MEDIA ROOTS- Who are these Occupy Wall Street people? What is this “99%”? The question is being asked many times over around the nation, even now as you’re reading this. Perhaps in providing answers, it’s best we start with the One Percent and work our way up.
MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, the most-cited living author in the world and one of the most passionately anti-capitalist intellectuals in the United States, has sent a powerful message of support to the organizers of the Occupy Wall Street protests:
Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street — financial institutions generally — has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world). And should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power. That has set in motion a vicious cycle that has concentrated immense wealth, and with it political power, in a tiny sector of the population, a fraction of 1%, while the rest increasingly become what is sometimes called “a precariat” — seeking to survive in a precarious existence. They also carry out these ugly activities with almost complete impunity — not only too big to fail, but also “too big to jail.”
The system is set against you. The airwaves and print are complicit in every way. The oligarchic banking class has a stranglehold of power over politicians astonishingly passionate in their supplication, picking distraction fights while nearly 7 million Americans are thrown out of their homes, a million a year go bankrupt because they cannot pay their medical bills and 45,000 die from lack of proper care annually. True joblessness hovers at the 20 percent mark, while a great many of those employed are overworked, underpaid and – if they’re teachers, policemen, firefighters, nurses or public servants – currently under threat of further cuts.
The 99% are those who refuse to accept a system designed to enable 400 of America’s wealthy elite to control more revenue than over 150 million American citizens. We are those who feel betrayed by the entire spectrum of political parties and promise-bleating politicians. Those who demand a fairer tax system. Those who don’t have health insurance, for a variety of reasons. Those struggling to find work. Those opposed to military adventurism and imperialistic overlording of the planet. Those enraged by the idea of corporate lobbyists orchestrating legislature. Those who see a problem with the highest imprisoned population percentage in the world, the widespread destruction of our constitutional rights and the continued destruction of basic social services. Those who reject the inarguably failed “trickle down theory” and the current crisis-tendency of sending jobs overseas.
We are those who feel that the elected leaders of America have forgotten us among the ranting political rhetoric and opposition demonization by politicians who longer represent us at all.
Even those who are well off but recognize that something must be done to enable those who are not a chance to rise and prosper.
We The People are the 99%. You are the 99%.
Finally, a politically neutral voice of dissent is rising, a peaceful occupation to represent the demand for true change. The Occupy movement is determined to establish national demand for a conversation on fairly setting society on a more healthy course. They have taken to the streets, they’re talking amongst themselves, rallying others and building understanding and conviction through communication. A determined, defiant spirit will guide them through, and their numbers are already skyrocketing. The headlines read 700 people arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York – but the mere fact that there were 700 people there to be arrested stands as a much louder testimony that we will no longer sleep in the fires burning the world down around us.
This movement has sparked a wildfire of energy among those whose independent movements and issues are ignored by mandate. Labor unions are joining forces and dedicating support to the Occupy movement. In just the past few days, major organizations like the Communication Workers of America, the AFL-CIO and AFSCME have dedicated support for the protesters’ cause. The Occupy movement doesn’t operate in a top-down union style method. It is democratically driven to the core, but in meeting neutrally with these organizations we can align our goals and work together without risk of being co-opted.
Teachers and nurses associations are aligning themselves as well. Neighbors are stopping by with food and supplies. Just yesterday afternoon at City Hall in Los Angeles, dozens of pizzas and various other food and drink as well as medical and clothing supplies were being distributed freely by the people. For the people. I’m hardly a religious man, but the collective thousands at OccupyLA caring for one another without parasitic motive was the closest thing to truly Christ-like behavior among a large mass of people that I’ve seen in my 33 years.
Dismissing the New York uprising as merely another protest among countless demonstrations, many are attempting to write off this rapidly expanding movement, and will continue to with increasing severity as the Occupy movement continues to expand. But do not be mistaken – America’s first true digital-age movement is upon us, a movement every one of us can identify with. There is no promise-making leader with gleaming smiles and sparkling eyes. This is a collective of average and relatable individuals at work, rapidly growing despite (and in fact fueled by) an initial blanket of widespread silence from the mainstream press. As coverage begins to trickle in, as the voice of the movement takes hold, a great deal of misinformation will be broadcast. Do not believe it.
