Separated at birth -- but joined in intent today.
In September, 2010, two entities came into existence: Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park on the East Coast and Walk Away from Debt, a book released on the West Coast.
A year and a few months later, a coalition of Occupy groups called StrikeDebt is encouraging people to combat debt by way of popular resistance... up to and including complete default.
Their credo "We are not a loan" puts a searing spotlight on the personal costs of being in financial bondage and makes the case for an economy where our debts are to friends, family and community and not to Wall Street.
It is no surprise that author Nicholas Carroll has a special affinity with the Occupy Movement and its fight.
On his part, and in his book, Carroll has been a single voice declaring that walking away from personal debt to big banks is not only a solution for people who are underwater, but almost a duty. He states, emphatically, "It's good citizenship."
Citing reports that show that in one calendar year alone, homeowners either declined to, or couldn't make, over $67BB in interest payments. Carroll sees these monies flowing back into the community instead of into bank vaults as a "stimulus package" of its own.
"This is a form of economic stimulus that goes to Main Street rather than Wall Street," Carroll was quoted in USA Today in 2011.
From fringe to front page
Over the succeeding weeks, months and past year, successes by Occupy, Carroll believes, have proven him no longer to be classified as a "fringe thinker," but as a visionary -- and the early occupiers as well.
He is an avid follower of the movement, and especially amazed by OWS's highly publicized "Rolling Jubilee" program, which has raised in excess of $472,000 to buy and abolish millions of dollars in debt for thousands of Americans.
"Brilliant and gracious," Carroll says, and adds, "More importantly, effective!"
"That's where the brilliance comes in -- Occupy has been enormously effective in changing American attitudes and redefining the morality of debt ... but Rolling Jubilee was the first thing I'd seen where concrete action was taken to turn off the spigot of money to Wall Street and redirect it to the people who live on Main Street," he declares.
Mirroring Occupy, Carroll gradually moved from being a radical outsider to becoming a serious commentator on societal ills and an important megaphone for those without a voice. He is no longer surprised when interviewers -- to quote one radio host -- question whether he is "either a patriot or a financial terrorist!"
On its part, Occupy hasn't left its "radical" roots so much as to consciously evolve as a thoughtful and compelling voice on the subject of banking and finance. Even as it racks up thousands of dollars in contributions weekly at its website so as to "disappear" upwards of $10,000,000 in consumer debt, it educates the visitor on the many sins of Big Business and Bad Government.
Did you know, for example, that 62 percent of all bankruptcies are caused by a medical illness? That one in seven Americans is being pursued by a bill collector? That the ratio of household debt to income is 154 percent? That there is a resource list to help people understand debt and link them to organizations dedicated to ending it? You will know that, and more -- once you visit their site.
OWS's famed organizational abilities
Carroll is also floored by Occupy's ability to respond and literally put together an army of activists when it sees a need that needs to be filled.
OWS demonstrated its "feet on the ground" capabilities in the work it has been doing in its "OccupySandy" relief efforts. Its ad hoc ability to feed long lines of people (remember Zuccotti Park?) has been put to good use there. In fact, OccupySandy was at the distress site even before the Red Cross and FEMA.
OccupySandy and StrikeDebt, using the organizational and social media skills and tools honed over the past year, have raised over $1,000,000 for these very different -- but equal -- projects.
When asked whether a certain percentage of Sandy victims would be better off "walking away" from their family homes and their communities, Carroll offers:
If the home is uninhabitable, yes. But, if it's a safe roof over their head, I discourage people from physically walking away from the home. It's those with deeply underwater mortgages -- that debt -- they need to walk away from.
Stay in the house 'rent free' as long as possible. It's good for you and it's good for the community, because abandoned homes can deteriorate incredibly fast without a homeowner looking after them.
For those of you wishing to know more about Nicholas Carroll and his book, you can go to www.WalkAwayFromDebt.com, listen to an interview on this subject here, or visit his blog at the Huffington Post.
Details on StrikeDebt can be found at www.StrikeDebt.org.