October 13, 2011 —
For the first couple of weeks after Occupy Wall Street got going on September 17, the mainstream media treated it with a kind of condescending amusement. Protesters were seen as an aimless, if amiable, rabble who could safely be ignored because they had no list of “specific demands.”
But in looking for such a list, the punditry was looking in the wrong place: inside the box. Occupy Wall Street is calling, not for a laundry list, but for a change in vision. Participants are not candidates running for office, of whom we might well ask that they come up with a list of policy prescriptions. Instead, Occupy Wall Street wants to turn upside down the whole framework within which public policy is being set. (To be fair, many of the major news outlets do finally seem to be catching up to this fact: see for instance the Sunday editorial in The New York Times, www.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/opinion/sunday/protesters-against-wall-street....)
There’s a reason that the place first “occupied” was Wall Street: headquarters of a financial system that increasingly serves the interests of the very top bracket of income earners/wealth holders at the expense of everyone else. Hence the movement’s catchphrase “I am the 99%.”
The Declaration of the Occupation of New York City on the website nycga.cc/2011/09/30 says in part, “As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members… [that] a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.”
The protests are thus, literally, a campaign by the many to reoccupy their own country, territory that has been increasingly usurped by a very few—and worse, by entities that, though legally deemed “people,” are not human at all.