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Reflections of a Wandering Cypriot Philosopher Part 4

occupy wall streetNew York City - Writer and philosopher Maria Prodromou reflects on the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement and its lessons for Cyprus. The article is published in six parts. Click here for Part I, Part 2, Part 3

Part 4 -  In an article in The Guardian on September 25, David Graeber claims that “Occupy Wall Street rediscovers the radical imagination”. Graeber points to the failure of this imagination back in 2008 when “there was a moment, after the near-collapse of the world’s financial architecture, when anything seemed possible”.

That was when all the chatter by Mr. Chatterbox, to borrow a phrase from Bob Marley, revealed itself as a massive lie and propaganda: “Markets did not run themselves; creators of financial instruments were not infallible geniuses; and debts did not really need to be repaid – in fact, money itself was revealed to be a political instrument, trillions of dollars of which could be whisked in or out of existence overnight if governments or central banks required it. Even the Economist was running headlines like "Capitalism: Was it a Good Idea?" as Graeber laconically puts it.  He goes on “Then, in one of the most colossal failures of nerve in history, we all collectively clapped our hands over our ears and tried to put things back as close as possible to the way they'd been before”. (

As if the current form of capitalism is the only possibility. As if it makes sense to resuscitate a rotting corpse. As if we are incapable of imagining that things could be otherwise. As if what “ought to be” can be derived from “what is”… Interestingly enough, the Commission appointed by Congress to investigate the 9/11 attacks states in one of its recommendations that it would be “crucial to find a way of routinising, even bureaucratizing, the exercise of the imagination”. (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, 9/11 Report).

Of course capitalism, or what the French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard renamed as  “an inhuman system of development” that “seems to proceed of its own accord, with a force, an autonomous motorocity that is independent of ourselves” thrives on crises. As Naomi Klein spells out through detailed research in The Shock Doctrine, the 1% loves a crisis, for it gives it the opportunity to apply its “shock doctrine” by using the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks (such as 9/11 or natural disasters like Katrina) to push through its agenda of pro-corporate policies and maintain control through economic shock-therapy.

When I told a protestor that Greece is literally being sold out, he looked at me with a bewildered face and asked: “What are they doing? Why haven’t they occupied government buildings already? What are they waiting for?” (See the relevant article in the Wall Street Journal “Want to Buy a Piece of a Greek Island? Greece's Government Prepares to Sell Up to $42.9 Billion of Public Property to Reduce Its Mountain of Debt”, June 1, 2011).

He told me he heard of plans to sell the Parthenon. “Well, not yet” I replied.

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