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Forum Post: An Open Letter to OWS

Posted 12 years ago on Nov. 15, 2011, 6:49 p.m. EST by SticksCalliope (10) from Jersey City, NJ
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Dear OWS,

I write to you as a wholly sympathetic American. I presume your movement is concerned with the symptoms of widening inequality in America, corporate influence over politics and deregulated financial institutions left to play with hell with huge chunks of the American economy, and vanishing from accountability behind a corporate shield. I say “presume” because there has never been a consistent or articulate statement out of your camp of what it is that you stand for, but in the absence of your own words, others in the media and politics have decided to speak for you thusly.

I am writing to you because I am loyal to your causes, but dismayed by your tactics. When this movement began, I was concerned that it would flounder in the absence of concrete leadership and finite, cogent demands. The only statement to come out of your ranks was a completely scattered, undeveloped catalog of every liberal talking point to be found on the street, that didn’t ultimately well articulate or advance any of them individually. Since that time, you’ve put forward no more cogent or specific demand, and as a result, your presence itself has overshadowed your demands (or lack thereof). The impact of your protests, sadly, has become less to call attention to income inequality or any other worthy concern, and more to make a spectacle of yourselves and your tactics.

Last night New York City police cleared Zuccotti Park, claiming there were health hazards and safety concerns attendant thousands of people creating a 24-hour tent city within a public park. Don’t conflate this reasoning with an attack on your politics, and you’ll see that these concerns are reasonable, and within the city’s rights. It’s going to be winter soon. Thousands of people are sleeping outdoors, in public. A deep frost at any time could result in mass hospitalizations. There is bound to be crime attracted to an area where so many people, possessions and passersby are left mingling all night without guard. It is the city’s right to maintain safe public parks and working environments, and you have been explicitly invited to be there from dawn to dusk to share your political opinion with the world. Listen: if this had been the tea party making tent cities on the lawn of the Capitol, or any non-political group making tent cities wherever they pleased for its own sake, no one would be tempted to see this as a freedom of speech issue. And it’s not. The mere fact that you have an opinion doesn’t license you to create communes on public property incidental to sharing it.

But instead of showing your good faith with authorities, complying with reasonable demands on the part of the city and making the media story about how diligently you advocate your position in the face of setbacks, you’ve chosen to make the national story surrounding your protests about your right to make tent cities. In short, if there is a national dialogue on economics in America opening up, you are becoming its sideshow. And it’s my fear that the more attention you draw to yourselves (rather than your positions) and the more you claim a right to build encampments as a principle of your politics, the more that conversation will suffer.

Do the right thing, the thing you should’ve done back in September. Do the country you’re speaking to a service and elevate the quality of its conversation. Don’t just be noise for the sake of noise, and certainly don’t be as silent as you’ve been for the last month and a half (when a mob refuses to speak for itself, it only invites its opponents to speak for it). Speak in terms of specific proposals, articulate them well, and help guide our national conversation away from tent cities and onto what we can do in our communities and political halls to actually solve the problems we’re facing.



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[-] 3 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 12 years ago

This op has merit. It must be considered.

[-] 2 points by Restorefreedomtoall1776 (272) from Bayonne, NJ 12 years ago

You can't see the forest for the trees. Perception is your problem. Perhaps you can make that your next project for self improvement. We will all cheer you on as you make the great - pehaps impossible - effort to re-educate yourself. Cheers! Have a nice day!

[-] 2 points by HeavySigh (227) 12 years ago

This needs to be read by every OWS member.


[-] 2 points by JonoLith (467) 12 years ago

As long as there is an Occupy Movement on the Streets, causing problems, people HAVE to talk about them.

The moment the start complying to liars and thieves is the moment the movement dies.

[-] 1 points by SticksCalliope (10) from Jersey City, NJ 12 years ago

Yes, people may have to talk about you, but in a democracy, you want people to talk about you favorably if they're going to come around to your politics.

