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TheStreet Open House

A One Percenter Doing Time in Siberia

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Holding the "1%" accountable is all the rage these days, as evidenced by the Occupy Wall Street protest movement and its global offshoots.

The lack of any single demand or goal for the Occupy movement, though, speaks to an existential crisis even as the movement grows. Occupy backers say there is no such thing as fine-tuning its meaning -- that would go against its all-inclusive spirit.

It's not just the big banks or Wall Street or the connection between Wall Street and the government, and it's not a call for mere anarchy being loosed upon the world over reform of existing democratic institutions.

It's all of that, or one item from the list, or none of it -- you choose -- and so what if Occupy needs backing from labor unions, and the labor unions aren't out to change the world but merely influence the world of Washington, D.C., where they already have a firm place in the status quo?

Contradiction is inherent in the corruption and tax evasion charges that landed, and have kept, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of Yukos, behind bars in Siberia.

Contradictions are inherent in remaking a world where capitalist excess has led to mass upheaval and wide income inequality.

Indeed, a good example of contradictions within the global battle between the rich and poor and the remaking -- or dethroning -- of capitalism in the 21st century, can be found in the case of jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the subject of a new documentary film, Khodorkovsky: How the Richest Man in Russia Became Its Most Famous Prisoner.

The best aspect of this film, in fact, is that it doesn't shy away from Khodorkovsky's flaws. Here is a man whose Greek hero's level of hubris led to his arrest even though he had been warned it was coming and was begged to leave Russia by confidantes. Here is the story of a company, oil giant Yukos, formed and fostered in corruption but ultimately transitioned by Khodorkovsky to a more transparent Western business model.

As reported last year when Khodorkovsky's prison sentence was extended by the Russian courts, the rationale given for his jailing -- as well as Western criticism of this selective use of the legal system -- are both part of the hypocrisy of global affairs as managed by the rich and politically powerful.

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