Occupy Wall Street

I received a Facebook invitation this past weekend to attend a meeting to help organize an Occupy Wall Street organization in the Albany, NY area. Now I’m not going, not because I’m opposed to the values of the OWS group, whatever they are, but because I’m really allergic to meetings. And, based on a bunch I went to in the 1980s and early 1990s, ESPECIALLY meetings of people who are politically left of center, who are really interested in “process” such as “consensus”. I’m really happy if a group can find a consensus, but it’s maddeningly slow.

And what ARE the values of OWS? It’s “standing up for the 99%” of us who are suffering while Wall Street bankers grow richer by the day.” OK, but what does that mean, exactly? Even the OWS people will acknowledge it may mean different things to different people.

I’ve spent a lot of time at protests over the years. Sometimes, it would be a protest at a particular location, trying to change a specific behavior. But most of the time, it’s been symbolic. When I marched in front of a draft board in May of 1972, I didn’t expect that it would end the draft, thought it did actually closed that particular building on that particular day.

Generally speaking, it was the repeated actions – sit-ins, demonstrations – that affected a situation to bring about change. The reason I think the OWS movement might starting to have some sort of effect already is the gross overreaction by the authorities to peaceful protest. It makes the police nervous enough to use pepper spray.

The fact is that the protesters want a panoply of different things: getting giant banks to pay their fair share of taxes, end the foreclosure crisis by the renegotiation of mortgages; some are concerned by environmental issues, such as that potentially disastrous, but big money, Tar Sands pipeline. Some, even within the movement, see this as a weakness – “what’s our mission statement?”

I think that, early on, I may have agreed with that assessment, but upon further reflection, it reminds me of that group that used to show up at Congressional town hall meetings yelling at their representatives back in 2009, and ended up getting organized (thanks in no small part to FOX News and Koch brothers money) as the Tea Party, an undeniable force in the current Republican Party. As you will recall, the participants’ agendas were manifold: some wanted fiscal responsibility, while others were more concerned with a variety of “social” issues.

Occupy Wall Street could – I’m just spitballing here – arrange a boycott against Bank of America for hiking its debit card fees (and after it took bailout money), or bring greater pressure to bear to stop the pipeline, or even run a progressive challenger to President Obama in the Democratic primaries (something I’d like to see, BTW, because I think it would focus him better; won’t happen). In any case, I’m glad to see action that belies the myth that that the progressive movement is dead in the United States.

I’ve signed up for the Virtual March on Wall Street today (Wednesday), and I have even less clarity about its efficacy than I do about the in-person version. It’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out.

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3 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street

  1. I was watching on TV to see of I could see you. In the 70s, I too did a couple of marches to protest fees hikes at the university.

    Now I vote via internet.

  2. I long ago gave up on leftwing political groups, and for pretty much what you were talking about. I mean, they needed to reach consensus on who would clean up the room after a meeting (I exaggerate, but only just). Sometimes someone needs to be in charge and make decisions, and too many groups on the left, in my opinion, are focused on process, not results.

    Keith Olbermann read their manifesto on air, the first broadcast journalist to do so even in part (I’m not sure any have even mentioned it). Although he delivers it well, and it seems relatively well-written, it IS kind of a laundry list of sometimes loosely connected left-ish political goals.

    Even so, I think you’re right that it is in some ways like the tea partiers, but on the centre-left. Many of the things they call for are things that ordinary Americans overwhelmingly support, according to poll after poll. They also represent what are traditional values of the Democratic Party, so just as the teabaggers jerked the Republican Party to the far right, maybe—maybe—the OWS folks can pull the Democratic Party leftward, maybe not back to its traditional position, but at least back into the centre, rather than the near right where it’s been living the past decade or so. In the long run, that would be far more useful than a leftwing primary challenger to President Obama (which can’t happen now, anyway).

    Interesting times.

  3. It’s not enough to shout at those that harm you. You must initiate rules and laws that prevent them from doing it again! Read my web page at http://www.mybetteramericaplan.com to see ideas in my Current Events section that shows how to legally shut down Wall Street, the Chicago Merchandile Exchange, Congress and the Republican convention in Tampa this summer. Many other ideas are on my web page that will save your life, your country and your planet!

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