While I have visited Occupy Wall Street twice over the past few weeks and have supported the movement in various ways, I refer to the movement and its participants as “they,” only because I haven’t invested enough time in it to truly consider myself a part. Here is my take on the infuriating dismissals of the seriousness of the protests and my call to action. Photos throughout this post were taken by me. Please give credit and link back to this post if you use them.
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I’m tired of people dismissing the legitimate concerns of the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Together movements. It’s especially hurtful when it comes from people on the left. For example, New York Magazine ran this silly piece in last week’s magazine that insulted the intelligence of partipants using silly pop quizzes. On the next page of the magazine, they took free yoga classes waaay too seriously and explained them using terms like “democratization.” Way to give due seriousness to serious matters, guys. Or even this column in the progressive magazine Mother Jones, where a former Obama staffer, despite supporting the movement’s larger goals, still insists on calling the initiators of Occupy Wall Street “all crazy ones.”
But this is old news. Ever since the beginning of the movement, media outlets, politicians, left-wingers, right-wingers, and members of the public have tried to discount the Occupy Wall Street protest activity by accusing participants of not having concrete plans, of being vague and decentralized, and of not streamlining their messaging. The coverage always insists on reiterating the same question: What exactly are you people asking for?
But the burden of proof should not always have to fall on the public. Occupy Wall Street and associated protest movements have identified the circumstances of the crisis and have pointed to the context that drove them to action: no jobs, no affordable healthcare, impunity for the real crooks of the financial crisis, staggering corporate profits and executive bonuses, a widening wage gap, too much corporate influence in our government, and much, much more.
These are the collective concerns, many of which were outlined in the Declaration on September 29, and yet people keep accusing the movement of not having any tangible complaints or proposals for change. Well, I have a two-pronged response.
1.) Coming up with policy solutions and proposals should not be the job of Occupy Wall Street. Protestors should not have to have centralized messaging, single-issue demands, or charts and graphs to demonstrate their rationality and seriousness. Occupy Wall Street and its partner protests around the country have pointed a finger at a crisis. They cannot reverse it or make steps to prevent it from happening again without the collaboration of larger social institutions. It is the work of economists, elected officials, the President’s cabinet, members of government agencies, and nonprofit advocacy organizations to put into motion reforms, laws and regulations based on the people’s demands. The people have cried out for help to ensure that corporations don’t have undue influence over our government, that there are no more predatory lenders or rapid stock trading. Now it’s your turn to act, America.
2.) Of course, Occupy Wall Street protestors aren’t just sitting back and waiting for the world to change. Protest is not just about getting the attention of those in power and hoping that they’ll respond to make lasting change. Occupy Wall Street participants are spending their time actively responding to and shaping an alternative to the moral crisis in this country. Through the consensus-based model known as the General Assembly, people in New York City’s Zucotti Park are creating the world they wish to see. The micro-communities camping out all over the country are modeling themselves after a world that doesn’t exist in the U.S., a world where grassroots democracy is a reality.
Watch this incredible short video to get a taste of the consensus model if you haven’t already seen it in action, or just to be re-inspired if you already know about it:
And that should be enough.
Indeed, many unlikely allies have begun latching onto the messaging of Occupy Wall Street to show that the protest’s concerns are real.
First, there are charts from Business Insider that show how “inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation’s history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high.”
David Weidner, Wall Street columnist for MarketWatch, penned an op-ed arguing that “the bankers who brought us this mess not only walk free, they drive free in Bentleys paid for by money looted through toxic mortgages, trading debacles and derivative madness…The ones outraged by greed run amok, reckless behavior and fraud are getting wrestled to the pavement and arrested.”
So why not stop trying to malign the movement? They are here to stay. Take them seriously.