Repost … 9/17/12 … OCCUPY: Is This The Beginning Or Is This The End? Though today marks the one year anniversary of OWS, when a small group of activists answered the call to “Occupy Wall Street”, the actual birth of the concept happened on July 13, 2011, when Kalle Lasn, of the magazine Adbusters publicly called for the occupation. Inspired by the 15-M/Indignants movements in Spain and the mass protests in Tahrir Square, Adbusters sent out the call for 20,000 protesters to “#OccupyWallStreet”. The idea was to create such a large mass of human protest, that there could be no option but to bring about socioeconomic and political change in America. Though fewer than 1000 people showed up the first few days, before Mayor Michael Bloomberg knew it, that small group built itself into a full fledged direct action occupation in downtown New York City. Can you say “NYPD overtime?”
Occupy grew into a worldwide phenomenon. Almost overnight, the national conversation switched from “austerity” to economic disparity between the “99% and the 1%”. OWS groups sprung up across the country- from Los Angeles to Indianapolis to Charlottesville, VA, the mantra “WE ARE THE 99%” was being yelled in the streets! Tens of Thousands marched in Manhattan, and on October 16, 2011, The White House issued a statement saying “President Obama is working for the interests of the 99%” TIME Magazine even called “The Protester” its 2011 Person of The Year …MAN, one thing is for sure, those boys from Adbusters give Don Draper a run for his money! OWS was off to the races!
But What Happened?
First off, I can write a book on what I think the OWS shortcomings are, but my main problem with it is this, and I KNOW, I’m not alone. From the very early stages, there was criticism (from myself included) that the Occupy Movement lacked a clear focus. Everyone was asking “what specifically were these people protesting for- What would make them happy?”! When you look at successful movements, be it Gandhi, to the Anti-Vietnam War Movement to the very inspiration of OWS, the Egyptian uprising, there was A VERY CLEAR SINGULAR GOAL.
In Egypt for example, the people took the square for the specific purpose of bringing down Hosni Mubarak. Sure they were angry, sure they were frustrated, I’m sure many did not expect to see Egypt taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood, but the people in that square knew what they were marching for, fighting for, and in some cases dying for. It was not anti-Mubarak one day. Egyptian jobs another day. Anti-Israel another day…It was only about bringing down the Mubarak regime! Occupy set itself up for failure by not giving its supporters any sense of getting closer to a goal. Americans, even progressive Americans angry and wanting to protest, like to know they are not wasting their time…Are people supposed to live in a tent in the rain and snow for an indefinite amount of time until we magically live in a “whole new world”? It’s ludicrous!
For all of Occupy’s screaming and yelling how “THE BANKS GOT BAILED OUT, WE GOT SOLD OUT”, there was very little focused attention to actually bringing about change to the very banking system that helped lead to the market meltdowns of 2008-2009. Sure, if you spoke with individuals they would talk about the need for bringing back a Glass-Steagall type Act, but that was quickly lost in the clutter of a political smorgasbord of issues such as but not limited to: anti-foreclosure, anti-fracking, anti-capitalism, student loan forgiveness,home loan forgiveness, commercial loan forgiveness, third world country debt forgiveness, open borders, increased regulations, the redistribution of wealth from the 1%, LGBT rights, and establishment of a living wage, to name but a few.
Now to some readers, (especially those from the progressive persuasion), you may be saying “HELL YES BABY!”, but what has happened is that OWS has turned into a jack of all trades and a master of none. I understand each and every one of those things may be important to some, but pick something. Set a priority. Can you imagine the impact if starting on the first day of a movement named FOR WALL STREET remember, OWS preached one thing…THE BREAK UP OF THE BANKS THAT GOT US INTO THIS MESS IN THE FIRST PLACE? Not as a part of the message, but AS the message! If when the media went down to Zuccotti Park, they would hear one message- Glass-Steagall. If they interviewed people it was one message “break up the banks”. If Democratic members of Congress went back to their districts in the fall of 2011 and were faced with a huge singular message by OWS-”we are coming after you the same way the Tea Party went after Republicans if you don’t help break up the banks!”, the Democrats would have been scared shitless! Things would have gotten done!
Maybe it would not have worked. I think it would have.
So here we are, one year later. There are drums being pounded, Tim Pool is Ustreaming the events live as they happen, the NYPD are arresting people, and yet, even on a day when many execs on Wall Street are home because of the Jewish holiday, Morgan Stanley, Goldman, and the other “Masters of the Universe” are doing business as usual. Ahhhh Occupy, time is ticking…these are “precious moments”! Is This the Beginning Or Is This The End?
Gregg Zollo co-hosts of Bullseye
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