Are Americans Ready To Occupy Wall Street?

The one political publication I look forward to receiving most every other month (I must include the “political” disclaimer because I have a lot of lovely friends who work at the fantastic South Dakota Magazine!) is Adbusters.

It does wonders for my mind, stretching it in directions that I’d never conceived of previously. I don’t necessarily agree with everything in it, but that’s part of the intellectual pleasure of perusing its diverse pages.

Adbusters describes itself as “a global network of culture jammers and creatives working to change the way information flows, the way corporations wield power, and the way meaning is produced in our society.”

In July, Adbusters put out a call for people to occupy Wall Street Sept. 17 and beyond to reclaim American democracy from corporate interests. I think even the most optimistic of us consider the effort a long shot, but how many other dreamers have been in the same position? Think of those in the Middle East who have gone up against totalitarian governments, those who fought for women’s suffrage, those who fought for civil rights, etc. All faced tremendous odds against entrenched and monied interests.

The thing I like about this event is its focus on non-violence, a use of participatory democracy to come up with “one demand” and its encouragement of creativity. Now, if only the Internet would magically disappear for a few weeks, this thing might just take off among the wider population. After all, the shutdown of the Internet apparently helped Egypt.

Here is a recent dispatch from Adbusters:

Hey you jammers, dreamers, patriots and revolutionaries out there,

Our occupation of Wall Street is less than two weeks away … do we have it together?

The perpetrators of the massive financial fraud have been allowed to slip quietly from the scene and continue business as usual. Our elected representatives in Washington have become so tightly intertwined with the financiers and bankers that public accountability has all but vanished.

#OCCUPYWALLSTREET is all about breaking up that cosy relationship between money and politics and bringing the perpetrators of the financial crash of 2008 to justice.

On September 17, 20,000 of us will descend on Wall Street, the iconic financial center of America, set up a peaceful encampment, hold a people’s assembly to decide what our one demand will be, and carry out an agenda of full-spectrum, absolutely nonviolent civil disobedience the likes of which the country has not seen since the freedom marches of the 1960s.

From our encampment we will launch daily smart mob forays all over lower Manhattan … peaceful, creative happenings in front of Goldman Sachs; the SEC; the Federal Reserve; the New York Stock Exchange … and maybe even, if we can figure out where they’re being held, at the sites of Obama’s private $38,500 per person fundraising events happening somewhere in Manhattan on Sept. 19 and 20.

Our strategy will be that of the master strategist Sun Tzu: “appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected.”

With a bit of luck, and if fate is on our side, we may be able to turn all of lower Manhattan into a site of passionate democratic contestation – an American Tahrir Square.

We will do all this with peace in our hearts. Our unshakable commitment to nonviolence will give us the spiritual strength we need to inspire the nation and to ultimately triumph in the weeks and maybe months of struggle that will unfold after September 17.

for the wild,
Culture Jammers HQ

Paul Farrell at MarketWatch provides some interesting analysis of the movement, which has yet to receive much widespread mainstream media attention.

This movement reminds us of the historic rag-tag armies General Washington commanded from 13 Colonies for the first American Revolution.

The new ones are also united in the spirit of the Tahrir Square revolutionaries: “One thing we all have in common is that we are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%,” according to posts on the Occupy Wall Street website .

Leaderless, yes. But now their real power comes in a new strategy: “one big swarm of people” challenging authority. They want their democracy back: “One citizen. One dollar. One vote.” Get the corrupting influence of money out of elections.

Bottom line: They want to eliminate “the greatest corrupter of our democracy: Wall Street, the financial Gomorrah of America.”

He continues later:

Listen closely. This is not another internecine political squabble. These revolutionaries are pushing America back to its roots. You sense they’re drafting a new Declaration of Independence, driven by the same powerful motivations as the 57 original signers who wrote: “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive … it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.” Back in 1776 King George III was the destructive force far away. Today greed is the corruptor, from within.

Ultitmately, Farrell thinks greed may be too ingrained in America’s soul for the larger populace to take up this cause with the conviction that would be necessary:

Americans are not Egyptians. We think short-term: Three days living it up at Woodstock. Two days in jail like the 842 recently arrested in Washington protesting the 1,700-mile U.S.-Canada pipeline. A one-day Day of Rage Million-Man March … but months occupying a Wall Street tent city? Questionable.

In the final analysis, this may be a bad case of “too little, too late:” Back in 1776 our original 57 revolutionaries also “had enough” when they signed the Declaration of Independence. They also risked everything, family, fortunes and lives. They actually had “one simple demand,” to be free of a tyrannical ruler, George III.

Today, the new ruler is greedy, corrupting democracy. But it’s locked deep in the American soul. Maybe they’re asking the wrong question: Not “Is America Ready for a Tahrir Moment?” Rather ask: “Is America Past That Moment, Buried Too Deep in a Culture of Greed to Change?”

If so, Wall Street wins, again. And America loses, again.

So what do you think? Are you on board to occupy Wall Street, if not physically then in some other meaningful way?


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