08 Jan Why the Occupy Movement Matters
It all began in New York’s Zuccotti Park where a group of frustrated people pitched some tents and were determined to Occupy this space until the 1%, the wealthy, took accountability for the part they have played in the current state of the economy. This Occupy movement has spread like wildfire across the globe, and has sparked a world-wide conversation about unemployment, greed, income and economic inequality.
Early on, journalist Naomi Klein recognized the importance of this movement as well. She called it “The Most Important Thing In The World Now“:
Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor rally said: “We found each other.” That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can’t be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other. We are so grateful.
“Why are they protesting?” ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: “What took you so long?” “We’ve been wondering when you were going to show up.” And most of all: “Welcome.”
While sceptics may doubt the importance of this movement, people are seeing that putting our bodies on the ground floor is this is the only way real change can happen. One needs to look no further than Arab Spring movement that has spread across Africa and the Middle East for evidence that people can enact change when they become willing to stand up for what they believe in.
Change is not gonna happen by going on twitter or by making new Facebook posts,though social media has been harnessed incredibly well to help these ideas go viral. Real change requires people coming together, discussing the issues in person and re-imagining new ways of being, and questioning what we we’ve been taught to believe. This sentiment is eloquently conveyed by Michael Stone in the video below.
As a people its clear that without taking action, corporations and the governments they influence were taking us in scary direction. We Are the 99%, represents those who are tired of seeing the vast concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1%. To illustrate this, I’ve gotten some facts from wikipedia’s OWS page on the exact nature of these inequalities to make them less abstract:
- The top 1 percent of income earners have more than doubled their income over the last thirty years according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report
- According to the CBO, between 1979 and 2007 the incomes of the top 1% of Americans grew by an average of 275%. During the same time period, the 60% of Americans in the middle of the income scale saw their income rise by 40%
- In 2007 the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country’s total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%. Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%
- After the Great Recession which started in 2007, the share of total wealth owned by the top 1% of the population grew from 34.6% to 37.1%, and that owned by the top 20% of Americans grew from 85% to 87.7%
- The Great Recession also caused a drop of 36.1% in median household wealth but a drop of only 11.1% for the top 1%, further widening the gap between the 1% and the 99%.
If your visual like I am, here’s a diagraph of the the 1%’s Share of the Annual US Income, but the bottom line is that the OWS concerns of income inequality are well founded.
But sometimes the voices of the people can speak much louder than the impersonal statistics that validate the movements concerns. These videos speak volumes and illustrate even further why Occupy Wall Street matters.
As the influence of OWS grows and goes global, so too does the resistance in forms of riot squads and aggressive policing. As Obama has called for Iran to allow its citizens the right to peacefully protest, I hope he in turn, leads by example, and allows US citizens to do the same. In the Oakland protests aggressive tear gassing severely injured Scott Olsen, an Iraq war veteran. The constitutional right to a peaceful protest, seems to be literally under fire.
The opposition is so strong because they know how game-changing this movement could be and illustrates to those involved how important it is to get this right. The scope of its aims are large, and this sometimes causes it to go over the people’s heads. Rolling Stones’ Matt Taibi, seemed to be the first person from a mainstream publication to really get it.
“Occupy Wall Street was always about something much bigger than a movement against big banks and modern finance. It’s about providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street, but everything. This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become.
If there is such a thing as going on strike from one’s own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it’s flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left.”
Its often easy to point out what is wrong with a broken system, but it is a much more difficult task to create solutions for these inherent flaws. But thats why this movement is so important. Occupying a space, gives people a forum to come together, get involved in what matters, and feel like they can make a difference. We’re not naive, we know change doesn’t happen over night, but thats not the point. The world is a buzz with excitement over the possibilities that this global movement creates.
Don Hazen writes in To Change the Country, We Just Might Have to Change Ourselves:
“As Eve Ensler, global activist and author of The Vagina Monologues says, “What is happening cannot be defined. It is happening. It is a spontaneous uprising that has been building for years in our collective unconscious. It is a gorgeous, mischievous moment that has arrived and is spreading. It is a speaking out, coming out, dancing out. It is an experiment and a disruption.”
Of course, nothing concrete has changed, yet. But the possibility of change — really, the necessity of change — is now in the middle of our nation’s politics and public discourse. This alone is an incredible achievement because a few short months ago, many millions of us essentially had no hope.”
I’d like to close with a beautiful and moving video from Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics, who paints a picture of a better world, one in which the real revolution is love.
“We protest not only at our exclusion from the American Dream; we protest at its bleakness. If it cannot include everyone on earth, every ecosystem and bioregion, every people and culture in its richness; if the wealth of one must be the debt of another; if it entails sweatshops and underclasses and fracking and all the rest of the ugliness our system has created, then we want none of it.
No one deserves to live in a world built upon the degradation of human beings, forests, waters, and the rest of our living planet. Speaking to our brethren on Wall Street, no one deserves to spend their lives playing with numbers while the world burns. Ultimately, we are protesting not only on behalf of the 99% left behind, but on behalf of the 1% as well. We have no enemies. We want everyone to wake up to the beauty of what we can create.” Charles Eisenstein