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Forum Post: Now What? Do We Believe This?

Posted 10 years ago on Sept. 20, 2012, 1:17 p.m. EST by VQkag2 (16478)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement


Andrew Lam

Author and editor, New America Media

The Occupy Wall Street movement began in New York last September and quickly spread around the country -- then, inevitably, in the age of instant information, the world. But just as quickly, it petered out.

Here in San Francisco, the protest began the same week the iPhone 4S came out and even at its peak, the number of protesters barely rivaled the number of those who stood in long lines at the Apple Store a few blocks away.

The same news cycle has returned a year later: The anniversary of the 99% against 1% movement coincided with the debut of the iPhone 5. While the headlines describing the Occupy movement seem discouraging: "1 year after encampment began, Occupy Wall Street is in disarray; spirit of revolt lives on," and "Occupy Movement: Spent after First Year?" the news for the iPhone debut was all rosy: "Apple: iPhone 5 pre-orders topped 2M in 24 hours."

On the other hand, noted USA Today, "As the last of its urban encampments close and interest wanes in a movement without an organizational hierarchy or an action agenda, it's unclear whether Occupy's first birthday will be its last."

Perhaps it couldn't be helped.

Critics and pundits alike said that there was no coherent demand, no collective goal. The movement slowly imploded instead by quarrels and quibbles that descended in many cases into fistfights and bottle throwing.

"What do they want?" network news anchors wondered aloud, their tone often a little incredulous, as if they're trying to understand some new games that rowdy children play.

On the far right, the voices were downright disparaging. Rush Limbaugh called them "spoiled brats" and last year's leading GOP presidential candidate, Herman Cain, dismissed them as being "un-American" and "jealous" of the rich. Bill O'Reilly even called them "socialists."

But this wasn't exactly a class struggle a la Marxism. One is hard pressed to find a placard that says, "Down with Capitalism, Long Live the Proletariat!" Such a sign would be in any case anachronistic. Besides, if they are socialists, then what do we call a government that bailed out private banks and automobile industries using taxpayers' money?

It was certainly far from being a revolution; it looked more like a collective revulsion at the wealthiest Americans, as the middle class watches its assets dwindle along with its fantasy of ever joining the ranks of the 1 percent.

What did they want? Their fair share, more regulation on a system that's seemingly rigged to benefit the super-uber-rich, a crash diet for the fat cats who own Washington and leave the rest far, far behind. They want the promise of opportunities and upward mobility, which now seem to have faded to the far side of the moon.

"Politics today is little more than money laundering and the trafficking of power and policy, fewer than six degrees of separation from the spirit and tactics of Tony Soprano," journalist and television personality, Bill Moyers, said during a keynote speech last year. "[Protesters] are occupying Wall Street because Wall Street has occupied America."

But as consumerism remains the rage, Main Street can't seem to do without her partner, Wall Street, even if the relationship is ever so lopsided, even if she is treated badly, battered and bruised like a long suffering spouse. Wall Street, even if temporarily occupied, bounced back quickly, strutting his stuff.

The Occupy Movement, alas, hadn't made a dent in the collective consciousness that could in time change policies. No discerning voting blocs emerged from the diverse crowd, and the left, long moribund and divorced from populist politics, struggles ineptly to harness the energy of the unrest.

Thus the Kardashian sisters continue to bicker on reality TV, and real estate magnate Donald Trump continues to fire his famous apprentices, and handsome bachelors continue to court voluptuous bachelorettes in opulent settings on our televisions nightly. We cry as poor, unknown singers find fame and fortune on stage in front of millions on shows like America's Got Talent and American Idol.

Of all of the signs on display at rallies in San Francisco last year, there was one that seemed to say something closer to the core of the rage. "Give us back our dream!" it said. After all, who wants to wake up to a stark new reality? Many among us, if we could, would be like Cypher, the character in the Matrix, who betrayed the rebellion as he preferred to return to the Matrix. Why? Reality, which Cypher had seen too well for himself, is a terrible, broken world.

In a sense, the 99 percent may bitch and moan about the economy and inept and corrupt politicians, but the majority of us couldn't tear ourselves from the old vision. We couldn't occupy anything but the couch nightly, after a long hard day to make ends meet. Marx, who thought religion was the opiate of the masses, obviously didn't own a flat screen TV and experience the power of America's fairy-tale-like commercialism.

In the meantime the country goes slowly underwater: The U.S. government in $16 trillion dollar debt. And an average American household is $117,000 in debt. Data from the latest census tells us that the dream is unraveling as millions of Americans are slipping into poverty at levels unseen in 14 years. One in four children -- or 16.4 million overall - lives in poverty.

Another 2.6 million people sank beneath the poverty line in 2010, rendering the number of Americans impoverished 46.2 million, the highest number in more than half a century.

The Occupy movement began as a rallying cry, but unfortunately it remained a litany of grief and failed to evolve into a coherent redefinition of America. It did not ask serious questions. The American Dream has been downsized; can we live with less? And if the bankers seduced us to buy a house beyond our means, packaging subprimes as norm, shouldn't we too take part of the blame for wanting to live in that grand home that was never within our reach in the first place?

The movement did not take ownership of America's new direction. It did not demand of itself as vigorously as it did of the state. Reform, after all, is both a national imperative and personal necessity. If our government can no longer do much for us, what can we do for ourselves, and for our neighbors, our country? If the government is inept, then the new movement needs to articulate a clear vision of an alternative. If disorganization and discord defined the occupiers, what chances do they have to bring change to the rest of the country?

