Wall Street Protests: Dream A Little Dream

People lack imagination.

That’s what I think every time I hear criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in mid-September.

I wrote about the occupation in the days before it came to be, because I hoped it would succeed. So far, I believe it has.

But instead of a simple message, instead of carrying guns around, instead of being funded by corporate interests, this movement has chosen to be organic. There are no chosen leaders, no chosen message, no barely beneath the surface racism and no reliance on the threat of physical violence. (I think you know what I’m getting at).

People along the whole political spectrum can agree that America has a lot to work on, and I even think there are many things those various viewpoints could agree on as problems and solutions.

But with almost all of this nation’s wealth accumulated among a very few people and a political system that does the bidding of those few, we are stuck. We’ve become increasingly stuck since the 1970s.

Many of the 99 percent referred to by the Wall Street protesters have been so immersed in the political and economic constructs of the ruling class that they have a hard time imagining something else, something better.

That is why Occupy Wall Street has been so inspiring to me personally. These people are not afraid of imagining a different world and working toward that end, even if they aren’t quite in agreement as to what that end is. I hate to put words in their mouths, but I think a main general aim is to end corporate greed and political corruption.

I love how they have an open, participatory and horizontally organized process to govern their actions. It’s called democracy, it’s very messy and some people apparently find it very scary.

I have no idea where this movement will go. It is spurring similar protests around the nation, and is even tied into a worldwide movement.

But that’s the beauty of people getting together and dreaming. It is the beauty of breaking out of the prisons we erect in our daily thought processes and imagining something different, something better.

This may all fall apart like most dreams. Or it may lead to changes in the real world.

Let’s hope for the best.

I’ve been doing some reading, of course. Here are some interesting things I’ve found lately:

What we are seeing right now in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan (and even in new spots around the country) is a new kind of protest. The collective organizers of Occupy Wall Street are shaking up our conceptions of leadership and social action. A carnival-like atmosphere has arisen just across from the giant Harry Helmesley sign and that one street cart with the really good falafel and it has no signs of going away soon. The real question is how the people behind this very successful protest can turn their movement into everyday gains for the tens of millions of Americans who have been crushed by the downturn. The answer likely lies in a handful of important activists, organizations, and sympathizers who have helped make everything from food to funding happen for Occupy Wall Street participants–knowingly or otherwise, they’re a new kind of leaders for a leaderless movement.

Read the rest of this story from Fast Company here.

The party’s over. The national delusion that began 30 years ago with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan has run its course. Free trade, competition, innovation, entrepreneurship, market driven, bottom line, laissez faire, deregulation, privatization, mission statements, strategic plans, value added and all the other gibberish that was meant to save us has brought us to where we are today.

Three decades of sweet buzzwords and brutal economics fostered by a media that thought “free markets” were required by the Bill of Rights have left America broken, busted, and bitter.

That was by Sam Smith at the Progressive Review. He is a constant source of inspiration for me. Read the rest of “The Party’s Over” here.

Contrary to the Wall Street propaganda, Wall Street is a job killer, not a job creator. Wall Street banks and corporations have no interest in creating jobs, educating American children, or assuring that Americans have health care and retirement security. They appeal for ever more tax breaks and regulatory relief only to have yet more money to use as they used their taxpayer provided bailout: to increase executive bonuses, pay dividends, buy other companies, buy back their own stock to increase the value of their stock options, buy political favor, create new financial bubbles, and outsource yet more jobs.

America is far from broke. Our problem is too much money in the wrong places.

Wall Street cloaks itself in the American flag to gain public favor, but offshores its profits to avoid paying its share of America’s upkeep—leaving it to the “little people” to pay for the public infrastructure on which Wall Street profits depend. Its relationship to America is that of an alien occupier who comes only to extract, not to build.

That’s David Korten at Yes! Magazine.

The latest group to claim victim status is the rich. Actually the super-rich, whose wealth ordinarily exempts them from pity. While they are not yet subjected to airport profiling (except for early boarding and club access), they sense that the public is turning subtly against them — otherwise how could President Obama propose raising their taxes?

Admirers of the rich, led by pundits and politicians on the right — from Laura Ingraham to Larry Kudlow — have long derided the victimization claims of African Americans, women, gays and the unemployed, but now they’re raising their voices to defend the rich against what they see as an ugly tide of “demonization.”At a time when poverty is soaring, unemployment hovers grimly above 9 percent and growing numbers of Americans suffer from “food insecurity” — the official euphemism for hunger — this concern may seem a tad esoteric.

At a time when executive compensation is reaching dizzying new levels and the gap between the rich and everyone else is growing as fast as the federal deficit, it may even seem a little perverse.

That little number is the intro to a piece by Barbara Ehrenreich at The Washington Post.

Here is a piece from Amy Goodman on police brutality:

The Occupy Wall Street protest grows daily, spreading to cities across the United States. “We are the 99 per cent,” the protesters say, “that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1 percent.”

The response by the New York City Police Department has been brutal. Last Saturday, the police swept up more than 700 protesters in one of the largest mass arrests in US history. The week before, innocent protesters were pepper-sprayed in the face without warning or reason.

That is why, after receiving a landmark settlement this week from the police departments of Minneapolis and St Paul, as well as the US secret service, my colleagues and I went to Liberty Square, the heart of the Wall Street occupation, to announce the legal victory.

And, finally, an excerpt from a story from Reuters:

One of the hallmarks of the protests has been the relative lack of violence. Aside from the arrest of 700 people on the Brooklyn Bridge last Saturday and some use of pepper spray by police, the uprising has been relatively tame compared to the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999 or the Free Trade Area of the Americas protests in Miami in 2003.

“There’s a lot of naive idealism happening, what’s wrong with that?” said Jeremy Moss, 41, a mental health counselor from the Bronx who lived in Seattle during the WTO riots and said this felt different.

The movement has prompted marches in cities across America and has garnered sympathy in some unexpected places.

A top U.S. Federal Reserve official said the protests were an understandable reaction to persistently high unemployment.

“I am somewhat sympathetic – that will shock you,” Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said on Thursday. “We have too many people out of work for too long. We have a very frustrated people, and I can understand their frustration,” he said.

The head of the finance arm of General Electric Co, which needed Washington’s help to survive in 2008, said he too was sympathetic. “If I were unemployed now, I’d be really angry too,” said Michael Neal of GE Capital. “There are a lot of unhappy people right now and there’s not a lot going on that gives you much reason to be inspired.”

Georgetown University history Professor Michael Kazin, an expert on social movements as an academic and as a protester himself since the Vietnam war days, says the protests are evocative of those in the Great Depression.

“This is like some of the protests in the 1930s, which started … with protests about joblessness and was then funneled into the rising labor movement,” he said, noting that now, like then, students, intellectuals and union workers share the same basic goal – a good job.

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