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 12 years ago

I understand what you're saying, and I feel like there are a lot of things that OWS could probably have done better up to now (and still has the opportunity to do better) and I feel like we need to transition toward positive political involvement, especially given the opportunity afforded to us by the election year. I would fall far short of endorsing their removal from the parks, because the presence of tent cities in lower Manhattan and similar location forces people to address issues that are otherwise easily swept under the rug, and I also feel like endorsing their eviction amounts to a rejection of their ideas.

I'd also like to reply to your last paragraph with some ideas of my own. I don't know if you'll necessarily agree with all or even most of what I have to say, but I feel like you have to start somewhere and what I'm proposing is as good a place to start as any. I'm sorry that it's all tied up in a bunch of links, but I'm only 60-75% through writing it all out and it's hitting eight pages single-spaced (way too long to fit on here at once). Start with this link and then feel free to reply or message me with questions, comments, or critiques: http://occupywallst.org/forum/a-possible-plan-of-action-to-clean-up-this-mess/

[-] 0 points by justhefacts (1275) 12 years ago

While a lot of people might agree with OWS, the vast majority of them are embarrassed and annoyed by how they are doing things.

[-] 1 points by TheMisfit (48) 11 years ago

Very prophetic.

[-] 1 points by justiceforzim (-17) 11 years ago

Needs resurrecting

[-] 1 points by JProffitt71 (222) from Burlington, VT 12 years ago

I believe this is a very reasonable assertion. I can see that you intend us well, and are hoping to help us here. I personally have no idea what to do about it, and I have a feeling about half a hundred thousand people feel the same. Do you have any proposals, that might spur productive discussion?

[-] 1 points by maximus73 (3) 12 years ago

OWS a declaration

Given that the legal and political power of big corporations, big banks, and a government corrupted by the influence of moneyed lobbyists is effectively establishing a two tiered society by the elimination of the real foundation of any nation, the middle class, it is necessary and right that a free people declare openly their opposition to those entities that are destroying their nation. Among those things are:

That government has become the tool of entrenched career politicians who maintain their positions power by the enormous influx of contributions from those who have enriched themselves from the work of the common person.

That big business has seen the common people as a fountain of wealth to be exploited to the utmost without concern for their welfare or well being. Once used they can be eliminated for the greater good of the business.

That the legal system is corrupted by the undue influence of individuals whose only motivation is to insure the continued power of special interest groups in opposition to law abiding people

This movement is NOT opposed to Capitalism, but IS opposed to the corrupt capitalism that exists at present. A Capitalism devoid of any morality or ethic that might seek the establishment of a society in which all hard-working individuals can attain a measure of prosperity for themselves and their families. In the past several decades the income of most people has declined while that of the rich has increased more than 300%. This is unsustainable because it is the middle class that sustains the economy of a nation.

The movement is for RESPONSIBLE CAPITALISM and RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT which includes being

         financially responsible
         socially responsible
         politically responsible
         environmentally responsible   
         morally responsible

These things are worth fighting for but not to the detriment or destruction of the well established norms of civil society.

[-] 1 points by Peretyatkov (241) from город Пенза, Пензенская область 12 years ago

Sorry me, as you like idea of "People power"? By the way, the model - is very concrete. Nardialog - http://occupywallst.org/forum/nardialog/

[-] 1 points by pinker (586) 12 years ago

Salons, lyceums and intelligent speakers. You don't have to have a leader, but at least present yourselves as intelligent adults with the ability to have discourse rather than screaming and shouting down people with that mic thing. Get real mics.

[-] 1 points by justhefacts (1275) 12 years ago

That sound you hear? It's the 99% applauding this letter LOUDLY! This is brilliant Sticks and millions of people agree with it.

[-] 1 points by Happierbanker (23) 12 years ago

I second that and so do the vast majority of people I know.

[-] 1 points by MPolo (18) 12 years ago

This letter pretty well articulates what I am thinking. The media is making the protesters look like they are at a concert where the band never shows up. You have to expect this if you demonstrate to get the media attention. If you clam up then they will create a story that you won't like. It happens to everyone. Accept it. I support the 99% movement, as I have my whole life. OWS is sorely in need of some leadership experience if they are to become more than a fad.