Since World War II, the Ozzie and Harriet version of America was seductive, and so is the premise of endless expansion and ascendancy. But the exceptionalism that once defined us has become a deception. It is propaganda, like the self-esteem movement based on self-regard, rather than true achievement. There's no such thing as exceptionalism that lasts generation after generation in our turbulent world, especially without constant and honest reassessment and a national direction and project. Empires rise and fall at high frequencies these days.

So we are the 99 percent. And we are mad as hell at the 1 percent and a system rigged to favor the rich. All true. But now what?



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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Activists have choices.


  1. They can combine their efforts with their local PIRG to support FreeDA/MEI.

  2. They can combine their efforts with their local PIRG to create FreeDA/CES.

  3. They can combine their efforts with their local PIRG in 24 states to support FreeDA initiatives at the state level.

  4. And they can combine their efforts with their local PIRG to support FreeDA http://occupywallst.org/forum/freeda-template/ .

Support for any one of the four would make a major social difference for the better.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

Excellent ideas!

[-] 1 points by stevebol (1269) from Milwaukee, WI 10 years ago

What now? The same old thing- a new war somewhere, more expensive health care, who the f knows what's up with jobs, lower wages, more corruption everywhere.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

It's hopeless. We should all find a corner to crawl into.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago
[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

Yeah. We want action.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

general strike on election day\

no one should work on the day when they should be conscious of voting

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

Ok. but I think that is a national holiday.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

it is in many countries but not the US

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

The Presidential election is NOT a holiday?

I'm pretty sure it is. But I support your strike idea whether there is a holiday or not.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 10 years ago

Election Day (Presidential years or otherwise) is not a holiday in Florida. That's part of why lower-income people tend to vote on weekends, because they can't afford to miss work. Including black communities who often organize voting drives the Sunday before the election. Which is why the GOP is fighting so hard to eliminate voting on the Sunday before the election.

Here's a present for you. I promise you that you will absolutely LOVE this article. It will make you all kinds of angry but you'll love it. I promise.


[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

Already read it. excellent article.


[-] 0 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 10 years ago

FYI, that article makes me angry also, even though there is an "R" on my voter registration card that I really should change to an "I". And it was a major factor that led me to this site in the first place, a year ago. That's why I mentioned it in my first post.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

Well we're all very proud of you.

How is the GOP war on voting going.?

[-] 0 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 10 years ago

I suppose we'll find out about a month from now. Definitely had a lot to do with the Rick Scott thing in Florida.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

How many voters did he purge?

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 10 years ago

I don't really know but I'm pretty sure that he made a dent.

The guy never even lived in Florida. He showed up from out of state with a huge personal fortune that he made with a gigantic health care scam and somehow that qualified him to be our governor.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

The American way!

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

I have to get off my ass and get the college student governments to declare Elections a holiday

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

Good luck. great idea.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

all colleges have student government

and taking a day off school to vote is just about their issue and influence

further, such declarations can make the news

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago


[-] -2 points by SirJohnKnowsALot (-5) 10 years ago

Everyone should take so the streets on election day and protest the election itself. You should not vote, you should protest to show the government that you do not believe in this false "democracy" any longer and you will thus not take part in it.

[-] 1 points by NVPHIL (664) 10 years ago

You must vote if you want to make any lasting peaceful change. What we need to do is wake the populace up.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

bite me

[-] -1 points by SirJohnKnowsALot (-5) 10 years ago

The problem is Occupy spread it's wings to far. It should have stayed focused on its original message during the summer months, i.e. attacking corruption on Wall Street. Instead, it wanted to reclaim homes, it wanted to reclaim LGBT parades, it wanted to get money out of politics, it wanted to protest Obama, then protest Romney, it protested prisons, it protested the war, etc... These were all noble issues, but OWS should not try to be everything or else the energy is just spread and lost.

Occupy needs to go back to its roots which is the fight against Wall Street greed and corruption. It needs to go back to its anarchist roots, and occupiers need to stop wasting time talking about elections. Vote your conscience, Obama, a third party, or discard your vote. Whatever. Just stop talking about that and start talking about what protests we can do on Wall Street.

And, if you think OWS needs to go in politics, just create another group for that.

We saw what one cause can do in Montréal. There were so many people marching for schooling because that was the one issue. When the Québec protests started being about everything and when Jean Charest called the elections, then that movement died. The law 68 (anti protest Bill) remains in place, and it's still not clear what Marois will do for education costs. That protest suffered the same faith as occupy because it spread itself too far.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

You make good points. It's possible we may have had a better affect by focusing on one issue and excluding political entanglements.

I doubt it. I think the forces against change are so great any protest would be crushed. There is so much wrong and enough people to protest each issue.

Obviously we haven't found the right balance but we can. Each issue brings additional protesters to the larger movement.

As far as politics, I prefer we embrace all non violent tactics. We need an inside dunking game (reform the system) and an outside 3 pointer game (radical recreation).

We mustrecognize that both approaches offer value and in factcan feed off of each other.

Grow the movement, allow multiple growing movements to address as many issues as we can manage. Allow all non violent tactics, and all political persuasions.

The more people/approaches/opinions we embrace the more likely one of our issue oriented sub movements might hit onto some tactic that might work.

Diversity of thought, people. approach, perspective is our strength.



[-] -1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 10 years ago

I'm pondering the implications of the question, "Do we believe this?"

Anyway, what is there to believe or not believe?

[-] 2 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

Did you read the article?