Occupy 2.0Posted: March 21, 2012 | |
Until this past weekend, the Occupy Movement was flying under the radar, percolating beyond public view. But members returned to Zucotti Park on St. Pat’s Day to celebrate the Movement’s six-month anniversary. From on the ground reports, the demonstration was peaceful. Until the NYPD arrived. Then there was trouble—a number of arrests and one woman reportedly had a seizure after she was thrown to the ground and handcuffed. Several participants said it took 17 minutes for the police to react, after which an ambulance was called.
For naysayers, the Occupy Wall St. Movement [OWS], their members and reasons for being were summarily dismissed before they began. Who is the leader of this motley group? journalists and pundits asked repeatedly. What do these people want?
Surprisingly, there is a leader or so I’ve read, someone well known to Occupy organizers but deliberately kept out of public view. As far as what they want? The answer seemed perfectly clear to me at the start because I think it’s what most Americans want or if they don’t want it, they expect it: an end to the gross inequality in the country, for which Wall St. and Government collusion holds the lion’s share of responsibility and an end to ‘bought’ elections, where the 1% and corporate interests routinely choose our leaders, shape policy and control the message, known in polite circles as ‘perception management.’
All of this transcends parties, btw. We’re talking Republican and Democratic parties alike, regardless of how many times we enter the ‘lesser than two evils’ spin.
You don’t need to be a psychic to ‘get’ the OWS message. You don’t even need to be a member of Occupy. All that’s needed is a modicum of alertness, a shaking-off of the trance-inducing distraction and deflection of pundits, media hounds and political operators.
So, what has OWS managed to accomplish, thus far? According to the critics—not a damn thing. But is that really the case?
Last summer, the headlines were ripe with talk of deficits, crushing debt and woe is me. We need a Grand Bargain, wisemen crooned [translation: we need to cut public services]. Somehow, we always have money for foreign adventures, national security, weapons and surveillance equipment. For instance, how many drones will be in American skies by 2020? Hummm. Try 30,000. That’s the Federal Aviation Administration’s rough estimate. The ever popular ‘shop ‘til you drop’ hee-haw isn’t working either, even with the news that ‘average’ Americans are flocking back to restaurant dining. Despite a stumbling economy there is money for weapons and drones and assorted homeland security gear. When it comes to education, infrastructure, home mortgage write downs, decent healthcare, aide to our poor, disabled and elderly? We’re just stone-broke and need to be put on an austerity diet. See Paul Ryan’s reiteration on social program slashes and numbers that don’t add up. It’s a nice set piece that will contrast with the soon-to-come kinder and gentler Democratic version.
One could call the dialogue change a bizarre coincidence but public conversation pivoted after Occupy came on the scene. We went from Oooooo, we need to slash Medicare, Medicaid and refigure Social Security to why is Wall St. getting bailed out on the backs of the taxpayer? Why do we have a system where the profits go to the top income bracket, while risk is carried by Main Street? Why have the wages of middle-class workers[if they're fortunate enough to still have a job] barely kept pace with inflation, while the top 1% has had a 275% increase in income?
Uncomfortable questions, the sort that make politicians squirm.
OWS has also focused attention on home foreclosures, working with foreclosed families to save their homes. The Movement rallied the public in a Change Your Bank Day strategy that is estimated to cost TBTFs a $185 billion in transfers to community banks and credit unions. Religious organizations have joined the effort. According to Think Progress, The New Bottom Line, a coalition of faith groups has pledged to remove $1 billion from the major banks this year alone. OWS also pushed against the ATM fee-increase proposal; the banks pulled back. In late February, Occupy the SEC submitted a 300+ page document, urging regulators to resist the financial sector’s desire to water down the Volker Rule, part of the Dodd-Frank Wall St. reform. The group that put the document together was comprised of former Wall St. workers. OWS members also stood with private landowners, Tea Party members and environmentalists protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that the President has expressed a new-found love for.
Not too shabby for six months activism. Yet still the critics howl. Where is the direction, what are the goals?
The Movement is young and still developing but you cannot fault it for sitting on its hands. More importantly, the Occupy spirit is global in nature because many activists are ‘graduates without a future’—young, educated and fed up. Paul Mason documented this facet of the worldwide
As Gush-Up concentrates wealth on to the tip of a shining pin on which our billionaires pirouette, tidal waves of money crash through the institutions of democracy—the courts, Parliament as well as the media, seriously compromising their ability to function in the ways they are meant to. The noisier the carnival around elections, the less sure we are that democracy really exists.
Sound familiar? The neoliberal model, the gross inequality that rewards the few at the expense of the many has circled the globe, creating universal discontent and misery.
So, what’s coming up for 2012? What will Occupy 2.0 look like?
I’d suggest checking the OWS page here for an updated list of scheduled actions. OWS plans to be in Chicago in mid-May to protest the NATO Summit although the city is throwing up barriers to prevent demonstrations. Somehow, I don’t think the protest will be stopped.
May 1 will be a National Action, the day traditionally known as International Worker’s Day. This year OWS is calling for a General Strike across the country. From the Occupy site:
We are calling on everyone who supports the cause of economic justice and true democracy to take part: No Work, No School, No Housework, No Shopping, No Banking – and most importantly, TAKE THE STREETS!
This Saturday, March 24, a Disrupt Dirty Power protest has been called in NYC to jumpstart a month-long action until Earth Day, April 22. More information here.
Sunday, March 25, Occupy Town Square IV will focus on public parks and other public spaces in NYC. More info here.
If you’re interested in local actions in particular states, towns, cities or countries, info can be found at the Occupy Together site here.
And if you want to eliminate the idea of ‘a failed movement’ from your brain. Check out the participation map here. The scope is massive.
The essay I mentioned by Arundhati Roy is well worth a read—highly informative, even shocking about vulture capitalism’s impact on India. Be prepared, it’s long. As Roy moves into her concluding paragraphs, she writes this:
Capitalism is in crisis. Trickledown failed. Now Gush-Up is in trouble too. The international financial meltdown is closing in. India’s growth rate has plummeted to 6.9 per cent. Foreign investment is pulling out. Major international corporations are sitting on huge piles of money, not sure where to invest it, not sure how the financial crisis will play out. This is a major, structural crack in the juggernaut of global capital.
Capitalism’s real “grave-diggers” may end up being its own delusional Cardinals, who have turned ideology into faith. Despite their strategic brilliance, they seem to have trouble grasping a simple fact: Capitalism is destroying the planet. The two old tricks that dug it out of past crises—War and Shopping—simply will not work.
Disaster capitalism has certainly lived up to its name, be it continuous war, environmental degradation or exploding poverty. What is Occupy about? Speaking for myself, Occupy is about a break of faith with a global economic system that serves no one but an elite minority, where infinite money and power is the only morality. The movement is a massive rejection of the ongoing mantra: there’s no other way. Occupy challenges that static position, calls on us to envision something else, something better than the consensus mind. It dares us to shake off the old and embrace a sense of possibility. It demands we wake up, now.