[-] 1 points by AFarewellToKings (1486) 12 years ago

Thank you for such an articulate analysis of what plagues OWS. I would like to know what your thoughts are about The 99% Declaration, as a way for OWS to move to the next level. Thanks again.


[-] 1 points by SticksCalliope (10) from Jersey City, NJ 12 years ago

My feelings: 1. an organized convention with delegates is good, and necessary for people to move forward. 2. the demands are critically overbroad and underdeveloped. Just on an economic level, the real world institutions you're talking about changing are so vast and complex that each section really deserves an incredibly thoughtful breakdown. You want to balance the budget, pay down the debt, offer free healthcare for all, effectively free higher education, a massive works progress program, a banking and securities reform effort that is not clearly defined, ending the federal reserve itself - whew! and that's not the half of it. When you mention all of those goals in a sentence or two without clarifying how any one of them will work, let alone impact each other, I think it's critically under-thought-through. Just consider the health care bill of 2010, something not nearly as broad as what you're proposing in your one health care related point: it was a 1,000+ page document, subject to countless legal challenges, we're not even sure if it's constitutional, most members of congress couldn't even read the thing when they passed it, the american people are so unsure of what it means that the majority of the country wants it repealed, and that only took a bite out of half the problem! We live in a very complicated society, where 99% of the country doesn't have as simple and amenable a set of beliefs as that document seems to be hoping. If you want to accomplish a small set of achievable goals, and can deeply analyze the virtues of each position, I think you stand a chance. If you want to change every crooked thing about the world with a few spare words, you don't have a shot. Your analysis on any given point isn't enough to convince a majority, and a majority won't want to alter every damn thing about their country overnight even if they could possibly understand the breadth of what you're suggesting. People won't believe you're even serious. Remember when people kept asking "what's your one demand?" and OWS replied sarcastically that it couldn't possibly limit its demands to just one? That's a problem, actually. Any one of those demands would take a huge shift to educate the country on and mobilize support over. If you try to pass off 50 demands that radically reshape their world without so much as a footnote in explanation, people won't even believe YOU understand the breadth of what you're suggesting, let alone be able to digest it all themselves. The world is changed by degrees, with blood, sweat, tears and discipline all along the way. With this list, you want to take a shortcut all the way to the end, and it's going to keep you from being effective in the limited, realistic ways you could be. OWS was born at a critical moment when financial problems were on minds throughout the world. It has a great deal of political will to work with. But unless and until OWS can discipline itself to become masterful at articulating a small number of concrete demands, it won't be effective at creating change.

[-] 2 points by AFarewellToKings (1486) 12 years ago

Your ability to speak and articulate is a gift. Thank You. Your thoughts here mirror exactly what theghostofthomassjefferson was saying to me many days ago:

[-] AFarewellToKings 1 points 1 week ago If you are the author of The 99% Declaration, then my thanks to you for the education. Perhaps you authored this as well? http://thedeclarationofdesperation.wordpress.com/ ↥like ↧dislike reply edit delete permalink [-] theghostofthomasjefferson 3 points 6 days ago No, I wrote the Declaration of Desperation. I believe the 99% Declaration is an ineffective document. The Occupy Movement will fail if it is adopted. For it will alienate the American People. This is not a question of politics, of right or wrong. This is a question of intelligence. We must be smart. We enjoy popular support, for now. But to preserve America's good will, we must keep our demands narrow: end the corrupting influence of money in politics. That is something a majority of Americans can get behind. That is something a social movement can achieve. And then, and only then, can the other issues be successfully pursued. ↥like ↧dislike reply permalink

He also said it was not a list of grievances it was a list of demands:

[-] theghostofthomasjefferson 1 points 1 week ago I am, of course, biased, but I believe the 99 Percent Declaration is an ineffective document. It is a list of demands, not grievances; and some of the demands are, rightly or wrongly, controversial and unpopular. The Occupy Movement must not alienate our fellow Americans needlessly. There should be one demand: the end of political corruption. It is the one cause members of both parties will support. ↥like ↧dislike reply permalink

Do you see how the two Declarations could be melded into one? What has to happen at the NGA to gain the support of the 99% and hold the 1%'s feet to the fire forever and a day?

