There is a strong element of disingenuousness about people who claim that they do not understand what this movement is about. It is as if they prefer not to notice that the people are occupying Wall Street itself, and not some random corner of the New York City. Scouring the trees while loosing sight of the forest, the naysayers are retreating back into the numbing, not-so-clear-predictability of their ‘safe’ lives while the very earth is changing under their very feet.
It is as if they have quickly forgotten that we have only recently witnessed what history will describe as a decade of criminal, corrupt, venal and illegal financial dealings that stripped millions of people of trillions of dollars. And as if this was not enough, the same manipulators of the markets and consumers, compounded their greed, assisted by members of our sitting government’s financial administrators, by carrying out possibly the greatest theft of the public exchequer in American history. It is shocking that these naysayers cannot make a connection between these acts of financial mendacity and theft with the massive cuts and eliminations of public welfare programs, pensions, educational and research funds, reduction in public services, assaults on union rights and labor laws, and most every single government and public service available. It is shocking that they cannot make a connection between their growing impoverishment and the growing wars for which this nation seems to have an infinite sum of monies. It is shocking that they will, even now, faced with an absolutely hollowing out of the meaning and value of the public, not rise up and simply add their voices. They remain mute, stunted and numb and offer nothing but arguments for how the protests are not ‘organized’ or have a clear goal.
We have been witnessing the absolute erasure of our rights and our voices. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, anti-war, pro-war, capitalist or socialist or any other category, it matters not. The fact remains that the individual American citizen has been erased from the processes of government, accountability and participation. This process has continued under the auspices of a man we placed much hope in but who has revealed himself to be nothing but a hollow mouthpiece for the same old stories. This is not a time to argue for detailed game plans, or talking points, but a time for shouting back, for standing up, and for first, very simply, pointing out to all those in Washington D.C. and other centers of corporate and political power, that there is a citizenry, that there are individuals, who believe in and stand for values and aspirations that in fact cannot merely be measured in financial and profit terms. We have to begin by pushing back a and this movement is that push back, that Enough! so many have been waiting for. It is the start of a drawing of a line in the stand and saying no more.
It is time to stand and argue for what is still beautiful about life, about community and about society. It is time to stand and argue for an idea of society that is not just about measurable rates of return, or hedges, or profits but about equity, justice and dignity. That we are about constructing a society that is about the citizen first, and the corporate last. That we still believe in a government that serves its citizens, and not just those with the strength of the lobby. That we still believe in investing in our schools, universities, our workers, our public assets (parks, roads, postal services, ) for the benefit of the majority and not the privilege of an enriched minority.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is not just about Wall Street. Their statements are on their websites. Their values are now on display on the streets. The fact remains that in our highly militarized society this movement will end with violence and that the changes it is demanding changes that are not merely legislative but also structural, institutional and attitudinal, will not be easily achieved under the current climate of a too-stupid-to-even-parody American election process and too-reactionary-to-even-notice American love of violence. It is more about showing those in power that we have not surrendered. It is about showing those in the banks that we will not go quietly. It is about reminding our politicians that thought they may be in the pockets of the wealthy, that the citizens are still here, still breathing, still thinking and still prepared to act.
Here are a group of young people who are risking their very futures for the sake of an idea of America the likes of which our political leaders only offer to win votes and then conveniently trash once in power. Here is a generation of Americans that is trying to shed the atrophied social and cultural skin of a previous generation of Americans who drugged themselves on the delusions of the stock market, adopted the stultifying, lobotomized world view of the the financial world. These young people are idealist and god bless them for that. They are the foolish ones who are still being ignored and mocked. Our leaders have ignored them, our President has shunned them, our police has beaten them, our media has mocked them, our pundits humiliate them, our television screen erase them. And yet they are there – and there they stay until that moment when violence will be used to push them aside.
I am thousands of miles away sitting in a small town in Kerala, India. I rather be on Wall Street. But I cannot understand why so many people whom I have heard complain about the state of America, about the corruption in its government, the greed and criminality of Wall Street, are suddenly without recourse and a sense of participation. I can’t understand that when at a moment they should join only because people have dared to raise their voices, that they are behaving like pension-counting bureaucrats and asking petty and pointless questions like what is their agenda?
So think of it this way: You are their agenda. You, the individual American who has a place, a voice and a participation in the American democracy. If for no other reason, go down to Wall Street and sit with these people because they are the only ones speaking about issues that place You at the center as opposed to our politicians, pundits, and newspaper professionals who have placed everything else at the center. Go simply to begin a process where we return to a place where government is accountable to its citizenry, where politicians are reminded that they are public servants, where the police is reminded that it is a public service body and not a private security force, where corporations that fleeced us, and business leaders that lied to us, are punished and have their right to operate removed. Go to remind yourself that you are a citizen of an experiment in public democracy that is at perhaps its weakest, most fragile and damaged moment.