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Will “Occupy Wall Street” awaken a pro-democracy movement in America?NYHTC - November 13, 2011
To the alarm and indignation of the rich and powerful who rule the United States, a group of audacious, creative, and gutsy activists have touched the imagination and the conscience of the world by "occupying" a small park near the symbolic heart of global capitalism - Wall Street. Their protest quickly attracted tens of thousands more people, hungry for hope that America's dormant democracy might be revived, before the earth is killed by rabid corporate greed and political corruption.
The demonstrators called on "the 99%" (i.e., those who do all the work, their children and their retired elders) to "occupy everything," and people have responded. The movement is spreading across the United States and around the world.
It is galling to the other 1% that, thanks to the Internet, people are no longer dependent on the great media monopolies to get their information and opinions. So, of course, the major news outlets have tried hard to discredit and marginalize the protests, often choosing to point their cameras and microphones only at the most outlandish or least credible people attending the demonstrations.
Laughably, the most common criticism leveled by the corporate news media (owned by and serving the 1%) against Occupy Wall Street is that it has failed to offer a simple comprehensive list of specific "policy recommendations" to solve the nation's chronic and systemic ills, implying that only minor tinkering could possibly be needed. With smug condescension, the press accuses Occupy Wall Street of raising too many issues, painting the protesters as naive. This criticism is predictable, coming from people who wear blinders for a living, and who do their best to bury important issues. The corporate media are, after all, paid to fiddle while Rome burns. The protesters are raising so many issues because they are the many symptoms of a single deadly disease - the rise of a ruling oligarchy in the United States and worldwide.
Here in the United States, in an act of supreme treason, big business and government have shut down, packed up and exported our country's industrial base - long the key to America's power and prosperity. They stabbed us all in the back to amass personal fortunes by seizing the chance to exploit cheap labor and pollute without restriction overseas. Huge, once prosperous and proud regions of the nation have turned to rust and despair as a result. For decades, as they plundered America by signing so-called "free trade agreements" like NAFTA, these "public servants" and "entrepreneurs" have sold us the lie that the "new economy" of paper-pushing and burger-flipping would somehow provide a solid foundation for our massive continental nation's future, never explaining how such a thing could be possible.
Dusting off old recycled "pure free market" economic theories, repeatedly disproven through the centuries, Republicans and Democrats repealed the laws that have been protecting us from another Great Depression, giving Wall Street con artists a free hand to steal trillions with pyramid schemes that created the illusion of prosperity for years while, in reality, sapping the nation's economic health. With shameless disregard for their "free market" principles, the same politicians repeatedly committed the public to bail out Wall Street, explaining to us simpletons that it is "too big to fail."
The country is buried under a mountain of debt, and frantically borrowing more, trying to dig its way down and out of economic decline. State and local governments are on the verge of bankruptcy, laying off teachers, police, and other essential personnel who actually do work society needs done. Young people graduate from college, chained from the start to hobbling personal debt, with little hope of finding good jobs.
The same crooks and fools who led us into this predicament, continue to pompously lecture us from TV screens. Now they tell us that government workers must lose the right to collectively bargain and must take huge cuts in pay and benefits, and that states and cities can and should default on the debts owed to public employees' pension funds - which their pals have plundered.
It is not only public employees who are being relegated to a dismal future. Private sector employers have blazed the trail backwards to a darker time. The latest example is old Ma Bell's greedy brat, Verizon, which has decided the time is ripe to turn on its 45,000 unionized employees. Yearning to return to the good old days, when workers for the phone company lived in abject poverty, the company is now claiming gleefully in its press releases that luxuries like health insurance for workers are the "product of a bygone era."
The rich have recently taken to calling themselves "the job creators." With unintentional irony, it is an accurate term. That is exactly what they are. The total amount of human labor expended to pamper and maintain them is mind-boggling. "Job creator" is a nifty synonym for "mess maker." Now, it seems, they may have outdone themselves, by creating such a huge "job" - cleaning up the mess they have made of our planet - that it may be nearly impossible for the "job doers" to accomplish. The rich, here and around the world, want working people to tamely submit to the drastic reduction in their standard of living, and they want us to pay the bill they rang up. The idea that they should pay their fair share of taxes, for the common good, is unthinkable to them. They would far prefer to see all workers living again with their families in shanty towns. They have enjoyed a monopoly on power for so long, we can almost forgive them their arrogance, but will the 99% continue to tolerate being fleeced without fighting back?
The response of people around the U.S. and the world to the occupation of Wall Street gives us reason to hope that they will not. Perhaps Occupy Wall Street will finally awaken a badly needed pro-democracy movement here in what we think of as the cradle of modern democracy.
Everyone should go down to Zuccotti Park and see what is happening there, especially to the meetings of the "working groups" and the "General Assembly." Occupy Wall Street goes to extreme lengths to eliminate any hint of leadership or "hierarchy," at the cost of efficient decision-making, and this has turned out to be a good idea. This policy has attracted many to attend meetings who probably would not otherwise have done so because it makes it easy for people to participate as equals. In a sense, it is a kind of democracy kindergarten for Americans who have lost touch with their great traditions of civil society and responsible citizenship.
Where this will lead is impossible to predict. Will we as Americans finally lose our attachment to our failed two-party system? Will we finally stop trusting and believing the corporate propaganda machine? Both would be excellent steps toward a renewed democracy. Will Occupy Wall Street continue to gain momentum? Will it survive the winter? Will it be suppressed by the powerful interests it is challenging? Anyone who believes in democracy, should fiercely oppose all the attempts, both subtle and brutal, to strangle the occupation.
So far, Occupy Wall Street has been a remarkable success. It has done what our so-called "free press" has refused to do. It has pointed a finger at the culprits behind the corrupting of our government and our economy and screamed bloody murder, loud enough for the whole world to hear. That is quite an achievement, and it is reason enough for our union to endorse Occupy Wall Street.
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Here is a partial list of states and countries where "Occupy" demonstrations have started:
Photo Credits: arindambanerjee, Michael Rubin, David Gilder, Lev Radin, Gerry Boughan