BTW I read the wiki on the Suffolk Resolves of 1774 which helped me understand what's at stake here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffolk_Resolves

Apologies for the appalling amount of your time i request.

[-] 1 points by Silica (51) from Suisun City, CA 12 years ago

I think you're correct in that the large swath of demands being thrown about during the course of the OWS movement serve to alienate rather than incorporate. As well-intended as they may be, I believe that the list can actually be narrowed quite a bit. The resolution of several key issues would, I believe, help start us off on the road to solving our shared dilemma. Based on my observances I can actually narrow consistent OWS demands down to three items:

1) Get the money out of politics. This is the most vague of the three but also the most critical. The most popular suggestion seems to be publicly funded campaigns with little ($10-100) or no private contribution allowed from any source.

2) Reinstate Glass-Steagall.

3) Reverse Citizens United

[-] 1 points by AFarewellToKings (1486) 12 years ago

Thanks, I thought you might enjoy Sticks eloquent words, and i like how you point out that the 99% are just beginning this journey to solving the dilemma of the 100%. For the sake of all our children, fare well on the road to the NGA! July 4th, 2012, Philadelphia : )



[-] 0 points by marcelamejia (10) 12 years ago

Could you please help in delineating those things that are creating the corruption of the government? We can start by summarizing in simple english what and how the government is corrupted.

[-] 0 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 12 years ago

With friends like you who needs enemies? You strike me as a sympathizer as the result of a misunderstanding. There are lots of liberals out there who would love to capture our movement for the use of the Democratic Party in next November's elections. Sadly, were that to happen that would surely be the death of our movement as the Democratic Party has been the grave yard of every mass movement since the Populists.

I don't think you get it at all. Look at the top of this page. Right under where it says Occupy Wall Street. See What is says. It says The revolutioon continues worldwide! Do you think that's hyperbole? We don't and there is nothing revolutionary about passing a few pieces of legislation, changing the faces of a few people in Congress or even a Constitutional amendment.

Our tactiics are our cause. We are our tactics. Everybody can raise whatever slogan they want. Among my favorites are "Demands Put Somebody Else In Charge Of Your Happiness" and "Occupy Everything, Demand Nothing." We are in solidarity with the Egyptian revolution. Their movement is ours and ours theirs.

The health hazards of Zuccotti Park were an entirely phoney issue. There are health hazards all over the city, why choose it? In fact the Zuccotti Park kitchen had an A rating from the Board of Health. One of the most unhealthy things I saw for occupiers was NYPD cops beating the shit out of them. So it would seem that Bloomberg caused more health problems than he solved.

A physical occupation in a visible public space 24/7 is crucial to our movement. It provides a space that everybody knows about where people can go to find out about the movement any hour of the day or night. I have talked to passers by at 4 and 5 in the morning and had great conversations. More than that, the occupations are a model of the kind of society we want to build. Anybody who has spent a day or more at an occupation has found it a life changing experience. I am 68 years old and I have never been in a more open and loving environment where eveyone is treated as an equal whether you are a PhD or a junkie or just somebody displaced from the middle class. It provided a community for the homeless. It was a place to sleep. There was great food that cost whatever you wanted to pay and if you didn't have anything it was free. There was loving conversation everywhere and it was possible to develop intimate friendships literally in seconds. And it had a superb library and lectures and teach ins every day. And there is an occupation like this in every large city in the nation where the cops have not busted it. It is possible to go anywhere in the nation and find a place to sleep, something good to eat and real friendship. There has been nothing like it in this nation since the days of the Populists. I am not suggesting that the occupations are not problem free, but whatever problems there are are greatly inflated by the adversaries of OWS. On a few instances I have seen fights break out, usually because it is very difficult to integrate the chronically homeless into an egalitarian community. But in every instance the adversaries were surrounded by love and the situation de-escalated.

In terms of specific proposals we have one. It is called the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City and it is the only political document yet produced by OWS. It is short, easy to read and a great recruiting piece. It calls upon the people of the world to work together to build a truely just, loving and democratic society. It is available on this web site and elsewhere on the web.

