I’m certain there’s a lot of things I could say about the Occupy Movements – the original Occupy Wall Street, and the subsequent occupancies around the world, including my local Toronto – but I’d like to be somewhat brief in my thoughts (pithy enough to be engaging and to keep your attention).
“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
– U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864
(letter to Col. William F. Elkins)
Interesting? Is it not? That there has been such a concern of the dominance of corporations since 1864.
The Occupy Movement is the first North American movement of the 21st century. The response of the media was, “what the heck are they protesting?”. David Rushkoff
explains that this confusion is because of opposing perspectives: a 21st century, Internet based movement is difficult to comprehend from 20th century politics, media, and economics.
The movement is leaderless movement without clearly defined goals. The occupiers stress: the environment, labour, housing, government corruption, World Bank lending, and their characteristic “we are the 99%” commentary on wealth disparity. Their claim is that these are all symptoms of a core problem – though they have not yet, nor are ready to articulate such a problem. I really like how Rushkoff describes the movement:
As the product of the decentralized networked-era culture, it is less about victory than sustainability. It is not about one-pointedness, but inclusion and groping toward consensus. It is not like a book; it is like the Internet.
At the very recently evicted occupations (New York on Nov. 15; Toronto’s St. James Park was evicted today), they had teach-ins, where people taught one another about things like how the economy works, differences in investment banking and the goods and services economy, and the Obama administration’s decision to settle with the investment banking industry for housing fraud – as opposed to investigating and prosecuting.
The movements quest to find “one demand” forced many conversations.
These people want to ask questions, have discussions, evaluate decision/policy making and the current economic system. They had libraries and medical facilities, were focussed on non-violence, and want their way of life to spread through contagion.
I’d say that we know exactly what they’re protesting, and quite frankly, I’m happy that they are.
I have met opinions of people who think, “Those people just need to get jobs. It doesn’t matter if its not what they want to do or not – any job provides some income, enough to support yourself at least!” In Canada, we’re rather lucky, our recession wasn’t (isn’t) so bad. The US, on the other hand has it slightly worse. Greece’s unemployment rate is currently at 17.6%
. So, because Canadians are mostly lucky (certain areas in Canada have been very hard hit – unemployment in Welland, Ontario was over 11%
), should we protest? Should we care? This movement is not just about employment, there’s a system with problems.
Our world is unsustainable – this is the greatest problem. The American economy’s “ultimate purpose
” is to produce more consumer goods. Our consumerism will define our generation, and our parents before us. We, and next generation, can choose to enlighten ourselves.
This society is not based on life, but on economy -creating wealth that seeks unlimited growth in the shortest possible time with minimum investment and maximum profit. Those who survive in this system and follow its logic become wealthy, but as a result of a permanent process of exploitation. Thus, producing poverty and misery, which can be observed on a global and national level.
– personal paraphrase of Leonardo Boff
Social Ecology: Povery and Misery
“Is this our middle eastern moment? When people are rising up and saying, ‘we’ve got to take back our country,’ ‘take back our democracy which we don’t have now’ and stop serving the corporate agenda. Seems like money is everything that determines what our priorities our now.”
“The economy is just a means to something else, surely the economy
by itself is nothing. Do we use it for justice, greater equity, do we want environmental protection?”
“The only reason for a corporations existence, they may be doing things we need that are useful, but their only reason for existence is for making money. What about the future and jobs for young people?”
Is their cause worthwhile? Will the protests continue? Will it make a difference?
What do you think?