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The enigma of Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street sign

The Occupiers are those people clustered in the streets of New York and elsewhere claiming to represent the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. And although they’ve been there for a number of weeks, I’m still not sure what they want or how they expect to get it. When I said as much over on the Huffington Post the other day, I was roundly criticized for not listening, not reading, and failing to inform myself. It seems they think the onus is on me to figure out what they want, rather than on them to explain themselves.

Here, one individual noted, is their website: Occupy Wall Street, inferring, “Now go read and stop bothering us with your silly questions.” There is also a very rough-hewn list of demands for Congress. If only demands from street rabble were enough.

On page one of the OWS website, in the sidebar, is an explanatory paragraph:

Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.

Well, now, that explains everything, doesn’t it? They are everyone, and no one in particular, and they are mad as hell at the 1% of Americans who presumably hold all the wealth and are therefore, ipso facto, responsible for all the greed and corruption in the country. They don’t present a clear list of demands or offer a list of objectives, but they’re going to get them anyway by using the tactics of foreign revolutionaries — in a nonviolent manner.

Oh, and being leaderless, they of course have no designated spokesperson(s) who can enlighten us. Leaderlessness is a novel tactic that I’m having trouble understanding … but there’s no leader to explain it. Perhaps this is one of those “if you have to ask, you’d never understand” situations.

The demonstrations remind me for all the world of the protest marches in the ’60s. The people even look the same. Signs and posters of every flavor, outlandish costumes, camping and sleeping in parks and along the streets, etc. I haven’t seen any flowers being stuck in rifle barrels yet, but then, I haven’t seen any rifles. Yet. Lots of batons, mace, and handcuffs, however.

Understand, I’m not without sympathy. I, too, am angry about the corruption of our government and electoral system by the unfettered infusion of big money from personal, corporate, and foreign interests. But I just don’t see how the OWS tactics are going to accomplish anything. The ballot box is the only real weapon we have, and OWS should get serious, get out of the streets, and start organizing voters for next year’s elections.

8 Comments »

  1. I agree with your assessment, Pied. Many of the disgruntled are spoiled products of several generations of children raised in a permissive culture, and it’s hard to feel sorry for them. On the other hand, among them are the long-term unemployed who, through no fault of their own, are stuck in an economic nightmare and the unemployment clock is ticking down on them, even as state and city budgets run out of money. I heard on the evening news tonight that the capital of Pennsylvania had declared bankruptcy.

    I ran a post today ( A Matter of Viewpoint ) about the issue – there is much to ponder. I’m thinking this is just the tip of the iceberg. Just wait until unemployment benefits stop and the full withholding taxes are restored and the economy goes down several more notches at the same time. All that starts January 1, 2012. “Fasten your seat belt”, as Bette Davis said (almost) in a movie. “It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

    • Indeed. A lot of these folks have nothing left to lose, and things could get ugly. A lot of opportunists are jumping on the bandwagon — unions, movie stars, the media, Anonymous, foreign speakers, etc. I don’t know where it’s all going, but I find a lot of the undercurrents disturbing

  2. If only we were citizens of a small, middle Eastern country with no air force or navy and no substantial military defense… just maybe a world super-power would come to the aid of the American Spring protesters because the all-knowing leaders of the super-power would be sympathetically and humanely enraged that our president began murdering his own citizens… like that guy Qaddafi. It wouldn’t really be war if all it did was use drones to bomb DC, would it? And it would solve everything.

    • Ah, dream on. Unfortunately, we are the superpower, which is why I see no relationship at all between OWS and the Arab Spring, even though they keep trying to make that comparison. I just don’t see it.

  3. My demands as an enthusiastic supporter of Occupy Wall Street:

    1. Divest corporations of their power over the electoral process.

    2. Promote and implement campaign finance reform so that politicians cannot be bought and paid for by special interests.

    3. Stop shipping American jobs overseas.

    4. Punish the white collar criminals who stole from the public and took taxpayer money for their bailouts. And the punishment should not be fines, but jail time, although they should be forced to pay out of their own pockets, as well.

    5. Reinstate Glass-Steagall.

    • Thanks for a concise list. I support all those things too (although I think #3 is a function of the economy in general and not something that can be legislated). But how does sitting/marching in the streets bring any of those things about? The lawmakers who must pass the laws to make these things happen are among among the bought and paid for (see #2). It is not in their personal or political best interests to make the changes OWS demands.

      And while we’re chatting, do you have any idea why the movement prefers to remain leaderless? Wouldn’t it be better if they had one or more leaders/spokespersons who could speak well and consistently to the public, the media, and Washington about their demands and how they expect to achieve them?

      What leverage do the crowds think they have for forcing Washington to act? If I were a politician in Washington, I’d be sitting in my warm, cozy office all winter, completely ignoring the OWS people freezing their tushies off out there on the street.

      Seems to me all the anger and frustration OWS is venting should be directed into something more constructive than demonstrations, like preparing for the next election, finding alternative candidates, or maybe even starting a third party. Unless, of course … unless the demonstrations are a crafty way to divert attention away from such activities … hmmm

"Nothing is more dangerous than ignorance and intolerance armed with power." ~ Voltaire

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