The "Occupy Wall Street" Movement: Finally, An Awakening?
What started nearly three weeks ago as a band of a few hundred aggrieved citizens seeking to speak out against burgeoning corporate greed and inequality but snagged modicum, if any, national media attention, appears to be quickly blossoming into a full-fledged mass movement.
At its inception back on September 17, the original gathering of protesters at Zucotti Park arrived with homemade signs and electronic communication gear (laptops, iPhones and the like) in response to calls two months prior by a haphazard and visibly hapless assortment of organizers, initially front-lined by the activist magazine Adbusters, hoping to occupy Manhattan’s Financial District for an extended length of time but with no clearly enunciated set of objectives.
Yes, at the outset, many in the media were unambiguously dismissive or critical of the movement for not having any concrete or decipherable goals but the organizers were quick to counter that even that was a deliberate tactic to rid it of any presumptuousness. They did not want to needlessly constrain the movement by foisting dictated or preconceived ends. Being a mass movement, they’d hoped that the articulation of the movement’s end-game would eventually crystallize in the most bottom-up way from the ensuing dialogue amongst participants. They simply wanted to create an environment that would enable things to evolve naturally.
A few early commentators foolishly questioned the authenticity of the movement. They felt that it was hardly representative of mainstream American society. They ridiculed the firstly assembled protesters as a crew of lazy, fun-seeking, yoga and tai chi-practicing college students and retirees with little or no credible, sustainable interest in the country’s future.
Today, with hundreds arrested and the movement growing in numbers, reach, coordination and sophistication, the crowd has indeed expanded to include the ranks of the unemployed and a swath of Middle America.
Several make shift camps and “comfort stations” have taken form and protesters have organized themselves into committees to attend to crucial safety/security, medical, legal and media matters. Donations of food, sleeping bags, blankets and medicine are pouring in from all over the country.
Reputable labor unions including the AFL-CIO and SEIU, have called in support and reinforcement from their rank and file.
More importantly, dozens of large cities and other locales, including Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have joined in by launching their own home-grown versions of the protest in solidarity.
The movement has even gone global with similarly inspired protests reportedly underway in Chile, Ireland, Italy, Melbourne, Brisbane, London, Tokyo, Sydney and Hong Kong.
It is without question that the “Occupy Wall Street” movement may have tapped into a once latent but deep well of anger and discontent about the country's present reality of shrinking opportunities and widening disparity; the fabled fact that the super rich and big corporations are amassing wealth at a dizzying and unparalleled speed even as the bottom 99% of the population have lost hope, jobs, homes and other customary material comforts of middle class living.
Truth be told, it was irritatingly puzzling that this movement did not arrive sooner. That the American citizenry would allow the worst man-made economic catastrophe since the Great Depression to occur without a whimper of concerted agitation was prodigiously difficult to fathom or reconcile.
But, could it be that the lion has finally awakened? Is it possible that we are on the cusp of a working people's revolution in America---one that could bring about the kind of transformative change in the psyche of the people that would render old market force dogmas moribund and usher in new, more egalitarian labor remuneration and wealth redistribution schemas?
As the saga unfolds and throngs more join in, movement organizers should launch a carefully coordinated campaign to, at a minimum, eke out some immediate reforms and long-term structural changes.
Knowing that till date, there has been zero accountability for the series of events that culminated in the economic meltdown, they should demand a Justice Department investigation of the dealings of hedge-fund managers and CEOs known to have, not only benefitted, but recklessly tripped off or contributed to the financial crisis.
The movement could also ostensibly serve as a bulwark against a vociferous ultra right-wing Tea Party minority whose hypnotic control of GOP lawmakers in Congress appears to have effectively created an impenetrable, unyielding gridlock in Washington.
The Republican Congressional Leadership remains adamantly opposed to proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy and close corporate tax loopholes even in the face of the fact that poll after poll clearly demonstrate that the majority of Americans across the entire ideological spectrum (liberals, conservative and independents) are favorable.
Lastly, coming immediately on the heels of President Obama’s recently unveiled but currently mired jobs bill, the movement could easily be leveraged by the administration to exert insuperable pressure on Congress to act.
Looking forward to 2012, depending on how events unfold and the degree to which the movement is triumphant moving the needle on the aforementioned fronts, if in the end Republicans are successfully cast as hitching their tent with the fat cats (millionaires and big business), this might bode very well for Obama.