Saturday, July 23, 2011

When the middle class can't pay for its rent

In the past week, the Israeli public arena was rocked by a series of manifestations initially focused on the soaring rent costs. All started when the house owners of a young Tel Aviv professional decided to raise the rent, she  gave up the apartment, took a tent and with some friends placed it in the middle of one of the most posh boulevards. Day by day the tents kept duplicating as more and more people joined. Later, tents were set up also in other cities. They are still there and tonight a huge manifestation is planned.

The government and its supporters were quick to denounce them as leftists and spoilt youngsters who insist on living in the expensive center of Tel Aviv. From personal knowledge I can tell you that some of the guys there are definitely leftists, but many others including some of the leaders are right wing people, politically speaking. Anyway, as more people from outside of Tel Aviv joined the manifestations and set up tents in other cities, it started taking a clear shape of  a middle-lower class movement.

The Israeli middle class used to be pretty wide. There were little poor people. But the last 20, and mainly 10 years of brutal capitalism have made many of the young middle class frustrated. They acquired professions, they worked hard, but they are paying ever raising rents and buying an apartment is a distant dream. The costs of food, electricity, education, health and more or less everything else went up while salaries didn't.

The prevalent call within the tents' people is "the system doesn't work".

This post isn't meant to detail my opinion on the manifestation itself. I'd like to discuss here what bothers me most - is it only money that makes people go out and take the streets?

Till it was for money no one took the streets. When poorer people manifested, the middle class didn't join them.

This means, that even if the remedy was wrong, Marx was right about the root cause of everything - material/money.

Now, this doesn't explain why these manifestations, the biggest seen in years, still don't magnetize the masses. These masses which suffer from the same pains, don't join. Is it because they believe that they'll be able to beat the system and make it work for them? Is it because most of them already have a house and a mortgage and they are afraid that the value of their property will drop if the protesters will succeed?  So, is it all about the money after all?

Just to be honest with ourselves, we should consider that it is also because they are lazy or because they don't believe anything can be changed.

There is a chance that all of the above is correct. However, on top of it, it seems that the masses won't move unless they can see a clear alternative for which to manifest. The manifestations in Egypt succeeded, because their leaders were bold enough to mark one man, Mubarak. The risk was huge, because this left all Mubarak's supporters at home - but once they had a critical mass, nothing mattered anymore. The manifestations in Spain did absolutely the reverse, they went wide and unfocused.

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