So then why, when those same protests happen here in our own country, are we so quick to dismiss them as a small group of 20-something, disorganized, dirty hippy, nothing-better-to-do college radicals – who can’t even agree on what their demands are? Why do we feel we are immune from the same bias of state and media? If we are actually democratic, shouldn’t we – at the very least – hear what they have to say? Do we honestly believe we have nothing to legitimately protest? Have you happened to notice that the bulk of network ‘news reports’ on the movement read strangely more like angry, dismissive editorials than, well, news? That instead of simply providing facts, they want to make sure they tell you how you should feel about it? I hope you’re paying attention.
No matter what political party you hate the least, as Americans we can usually agree that our government – the country itself – is supposed to be “by the people and for the people” (even if you’d rather it be your people than someone elses). We learn it in school. It’s the reason we vote. It’s the reason we argue about what we believe in. We can see clearly that our government is broken. That is not a radical belief, it’s a fact – one supported by soaring unemployment and a crumbling economy – and a congress that couldn’t pass gas. Our elected officials are childish and petty and selfish. It’s not getting better. And it’s so big that we, as individuals, aren’t sure what to do about it. We feel powerless. So why are we all so quick to dismiss protesters? Well, we’re jaded. We don’t protest anymore because voices are not power. Money is power. Elections are won with finances, not with good ideas. It appears that we’re waiting for someone to fix it for us. Many thought it would be Obama. His speeches inspired people to give a shit about the world around them – he dared us to hope for something better. But, as it turns out, you can’t fix the government by changing it’s figurehead. It’s the government itself that will have to change. That is a HUGE thing. A seemingly impossible thing. And because it demands such enormous change to the status quo, it won’t be one person that saves us. It will have to be us. All of us. Yes, that means you.
I know, I know. The trouble is, we’re used to it. We are comfortable here. We’re busy. We like to bitch and moan and point fingers but, ultimately, as long as we are not personally unemployed – if it isn’t ME that’s lost my home – it’s easier to ignore than to get involved. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the louder our news seems to report that the recession is over, the worse things seem to get. What we worry about is true. Every day it seems more inevitable that eventually, it WILL be us too. So perhaps now is a good time to at least ask a few questions. Maybe open one eye and see what other people are doing about this mess we’re in. If I could just have your attention for a moment over here…I will not tell you what to think. I only ask that you think. That’s kind of the point.
So now back to the folks on Wall Street. Who are they? What do they stand for and why should I care?
‘Occupy Wall Street’ is not a single protest. It’s a movement. It is not simply made up of students who recently discovered their degrees lost all resale value when they stepped off-campus. They bill themselves as “The 99%” (as opposed to the 1% that control all the wealth). They are made up of every age group, every demographic, and every (yes, every) political affiliation. There are people there who were present in other such protests around the world. There are educated, articulate people. From grannies to 9/11 1st-Responders. Retired cops to (yes) college students who want their future back. Thousands and thousands and growing. Similar occupations are materializing all over the country…and support is coming in from all over the world. The reason the media thinks they “can’t even agree on a list of demands” is because they are NOT holding the park hostage. They are occupying it. There is no list. They only want one thing. While they wait, they are creating an example of open democracy. In their twice-daily General Assemblies they discuss topics brought forth by those in attendance. They march because they’d really like your attention – just long enough to explain what they’re marching for. You see, they are demanding exactly that enormous change that all of us have come to think of as impossible. They are saying “1% of this country controls everything. Well, we are the other 99%, and we want our country back.” Our network media (yes, controlled by that pesky 1%) has made it clear that they think the movement is stupid, pointless, and that it will fail. Why do you suppose that is?
This movement is organized – they have a social media machine, live video feed of the occupation, posted guidelines for peaceful protesting, legal information, online resources and a po box for sending donations and support. They know that everyone can’t be there in person, and they make it easy for others to help. Even if it’s only to spread the word that it’s finally time. To inform and be informed. And the world is watching. They are getting the help they’ve asked for. Much to the surprise and disappointment of those trying to discredit them, arrests and insults have not deterred them. They are fighting for their future…so where else are they gonna go? They’ve won support from the likes of Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore. They are using their voices. Not to scream – but to stand up, speak and be heard. Not to alienate but to include. Not to divide but to unite. It’s not political, it’s human.
By extension, ‘they’ are all of us. We are also the 99%. We don’t need to be united by any other commonality besides our desire for the democracy this country started with. An actual dialogue, instead of just the pretense of one. Yes, it is one enormous demand, but what if…
Remember…”All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
So now that you know, what will you do?