Top execs on 169 times the average national wage and bankers who see their only duty as to satisfy their stakeholder's financial bloodlust. Leaders within society are in the middle of an identity crisis. The 'Occupy' protestors may be trying to take over Wall Street but it's only because the money-at-all-costs brigade have succeeded in hijacking and taking over control of the planet from national governments.
The ability to control the population via supposedly independent institutions goes back to at least the Roman Empire and arguable far beyond.
"Control the mob and you control Rome," went the thinking of the decadent over-lords of society. "Control the symbols and you control the mob". In Roman times, those symbols represented religion and the calculated decision to move away from a hotch-potch collection of Roman Gods and Pagan spirits towards a unified and easily-controlled system of Christianity in which Emperor Constantine could gorge himself on a banquet of power in relative peace.
Today, that influence of Christianity is in decline in the western world. Now, it is the quest for power itself that unites and forms the basis for the planet's most powerful symbols. The institutions of politics, global markets, products and services all enable an elite to control, guide and manage the mob. The best part about this model is that, for the most part, the population will (almost happily) accept direction and leadership.
People might like to think they're more in charge of their own lives these days but the truth could hardly be more different. The symbols used to control the mob are more powerful and invasive than ever. As chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, pointed out recently, Apple has created an 'I, I, I' culture based around the holy trinity of iPhone, iPad and iTunes. The illusion of personal empowerment has been used to further control and enslave consumers.
Currently the 'Occupy' movement and the 99% are trying to turn this world view on its head. A shift away from a global society controlled by the elite 1% to a fairer and more sustainable model is gaining credibility and popularity and the repercussions are as yet difficult to assess.
However, you can't solve a problem until you know what it is, so it's worth looking at the analogy of the global village and the picture this paints of a world on a more easily manageable scale in which the real problems become clear.
If we could reduce the world's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, the demographics would look something like this:
The village would have 61 Asians (Indians, Chinese, Arabs etc), 13 Africans, 12 Europeans, 9 Latin Americans, and 5 from the USA and Canada
50 would be male, 50 would be female
25 would be white
67 would be non-Christian
80 would live in substandard housing
16 would be unable to read or write
50 would be malnourished and 1 dying of starvation
33 would be without access to a safe water supply
39 would lack access to improved sanitation
24 would not have any electricity (And of the 76 that do
have electricity, most would only use it for light at night.)
8 people would have access to the Internet
1 would have a college education
1 would have HIV
2 would be near birth; 1 near death
5 would control 33% of the entire world's wealth
48 would live on less than US $2 a day
20 would live on less than US $1 a day
The obvious conclusion is that we live in a world of marked contrasts, of haves and have-nots and the have-nots are in the majority. The disadvantaged, malnourished and impoverished dominate the totals while the minority enjoy relative affluence in terms of good shelter, food, clean water, warmth, power services, health and wealth. Logically then that makes the have-nots 'the mob' and the affluent 'the leaders'.
A great experiment would be to take all the 100 people of the global village scenario and place them in a coastal village with a radius of 10 miles, covered and sealed by a transparent dome. This experiment would provide a living example in miniature of the problems and the challenges of life on Planet Earth Plc.
Living in a globalised world is fine but it means we need a global perspective on the sustainability challenges facing the international community. For all the investment banks' talk about how indispensable they are to the global economy, they are failing to provide sustainable solutions to the real challenges facing Planet Earth plc and more importantly, life within it. As the global village experiment shows, sustainability systems are what Planet Earth needs more than anything.