As far as showing good faith to the authorities, they sure haven't shown any good faith to us in hardly any municipality in the nation, but then I personally don't expect them to since there job is not to serve and protect the 99%. There job is to serve and protect the 1% and so far they've been pretty good at it.

Our movement is not about jobs. In fact the only political statement we ever produced says nothing about jobs. And its not about corruption. It's not about putting new faces in Congress and its not about passing any kind of legislation. It's not even about passing a Consitutional amendment.

It's about building a new world. Won't you join us?

[-] 3 points by SticksCalliope (10) from Jersey City, NJ 12 years ago

If that's what OWS is about - no, I won't join. You have nothing to do with what's going on in Egypt, and I don't think they would associate themselves with you. They're under literal dictators and want the chance to change their society democratically. I'm suggesting you take steps to become more effective at changing your society democratically, since you already have a democracy. In addition, I don't subscribe to the Zuccotti Park model as being any kind of model for our society: a tiny sample of people are living off the charity of political sympathizers or their savings. This model could never survive if it spread. I believe in modern, incentive driven economics - that things cant just be free, or else no one will work. I believe in the basic legal structures that hold our society together, which includes property rights, like those which you are violating. If people who believe in those things are your enemies, you're going to accomplish exactly nothing in a democracy where the prohibitive majority of folks subscribe to them. Even if it would be nice to change the world that way, it's not going to happen. I would rather take small, achievable steps to make the world a better place than render myself ineffectual in the pursuit of utopia. You might as well be doing nothing at all in that case.

[-] 1 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 12 years ago

Representatives of the Egyptian revolution have been to Zuccotti Park. They extended their solidarity to us and invited us to send representative to Tahrir Square. The Zuccotti Park occupation, and most of the other occupations are not a model for our society. They are a model for a new, more just, more democratic, more loving society. 24 hours there would convince you of that. Whatever you believe, the fact is, OWS is a revolutionary movement. It is not in danger of being taken over by anarchists. On the contrary, its initiators were profoundly influenced by anarchist thought and those same individuals, while clearly a numerical minority, remain the ideologically dominant force in the movement, again, as 24 hours at Zuccotti, or even 2 hours at a Zuccotti GA would demonstrate. Nor is there any meaningful or signficant oppositon to this. People chear the most revolutionary of pronouncements. I think you would also see this with a careful reading of this website. I don't mean messages like this one, which come from all political directions. I mean the statements posted by the website itself.

There is a large group of nonrevolutionary moderates that do support OWS. However, they cannot agree among themselves on a program, much less present it in a coherent way to the GA. Ironically, in that sense, it is the radicals who are being much more practical.

We know this is going to be a very, very long haul. It will take at least years, more probably decades and perhaps several lifetimes. Patience is a revolutionary virtue. Solidarity forever!

[-] 0 points by entrepreneur (69) 12 years ago

Look, OWS is democratic protest, the democratic process needs to have GA every day to make progress, only way to do that is if the organizers stay in one place and not have to commute each day to get to GA. This is only possible if the core team gets to meet in one place to constantly evolve the protest ideas and plans until objectives are met. Can you (@stickscalliope suggest how else can these protestors stay together (not having to go back home and miss community duty). I wish you can understand what the occupiers are risking to stay in camp for the benefit of 99%. We owe them fortune of regards for putting up with hardship in those camps despite weather. Give support to #OWS setup winter medic camps, occupy run hospitals for our protestors...make this a success story rain or shine.

[-] 0 points by DownWithCorruption (0) from Sullivan's Island, SC 12 years ago

I think people are making too much out of lack of leadership. The fact that there is no one person in charge actually makes the movement stronger in my opinion.

[-] 2 points by SticksCalliope (10) from Jersey City, NJ 12 years ago

In what way? And, as a follow-up, does it make you more efficacious as well? I understand that a leaderless movement has the potential to attract many participants who can see anything they wish to in the goals and identity of the group - but without leaders, and faced with the many challenges of organizing a direct democracy into consensus, do you feel you are not at a disadvantage in affecting actual political change?

[-] -1 points by owsbump (0) 12 years ago

oh, guess I need comment?