- An idea whose time has come resonates globally. November
17 marked two months since beginning in New York. Earlier Middle East and
European protests inspired it. Now it's spreading everywhere across North
and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
- In America within weeks, hundreds of large and small
cities in all 50 states got involved. Protesters weathered snow, rain,
cold, pepper spray, tear gas, beatings, arrests, and evictions. Police
confrontations, in fact, inspired larger turnouts.
- Mother Jones magazine said participants represent "a
horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based system with
roots in anarchist thought." In fact, they're revolutionaries in the
best sense of the term.
- They've "tap(ped) into the rising feeling among
many Americans that economic opportunity has been squashed by corporate
greed and the influence of the very rich in politics."
- One protester's sign read, "You can't shut down
occupation - We're everywhere."
- Another said, "You cannot evict an idea whose time
- Still another lifted high read, "OCCUPY EVERYTHING."
- In fact, it's long overdue after decades of social injustice,
heading America toward banana republicanization.
- Wealth disparity is extreme. Ordinary people are increasingly
marginalized, exploited, and left on their own to survive, sink or swim.
- Jobs are harder than ever to find. Good ones paying living
wages and benefits are disappearing. College students end up debt entrapped
- Super-rich crooks and corrupt politicians conspire to
grab everything for themselves. Freedom is an endangered species. Growing
poverty, hunger, homelessness and despair are increasing.
- Federal, state and local officials plan budget cuts instead
of help. Human deprivation isn't discussed in high places, only ways to
grab more wealth and power. In plain sight, America's no longer fit to
live in. Neither are other Western countries, depriving the many for the
- Targeting Wall Street, corporate greed, and power brokers
in high places, OWS protesters demand change.
- November 17 marked two months of activism. Occupy Wall
Street.org called it a "Historic Day of Action for the 99%."
- In New York, over 30,000 rallied. NYPD estimated 32,500.
Likely it was thousands more, the most anywhere in America so far on one
day. Protesters sense "a powerful and diverse civic movement for social
justice is on the ascent."
- Hopefully they're right. One protester spoke for others
- "Our political system should serve all of us - not
just the very rich and powerful. Right now, Wall Street owns Washington.
We are the (left out) 99%, and we are here to reclaim our democracy."
- Dozens of other cities participated nationwide and globally.
Occupy Police got involved. They call themselves part of the 99%. An anonymous
sergeant said, "I'm a cop and I support the ideal of Occupy. We're
on the same team."
- A web site logo read, "We are the 99% protecting
100%." Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis joined New York's OWS
and got arrested. He vowed to stay involved when released. He doesn't fear
arrest, he said, when people are starving or freezing to death on streets.
- "All the cops are just workers for the 1%, and don't
even realize they're being exploited," he said. "As soon as I'm
let out of jail, I'll be right back here, and they'll have to arrest me
- Occupy Marines (OccupyOMC) are involved, saying they'll
"support the movement. We will support demonstrators with organization,
direction, supply and logistics, and leadership." They feature a logo
saying "Semper Occupare."
- They also highlight Operation Returning Freedom, including
a New Common Sense Charter for equality and participation in government
for change. They represent the 99%'s "collective conscience"
against "oligarchic" America.
- Occupy Veterans, Veterans for Peace, Occupy Writers,
and Occupy Filmakers are involved. So are people from all walks of life
who care and want change. Fordham University Professor Paul Levinson said
OWS represents direct democracy. Cornell University Professor Cornel West
called it a "democratic awakening."
- Over 1,000 writers signed an online petition, saying:
- "We the undersigned writers and all who will join
us, support Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement around the world."
- Celebrities are involved, including folk singer Pete
Seeger, Joan Baez, and Arlo Guthrie.
- Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek said:
- "They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers
are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We
are not dreamers. We are awakening from a dream which is turning into a
- World systems analyst Immanuel Wallerstein calls OWS
"the most important political happening in the United States since
the uprisings in 1968...."
- Conditions are right. Accurately calculated, not Census
data based on a long out-of-date threshold, poverty in America affects
100 million or more and rising. Unemployment's at 23%. Over 26 million
Americans wanting work can't find it. Nothing's being done to help them.
- Every social measure shows Depression-level human need.
America's middle class is its working poor. People everywhere in need are
mad. Global protests show it.
- "It doesn't really matter" what spark ignited
things. They're happening, growing, and inspiring others because real grievances
demand addressing responsibly at a time politicians are turning a blind
- Asked what they wanted, people said long denied justice.
Even the initially dismissive New York Times said "(e)xtreme inequality
is the hallmark of a dysfunctional economy, dominated by a financial sector
that is driven as much by speculation, gouging and government backing as
by productive investment."
- It was a remarkable admission by the nation's leading
establishment broadsheet - wealth and power's longstanding voice.
- According to Wallerstein, "(t)he movement has become
respectable," but with that comes "danger." Already, federal,
state and local overt and covert counterattacks are apparent.
- Success also breeds other problems, including a "diversity
of views." At issue is not becoming "the Scylla of being a tight
cult....too narrowly based, and the Charybdis of no longer having a political
coherence because it is too broad."
- No simple way exists to avoid either extreme or other
pitfalls. One is lack of leadership, including a national voice like Martin
Luther King for civil rights. Another is a coherent, unified message, focusing
on what matters most.
- It's not enough to denounce Wall Street and corporate
greed. Key is demanding real solutions and sustaining long-term struggle.
This one's the mother of them all.
- Most important is returning money power to public hands
where it belongs. Without it, little else is possible long-term.
- It's vital to make banking a public utility, break up
too-big-to fail giants, close or nationalizing insolvent ones, establish
laws and regulations with teeth, and prosecute crooks when they're caught,
especially high level ones so everyone knows grand theft won't be tolerated.
- Other key issues include ending corporate personhood,
getting money out of politics, ending duopoly power and imperial wars,
making corporations and the rich pay their fair share, and forcing government,
in fact, to be of, by and for everyone, not solely for America's privileged
- None of this can happen short-term. Decades perhaps are
needed to transform today's America into a socially just new society. In
other words, little is accomplished by achieving things part way. Total
change is needed. Softening today's system won't work. It never did before
and won't now because gains are easily lost.
- Wage slavery replaced its chattel antecedent. Hard won
labor, civil, and social gains are gone or on the chopping block to disappear.
So aren't voting rights when corporate-controlled machines do it for us,
yet does it matter under a duopoly money-controlled system offering no
- Wallerstein believes "the movement (may go) from
strength to strength." Perhaps it can "force short-term restructuring
of what the government will actually do to minimize" real pain people
- Longer-term perhaps people will address capitalism's
"structural crisis (and) the major geopolitical transformations"
now occurring "in a multipolar world."
- Even if OWS wanes, its legacy will last, like "the
uprisings of 1968...." Better times are possible. Change never comes
easily or quickly. Enough committed people can make a difference. OWS "is
making a big difference."
- Indeed, building a global movement is significant. Key
though is giving it legs in the face of exhaustion, winter cold, police
repression, and political leaders paying it little more than lip service
so far while they slash social justice programs to continue serving wealth
and power interests at the expense of all else.
- Off to an impressive start, what's ahead for OWS isn't
known. Given the state of today's America and where it's heading, the stakes
are too high for failure. There's no turning back now!
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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