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Emma Ruby-Sachs Headshot

What Occupy Wall Street Wants

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There has been a whole lot of talk about how the thousands of brave protestors occupying Wall St. have no clear demand. Funny, since this is just one more installment of a global movement for democracy that has taken over the entire planet -- you'd think the press would have caught on by now.

Almost a year ago, a revolution began in Tunisia and sparked a domino of uprisings across the Middle East. Their call was simple: end the dictatorship, usher in accountable government. Through occupation and all out war, countries in the Middle East attempted to topple leaders who clung to power despite representing the interests of the richest and most powerful to the detriment of the public good.

Months later, Europe exploded. Sit-ins in Spain and ongoing rallies in Greece protested economic policies that rewarded the richest 1% while punishing the other 99%. Then London and the surrounding areas erupted into riots: an expression of outrage at rising housing and food costs. Israelis established a massive tent city in Jerusalem protesting the same rise in the cost of living, and the government's stubborn refusal to pass laws that promote the common good and support the survival of the other 99%. Now, the United States and Canada have joined the fray.

Each and every demand in the occupy Wall St. protests and their kin relate to accountability. It is the latest in a global realization that our governments are held hostage by the rich and powerful, our laws and safeguards protect those rich and powerful rather than protecting the rest of us, and our leaders have no motivation to change the status quo.

Democracy is a word we throw around a lot, but it's not one that is very well understood. It's not enough to cast a ballot every four years. Democracy is a system of accountable governance -- a pledge that leaders will represent the interests of those they govern, will protect the weakest in society, and will steward collective resources (like our water and air) to ensure a sustainable future for all of us. It relies on a free press to help inform citizens of governmental action. It relies on freedom of assembly and movement to allow citizens to communicate directly with their representatives.

It is this pure notion of democracy that each and every protestor, from Tahrir Square to Wall St. is after.

So, it's not enough to study Occupy Wall St. as an American anomaly with a surprising lack of cohesion and a fascinating list of diverse demands. It can't be splintered off or explained away. This is the next phase of a global push for real democracy. And, given the poor state of democracy in the United States, it's no surprise cities are exploding with outrage, citizens are on the street, and a national movement has captured the imagination of the nation.

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