I find it personally very hard to understand how anyone could fail to sympathize with the Occupy movement, but I also understand why doubt and uncertainty hang in the air. As one pundit pithily remarked, "Everyone's waiting to see if this is a movement or just a moment." Movements fit a pattern that so far isn't the Occupy pattern. It has no leaders, no demands, no coherent vision, and no legislation to propose. Nobody is running for Congress on an Occupy platform.
All of this means that the powers that be have no pragmatic reason to come out vigorously for the Occupiers, even though more than 900 protests have been staged so far worldwide. In politics, what unites right and left is obviously opposed to these protests. Both sides share power, money, and elite privileges. Does that spell the end of the Occupy movement as soon as winter becomes hard enough and the police violent enough?
It could, of course. In terms of power, the Occupiers have none. They even lack the power of civil disobedience along the model of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Yet a secret influence may be on their side: a true shift in consciousness.
If you clear out the distractions, what the Occupy movement stands for is economic inequality. The 99 percent are grossly undervalued in society. There is injustice in the way corporate greed has been allowed to wreck the global economy at will, without fear of punishment. There is injustice in the way jobs have been undermined, a manufacturing base ruthlessly destroyed for the sake of corporate profits. This injustice doesn't affect simply the factory workers, farmers, and underclass who typically lead social revolutions. A small elite has stripped away bargaining rights, pensions, and job stability without a shred of conscience.
The result has been this push-back, feeble as it looks when measured against corporate monoliths. Yet there is another side. In countries like India and China, injustice is being righted. For the first time in history, the dispossessed and least powerful people in the world, amounting to billions of them, are finding a voice and a living income at the same time. The problem with this movement toward equality is that it is coming at the expense of rich countries. The prevailing attitude (not always supported by the facts) is that America loses whenever China and India win.
Yet if you stand back, the shift in consciousness is the same. Occupiers want social and economic justice, which is exactly what impoverished workers want in China and India. The specific issues aren't the same; at times they give the appearance of being total opposites. Both sides want more jobs, and when the same job is at stake, there will be a loser and a winner. When a rich country strives to end inequality, the playing field is obviously different from that in a poor country. Even so, the shift in consciousness is the same.
Michael Moore has circulated some practical action points for the Occupiers, none of which would come close to passage in the present political environment. But the first seven strike me as basic tenets of social justice, and if consciousness successfully shifts, they would serve as bellwethers of change. The seven points are:
- Eradicate the Bush tax cuts for the rich and institute new taxes on the wealthiest Americans and on corporations, including a tax on all trading on Wall Street (where they currently pay 0 percent).
- Assess a penalty tax on any corporation that moves American jobs to other countries when that company is already making profits in America. Our jobs are the most important national treasure, and they cannot be removed from the country simply because someone wants to make more money.
- Require that all Americans pay the same Social Security tax on all their earnings (normally, the middle class pays about 6 percent of their income to Social Security; someone making $1 million a year pays about 0.6 percent (or 90 percent less than the average person). This law would simply make the rich pay what everyone else pays.
- Reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, placing serious regulations on how business is conducted by Wall Street and the banks.
- Investigate the Crash of 2008, and bring to justice those who committed any crimes.
- Reorder our nation's spending priorities (including the ending of all foreign wars and their cost of over $2 billion a week). This will reopen libraries, reinstate band and art and civics classes in our schools, fix our roads and bridges and infrastructure, wire the entire country for 21st-century Internet, and support scientific research that improves our lives.
- Join the rest of the free world and create a single-payer, free and universal health care system that covers all Americans all the time.
Therein lies the best future for the Occupiers, that we reach a tipping point in global awareness. The signs are good so far. The Berlin Wall stood until the day a shift in awareness knocked it down. America's grossly unbalanced economic system stands equally firm, and although it doesn't have the Soviet army to protect it, the attitude of corporate greed, political corruption, and elitist privilege serves just as well. That the Occupiers lack leaders, legislation, and political candidates is irrelevant. What they have on their side is truth and a sense of justice. A society that cannot pay attention to those things is by definition an unjust society and deserves to decline. In terms of raw power, the Occupiers have lost the battle in advance. But in terms of a future that rights wrongs, they are the living spark of our national conscience.
For more, visit deepakchopra.com.