|Sent time:||Sunday, October 16, 2011 12:13:48 PM|
|Subject:||[september17discuss] Occupy Wall St/Occupy Everything|
I want to make a few succinct points about my experience at the
General Assembly in Washington Square last night.
During the debate about whether to occupy Washington Square Park, it
was plain to see that there are some currents developing in the
movement that seek to, in some ways, change its character. I applaud
some of the sentiments behind these currents. However, I believe that
some aspects of this evolution of the movement are counter-productive
and could diminish some of the potential strength and symbolic weight
of the movement's message as we go forward. Here are my opinions
(shared by many others) about some of these developments:
The strength of this movement and the source of a great deal of its
popular appeal derives from its name: Occupy Wall Street. The reason
why people across the country and around the world have so
resoundingly thrown in their lot with us is because they all
fundamentally understand that Wall Street is the source of an
unimaginable amount of suffering around the world, and essentially has
bought our government.
Furthermore, the reason why so many influential figures in the world
of finance and economics support this movement (a fact that seems
counter-intuitive at first), is because anyone with a rudimentary
understanding of finance knows that what Wall Street has done to the
global economy over the last thirty years, culminating in the crash of
2008, is simply stunning in its nihilism, irresponsibility and greed.
Never before has such a small amount of people benefited themselves so
massively from the suffering, impoverishment and deaths of so many
people around the world. We need to keep the focus on Wall Street and
the fraud, speculation and and market manipulation they engage in.
Because of this, I worry that this concept of "Occupy Everything"
means that the movement could be slowly losing focus as time goes on,
not gaining focus as many of us had hoped. I understand the symmetry
of "Occupy Everything" when we already have "Occupy San Francisco",
"Occupy Austin" and "Occupy the Bronx". However, while those movements
across the country are trying to draw attention to social issues in
their communities (mostly economic issues), all of those issues are
powerfully affected by decisions made by money managers on Wall Street
and Times Square. All of those protesters in these other solidarity
demonstrations across the country would be occupying Wall Street if
The concept of Occupy Everything threatens to turn the focus away from
the crimes of Wall Street and the international dictatorship of
finance and turn the lens on ourselves. We are great, but we're not
that great. Do not turn the movement into an inward-looking,
amorphous, self-congratulatory carnival focused primarily on the non-
hierarchical democratic process we are using to organize the movement
itself. This, in my view, is a form of nihilism. It is a form of
retreat from a complex economic reality that some have decided that
they don't even want to try to understand, a retreat into a comforting
social construct. How can our critique rise above an inarticulate howl
of pain if we are unable to even describe what happened to us?
May I suggest that if you have been participating in this movement for
a whole month and you still don't know what a credit default swap is,
or what the Glass-Steagall Act was, then it is incumbent upon you to
educate yourself about those things. This movement is and should be
about what the financial sector has done to this country and the
world. This movement is about the 99% and it's partially about us and
our suffering. But the metanym "the 99%" is meant to draw focus to the
1%, specifically Wall Street financial institutions and hedge funds,
who profit off of our suffering and are the world's biggest threat to
global stability and prosperity.
There is a story behind that story, which is the slow starvation of
the American economy since the 1970's through outsourcing and the
refusal of policy-makers since Reagan to invest in making our country
and workers more competitive through infrastructure investment,
investment in education and the enactment of policies to make our job
market flexible and yet safe for workers and families (flexicurity in
Denmark is an example).
Data show that median family income declined by 6.7 percent over the
past two years, and the reported unemployment rate is at 9.1 percent
in the October report and 46.2 million Americans are living in
poverty, which is the worst in 50 years.
The United States has been in a recession really for ten years, and
that recession was masked by artificially low interest rates, which
made Wall Street more fabulously wealthy than it's ever been, and
simultaneously prevented policy-makers from realizing that the only
real solution was to invest in the real productive economy of the
The collapse of this artificial prosperity is a direct result of the
prioritization of Wall Street over every other sector of the economy,
including those sectors (renewable or sustainable energy) that we need
for our long-term survival. Now the debt has moved to the sovereign
level, and when Greece defaults on its debt, there is a distinct
possibility that we will have another massive stock market crash,
impoverishing even more of the 99% and wildly enriching well-
positioned Wall Street firms even more.
For the above reasons, I plead with you to keep the focus of this
movement on Wall Street and not on ourselves. If we don't keep finance
and its control over government paramount in our minds, we will slowly
but surely become irrelevant.
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