The thousands of individuals currently inhabiting Liberty Square for the Occupy Wall Street protest have succeeded in garnering enough attention to force the following question upon our nation: "What exactly are they doing?" Those protesting would probably have a tough time agreeing on a well-made, media-friendly, singular objective; and therein, oddly enough, lies the impressive, hidden, and unifying strength of this protest. Occupy Wall Street is asking for sweeping reform of an entrenched system, and this is something that nearly all Americans support, whether they will admit it or not.
An easy way to dismiss the relevance of Occupy Wall Street is to label it as a bunch of unemployed kids with no clear-cut agenda shouting, "Grr, money bad!" This is not the situation. Young New Yorkers don't need to sleep in a park to complain about being broke; they have bars in Astoria for that. Some people say that the protestors are only undermining their cause by not having a clear mission statement. But that may not be true, either. In fact, Occupy Wall Street may expose the Achilles' heel of many other civil protests. Occupy Wall Street has no repeated cheer to stop coal mining, or to grant civil rights, or even to end a war. This protest cannot be boiled down to a simple soundbite because this protest is ambitiously seeking a complex, fundamental, philosophical change in the social, political, and economic infrastructure of our country. (Try feeding that line to Katie Couric before she goes on the air and see what kind of terrified, vacuous stare you get in return.)
A change in the way our country operates cannot fit into our poor excuse of a national media, nor can it be easily pitched by televised pundits. Furthermore, if a seismic economic shift occurred wherein our citizenry found itself to be financially empowered, it wouldn't start with a $100 million presidential campaign; it would start with something that resembles Occupy Wall Street.
The strength of Occupy Wall Street lies in the ambiguity of its mission. There is no laundry list of specific, unreasonable, and untenable demands. There is only the demand for change. Change of, by, and for the people, enacted by our elected officials. If the powers-that-be respond with absolutely nothing, then it is clear that they will never, ever be interested in effecting substantial change of our financial system, no matter how strong public support may be.
On occupywallstreet.org, the closest thing you will find to an official mission statement is this:
Our nation, our species and our world are in crisis. The U.S. has an important role to play in the solution, but we can no longer afford to let corporate greed and corrupt politics set the policies of our nation.
Now, if you don't believe that statement to be true, you are either on the payroll of an organization with a politically-biased agenda... or you're no longer reading this due to a lack of funny cat photos. This statement reflects a sobering reality of 21st century America, whether we like it or not. And this watershed moment in our culture brings us the unprecedented opportunity to truly evoke change if we all agree that this reality is a problematic one.
This titanic call for a fundamental divergence from the status quo is supported, in theory, by voters from all across the political spectrum: Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Green Party members, and even those who consider themselves Tea Party Republicans. If you, as a voter, support someone who has spoken out against the corruption of Wall Street, then it should be clear to you that your politician should be supporting this protest. If your politician doesn't support this opportunity for a powerful sea change, then it should be clear that your support is going to a facile, manipulative, deceitful, and morally transparent politician who only desires power and a luxurious lifestyle at the taxpayer's expense.
If Minnesota congresswoman, and GOP presidential hopeful, Michele Bachmann, truly believes that "... Congress must protect the taxpayers, instead of handing out favors to Wall Street" then she should be supporting Occupy Wall Street.
If Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell truly believes that "We cannot allow endless taxpayer-funded bailouts for big Wall Street banks," then he clearly understands how corrupt our financial system is, and he should be supporting Occupy Wall Street.
If Ron Paul truly believes that "Wall Street has the strings on Washington and they pull and do what they want and that's where the corruption is" then he should be supporting Occupy Wall Street.
If President Obama truly believes that Wall Street is only acceptable "when there are clear rules and basic safeguards that prevent abuse, that check excess, that ensure that it is more profitable to play by the rules than to game the system," then he should be supporting Occupy Wall Street.
I know Ralph Nader truly believes this stuff, but I don't know where the hell he is right now. Ralph is probably reminding some disgruntled grocery clerk that Gore couldn't even carry his home state of Tennessee in the 2000 election.
Occupy Wall Street is a unique situation where many different political party members can finally agree, fully and honestly... but only if they truly believe in the rhetorical principles that they've been spouting. If the Tea Party is serious about returning power to the people, then they need to come together with the liberal Democrats on this. The Libertarians also need to be representing their stance by getting into the mix.
How many people lost tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in their 401(k) funds over the last three years? With the recent financial crash and stories of banks successfully executing illegal foreclosures, the average citizen should know by this point that the system is not going to protect you. Our current financial system must cannibalize a majority of its participants in order to continue its own unsustainable growth. This should terrify every taxpaying citizen who doesn't have the comfort of large investments that can be easily liquidated or a solid financial support system. The truth is that most Americans are one lay-off, one bank error, or one instance of corporate malfeasance from financial ruin. This We Are The 99% link tells a story that is becoming more and more common every day.
If you're still not sold on the complex, organic and philosophical tenet behind Occupy Wall Street, then perhaps you'll be more open to Noam Chomsky's take:
Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street -- financial institutions generally -- has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world). And should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power. That has set in motion a vicious cycle that has concentrated immense wealth, and with it political power, in a tiny sector of the population, a fraction of 1%, while the rest increasingly become what is sometimes called "a precariat" -- seeking to survive in a precarious existence. They also carry out these ugly activities with almost complete impunity -- not only too big to fail, but also "too big to jail."
The courageous and honorable protests underway in Wall Street should serve to bring this calamity to public attention, and to lead to dedicated efforts to overcome it and set the society on a more healthy course.
If you do not believe this statement to be true, I feel that it's my duty to inform you that you're missing a Shake Weight infomercial right now.
Many Americans say that they are sick of the benefits, financial breaks, and social power being handed over to our country's elite, wealthy oligarchy. If we believe this rhetoric, our own rhetoric, then we need to believe in the spirit of this protest. And if we believe in the spirit of this protest, it's time that we, the people, ask ourselves if we truly believe that a fundamental shift of power from the hands of the few into the hands of the many is even possible in our media-saturated world of cynicism, learned helplessness, corporate politics, and grotesque, puppet media.
The questions now arise: do you really think it is possible to wrestle away the disproportionate amount of government influence currently held by corporations that care nothing for the individual worker upon which they rely? Do you think it is possible to sever the connection between our elected leaders and corporate financiers? Do you truly think change is possible? Because if you do, then you share something very strong and very special with those who are currently involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement; you share something that cannot be boiled down to an easily digestible sound byte that will be scrolled along a CNN ticker. You share a common belief in a complex philosophy and a noble direction for the future of the United States of America.
This protest may fizzle out tomorrow, it may gain more traction, it could turn into a riot with a harsh media, political, and police backlash. However, if this protest can garner attention and foment the type of change that would dissolve the undeniably repugnant bond between our financial industry and our government; the average American citizen (all 300 million of them) would emerge victorious, regardless of race, creed, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.
Such an overhaul would be the biggest, most ambitious, social reform of any financial system in our nation's history. It would also be one of the most amazing accomplishments led by a living, unified, and citizen-driven democracy in the history of mankind.
Honestly, I wouldn't expect anything less from the United States of America.