Thursday, October 06, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Seeds & Deeds

I've been following the activities of Occupy Wall Street for the last handful of days. It's fascinating and exciting, motivating the way nothing has motivated me for the last ... jeez, seven or eight years. That's right, dear blog--I used to be a social justice-seeking, politics-thinking, environment-defending lady. And then I gave up. Somewhere around the time of the Gulf War (boy, that march the day before the war started was amazing!), I started feeling like a whipped cur and crept down into the lair of apathy to lick my wounds.

But Occupy Wall Street has a lot going for it. It's stirring up people at a time when most people are seething silently, without words or hope. And while its message of general rage and dissatisfaction is being dismissed by many as an ineffective stance, I think that's a misunderstanding of the event's goal. I see this activity as an event that doesn't effect one particular change--it effects change in the hearts and minds of the American populace.

Other Occupy events, such as Occupy St Louis, which has targeted BofA as an agent of anti-populace economic affairs; and Occupy LA, which is targeting the Fannie Mae building for much the same reason, have actual targets. That's good! These are smaller, pointed actions that are directed at making a particular change within an egregious system. I'm happy to see them out there, fighting for these goals.

But Occupy Wall Street is much bigger than this. Occupy Wall Street is doing something remarkable: it is creating a real live community that functions using an advanced democratic and economic system. They are organizing a new kind of community, a new kind of social organization. And even if the movement ends with members drifting away to escape New York's winter weather, just the fact that they were able to create this one little community is amazing. It is a seed that will take root inside people and grow.

The United States was a pioneer in representative democracy--and the form for it was drafted close to 300 years ago, in an era where global and instantaneous communication was unimaginable. Capitalism was given form and structure at the same time. Alternative political economic structures, like the communism born from Karl Marx's writings, were created 150 years ago, when the telegram was giving the first hints of what a new, fully communicative society could be about. It is time for a new political economy, an economy that recognizes that the unimpeded flow of money and information is the essence of human freedom.

We learned from the totalitarian communist systems of the early 20th century that the government cannot be allowed absolute control of the flow of money and information. This creates corruption and the erosion of citizen power. And we're seeing today in the United States that when corporations control the flow of money and information, the government must pander to their concerns, resulting in corruption and the erosion of citizen power. We need a system that balances government oversight--because government is (or should be) the primary way to express the voice of the people--with competitive choices. Businesses can compete in wonderful ways. They can create wonderful things for us. But they cannot be allowed to crush us.

The sub-movements of the Occupy Together protests and the individuals inspired by the protests must try to find concrete ways to make our current political economical system function better. But Occupy Wall Street's job? It's to teach us how to create the next system, a system that right now lives as a kind of waking dream in New York, where people are sharing their possessions and skills and finding ways to create mass consensus. To us out here, it feels like Shangri-La. But it's real, it's real, it's real for them in Liberty Plaza.

1 comment:

Tammy Salyer said...

Thanks for the post, Wendy. It really helps put the intentions and possible results of Occupy Wall Street in perspective.