These Occupy movement protests aren’t the frivolous Foursquare check-in competitions among laid-off Apple employees that you’ll read about. All walks of life are attending, from families with babies to students to IT experts to WWII vets to college graduates with insurmountable debt and no employment options. From teachers who see their class numbers rise while funding gets cut and they’re continued to make less than garbage men, to grandparents hearing their lifelong contributions to Social Security and Medicare being discussed as money the government owns. At these protests, there are teach-ins educating the curious on topics ranging from the disconnection of investment banking from the economy of goods and services, to the pharmaceutical industry’s stronghold on medical legislation, and beyond – including, more directly, just what it is we’re doing in the streets.
These people are leaders, spearheading dedicated efforts to overcome the designed hypnosis of rampant passive complacency America’s people have come to be known for. We stand by as we’re told that millions of families struggling to feed their children and pay their rent just aren’t trying hard enough. As trillions are spent invading foreign lands for dubious causes, unclear goals and indefinite futures – money desperately needed to revive our infrastructure. We buy into the political grandstanding and the massive industry of talking heads foaming about one or the other, entirely oblivious to the gruesome, sneering and nakedly obvious fact that the American public has not been dealt any cards in the system that’s been established. We’re not in the game, and our “representatives” have long since disconnected meaning from words.
Yet despite constant evidence to the contrary, we trust that politicians – who truly no longer represent the people – will turn away from the staggering amounts of money that corporations offer for favorable legislation and the power-wealth’s demands.
A brilliantly relevant quote, from the 3rd President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson:
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”
Last year, the share of the nation’s income that was assigned to wages hit an all-time low, while the piece of the collective financial pie going to corporate profits was at an all-time high. It wasn’t teachers who set the nation at such an incredible deficit, no matter what the anointed congressional speakers suggest. It wasn’t public employees, Planned Parenthood, PBS, NPR, nurses or policemen who crashed the stock market, took trillions in taxpayer funded bailouts, poisoned our rivers and oceans, or paid themselves billions in bonuses. That would be the other guy – the elusive One Percent. The true “elite” that has shaped the conversation in Washington D.C. so as to completely omit a voice of and for the people, to the point where the mere suggestion of such is met with raging ridicule – for every mention of public health care, there are a dozen new claims of “death panels” and nazism associated. Sensible debate is a highly endangered species.
The soulful spirit of passionate & peaceful resistance from the 60s exists, stirring slowly from its slumber of comfort and convenience. Those in attendance now are the seedlings, the leaders guiding others into the warmth of understanding that We Are All The 99%. If you’re tired of living paycheck to paycheck, if an illness or accident that puts you in the hospital would mean financial ruin for your family, if you share in the frustration of watching a blizzard of legislation passed and deals made that rampantly benefit corporate interest at the expense of public well-being, you are already among our numbers.
For just about every vocal movement throughout history, there has been a countermeasure, an opposition that speaks with equal passion and dissent from the idea. Yet with the Occupy movement, the only opposing assailants are the champagne-toasting core of the problem sneering down at protestors on Wall St., and the likes of Ann Coulter and Alex Jones who are feebly trying to “expose” the movement as a veiled operation for the Democratic party (which it most assuredly is not). Where are the picketers defending the multi-millionaires and the multinational corporations?
Now is the time to make a true difference. Now is the time to move beyond a Like button and a retweet. It was through several incremental steps, accumulated over many years, that birthed this multi-tentacled crisis. It’s ignorant and futile to imagine that one demand will reverse this cancer, or that a collective vote will impact a system rigged against the people. Conversations must take place. A spirit of effective action must take hold.
That is what you’ll find taking place in New York. in Los Angeles. in Boston. In Detroit and beyond.
“We have to be careful not to allow this to get any legitimacy,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) warned this week. “I’m taking this seriously in that I’m old enough to remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy,” he said. “We can’t allow that to happen.”
One man’s nightmare is another’s American Dream.
That is the Occupy movement. Join us.
Writing and Photography by Johnny Firecloud, Founder, Managing Editor of Antiquiet.com