Dee Ward Hock, the founder of Visa, years ago, commented,
"We are at the very point in time when a 400 year old age is dying and another is struggling to be born -- a shifting of culture, science, society, and institutions enormously greater than the world has ever experienced. Ahead, the possibility of the regeneration of the individuality, liberty, community, and ethics such as the world has never known... "
The OWS movement is being compared to the Civil Rights movement, the "answer to the Tea Party", etc. The Media and political pundits have tried to characterize those persons who have come together in a spontaneous and genuine expression of their feeling of betrayal and unfairness by "a system" that seems to be unresponsive and accountable to the problems millions of Americans are experiencing in their daily lives.
OWS is this decade's 21st Century mass mobilized reincarnation of the actor Peter Finch's role, as Howard Beale, in the 1976 movie "Network". As TV anchor in the film's UBS Evening News, he yelled from a window ""I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" OWS is telling us they are mad as hell at the inequities in our society and they're not going to take it anymore.
Bill Moyers in a recent speech honoring the life's work of Ralph Nader probably described the genesis of OWS better than most of what I have heard or read. He said,
During the prairie revolt that swept the Great Plains a century after the Constitution was ratified, the populist orator Mary Elizabeth Lease exclaimed:
"Wall Street owns the country... Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The [political] parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us... Money rules."
That was 1890. Those agrarian populists boiled over with anger that corporations, banks, and government were ganging up to deprive every day people of their livelihood.
She should see us now.
The President has raised more money from banks, hedge funds, and private equity managers than any Republican candidate, including Mitt Romney. Inch by inch he has conceded ground to them while espousing populist rhetoric that his very actions betray.
Let's name this for what it is: Democratic deviancy defined further downward. Our politicians are little more than money launderers in the trafficking of power and policy -- fewer than six degrees of separation from the spirit and tactics of Tony Soprano.
Why New York's Zuccotti Park is filled with people is no mystery. They are occupying Wall Street because Wall Street has occupied the country... Did you see the sign a woman was carrying at a fraternal march in Iowa the other day? It read: "I can't afford to buy a politician so I bought this sign."
In an earlier blog, I commented on OWS. Among those things I said was that the young people participating were the children of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. They decided to take to the streets to call attention to the fact that they, like Howard Beale, are mad as hell and are not going to take what's happening to them anymore. If they can prevent "agent provocateurs" and anarchists from hijacking their peaceful protest, we will all be indebted to them. I also suggested that it was important that OWS not become the partner of other like organizations who may share similar concerns and objectives.
The strength of OWS is its independence from either political party or their community organizational surrogates. Neither of the two major political parties publicly called attention to the rising poverty, income disparity, continued foreclosures, high employment, egregious unaccountable conduct of many bankers and the mountains of student loan debt many have accumulated. More importantly, neither party indicated a serious commitment to address those issues which sparked the public demonstrations of OWS.
To those former leaders of the Civil Rights movement who want to assert leadership over OWS in different parts of the country, my advice to them is let OWS "do their thing". As children of the legacy of Dr. King, what they have initiated is so much broader and commands a more diverse coalition of supporters than we were ever able to assemble during our work on behalf of Dr. King. For this we should commend and support them. However, we should not seek to direct them based on our 1960s Civil Rights leadership paradigm. OWS involves "different strokes for different folks", at a uniquely different historical time in our nation. We would be well advised to LISTEN and offer advice only when requested.
The former Yale Law School professor and author Charles A. Reich in his 1970 best seller The Greening of America was prescient when he wrote,
"There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual and with culture, and it will change the political structure only as its final act. It will not require violence to succeed, and it cannot be successfully resisted by violence. This is the revolution of the new generation."
Eight years later in "Soul On Ice", Eldridge Cleaver, former Black Panther party activist and writer, was equally prophetic, when he wrote:
"The white youth of today (talking about the 1960s and 70s) have begun to react to the fact the 'American Way of Life' is a fossil of history. What do they care if their old baldheaded and crew-cut elders don't dig their caveman mops? They couldn't care less about the old, stiffassed honkies who don't like their new dances: Frug, Monkey, Jerk, Swim, and Watusi. All they know is that it feels good to swing to way out body rhythms instead of dragassing across the dance floor like zombies to the dead beat of minded-smothered Mickey Mouse music."
Many of the youth participating in OWS have moved beyond the cultural constraints of America described by Cleaver.
It's not complicated. Our entire nation should be saying over and over to OWS: Thank you, thank you.