‘Occupy Wall Street’ started with a hand-full of people who gathered out of a common sense of need and frustration…not from some ideological purpose. This is a critical distinction that’s obviously been lost on most of our politicians, pundits and 24-7 news media…until very recently at least. Social and political movements emerge and evolve…they don’t just get born as fully-mature political agendas. How can our media be so naïve about how movements start and then mature? ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and other ‘Occupy’ events in other cities and now around the world are very diverse gatherings of people who agree on one thing only…government should be directed as a democracy, and not as a plutocracy!
Rosa Parks didn’t defy segregation laws with a set of laws she wanted passed…she defied them out of a sense of frustration and a need for justice. Think about it…the Montgomery bus boycott started as an act of frustration and exhaustion under the harsh and unfair treatment of African-Americans in the segregated South, not as an orchestrated, pre-determined political program. She just wanted to be able to set anywhere on a public bus.
She didn’t have political demands to be met…she didn’t have a team of lobbyists ready to push legislation…she didn’t have a media team and lots of cash to broadcast her actions across the country. She wasn’t sent by anyone, and her actions weren’t part of anyone’s master plan. She just wanted to sit anywhere on a public bus.
The expansive criticism that the ‘Occupy’ movement isn’t organized…and doesn’t have a clear message…and hasn’t set forth any legislation…appears to be an attempt to discredit an emerging and legitimate voice of a previously-silent segment of our national and now global society, just like many tried to silence the emerging civil rights movement. Every genuinely grass-roots movement starts with a gathering of like-minded citizens…most times because they are frustrated by a fundamental unfairness of some kind. After a group gathers from a common sense of need and frustration, it can start to develop a purpose…and then a political agenda.
Democracy works best when people gather in shared frustration, rather than pre-conceived and pre-packaged ideological beliefs. When people gather in frustration, they can share their stories with each other…they can appreciate the variety of ways others experience their shared problem…and then they can talk together about their similar and unique needs. When, on the other hand, people gather around a prescribed ideological belief, they can only share how their story proves a specific belief to be true…with no opportunities to amend the ideology with the uniqueness of their experience. Democracy must start with a gathering of diverse people who share a deeply-felt, common sense of frustration.
The ‘Occupy’ movement seems to be this kind of movement…with a belief that the 1% of wealthiest people in America and in the world have far more power and political benefits than the other 99% of middle-class and poorer families. And…more importantly, they believe our political systems and global financial system strongly favors the 1%. According to a poll a couple days ago, 54% of Americans apparently agree with this proposition, because they are supportive of the ‘Occupy’ movement.
A ‘plutocracy’ is a political system where its primary purpose is to protect the interests of the very rich as public policy is created. On our recent visit to Europe, we heard the histories, and saw the palaces and castles of past plutocracies…where the wealthy 0.01% ruled the 99.99% with absolute power…for centuries. The ‘Occupy’ movements give us an opportunity in this century to put a spotlight on the continuing trend of wealth accumulation by the already-rich…questioning how far is too far. Perhaps we’ll all come to recognize that we’ve already gone too far.