I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching lately. Right under my nose, against any expectations I ever had, and apart from any institutions or organizations I’ve been a part of, an inspiring new movement has sprung up and caught the nation’s — nay, the world’s — attention. For over a month now, protesters have been camped out in Zuccotti Park demonstrating against the social and fiscal irresponsibility of many of the world’s corporations and financial institutions. As someone who believes passionately in the importance of economic justice, corporate responsibility and equal opportunity, I can’t help but be swayed by the protesters’ admirable call for a world controlled less by unfathomable wealth and those who attain and concentrate it either by good fortune, inheritance or exploitation. I can’t help but wonder if I’m missing out on the organic, self-sustained people’s movement of our generation.
Still, I have a lot of concerns about Occupy Wall Street. The group still does not have a coordinated message or platform — a lack of direction that some have downplayed the importance of or necessity for, but one that will make or break them as a social movement. It would keep them defined from the eccentric (“Relieve literally all debt that exists in the world right now”) and the offensive (“It’s all the Jews’ fault”) that threaten their protests. It would give them a means to act on their concerns — something they can unite behind and try to achieve through specific action. And although any specific set of beliefs is certain to turn off a lot of people, it would help build popular support for their movement and gain the aid and approval of existing organizations and political elites.
Yes, I said elites. Almost every successful popular revolution has had some support among political, or even economic, elites. The French Revolution had middle- and upper-class intellectuals. The 1985 People Power Revolution in the Philippines had Cardinal Sin (yes, that’s his real name, no joke). Russia in 1989 Russia had Gorbachev. These elites are indispensable elements because they have the resources to organize popular support and work through the system to find solutions. OWS has the unions and the tentative support of some Democratic politicians — that’s an asset they can’t aschew, but must instead continue attaining and building momentum from.
However, the main concern that many sympathizers have with OWS is their apparent lack of a plan to effect change. We want to join their ranks, but we need to know that their promises of change are not hollow. Let politicians know that you will not vote for them unless they support certain legislation. Build popular support for specific policies that are feasible and palatable to the American public. Demonstrate that you are not simply expressing your frustration, but working actively to respond to it.
OWS has potential — that’s undeniable now. But even when something has captured the nation’s attention, that doesn’t mean it can’t be ignored by decision-makers. Label yourselves as “postpolitical”, and you’re doomed to fail. But find a way to change the debate, set the agenda and work through the democratic system and the sky is your limit.
Daily Nexus liberal columnist Geoffrey Bell doesn’t wear tie-dye, but will always regret having missed the summer of 1967 in San Francisco.
In Response, Right Said:
First, I’m very glad to see that my counterpart acknowledges that Occupy Wall Street has no point as of this time, even if he yearns to join them while I would compare them to the Gerasene demoniac in Mark 5:9. It is also commendable that my counterpart recommends that OWS actually participate in the processes of our constitutional republic rather than continue on being wastrels disobeying law enforcement and defecating on cars.
However, I must take issue with most everything else my opposite has said. First, it is not at all unreasonable or “eccentric” to claim that OWS wants all student debt to be forgiven because several people within the movement have publicly called for such a measure. Second, no one has ever made the argument that OWS thinks “it’s all the Jews fault.” That is a classic example of Godwin’s law. Third, it is humorous that in making the case for why OWS needs the elite, he compares OWS to the French Revolution — a revolution in which hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, were beheaded for not being “revolutionary” enough. If OWS prefers such a comparison, I am all too happy to oblige; it also shows just how far they are from the values that form the foundation of our country.
Our country is based on the principle that anyone has the right to work for and acquire as much property as they can or care to — and to hold onto that property without fear that the government or the mob will take it from them. It is clear from their arguments that OWS has not learned this rudimentary civics lesson, and that ought to concern all freedom loving Americans.
— Daily Nexus conservative columnist Jeffrey Robin