By Stephen Lendman
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 has come.”
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 for life.
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 few.
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 saying:
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 again.”
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 nightmare.”
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 eye.
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 like now.
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 choice whatever.
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 experience.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.