of specifics about how this system would work.

In other words, the Occupy Davos movement seems a lot like the Occupy Wall Street one: Plenty of grievances, few practical answers. And that actually gives it a lot in common with many WEF panelists: Lots of worries and concerns and frustrations, but little agreement on how to address them.

As we showed last fall, however, just because the protesters don't have a lot of answers doesn't mean they have nothing to be pissed off about.

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