We both began supporting the broader cause and the intent to draw attention to the realization that capitalism had run amok when actions of the multinational corporations and big banks had led to the major economic collapse, causing one of the greatest recessions. And as if that was not enough, we the people had to bail them out, with our tax dollars, in order for us to survive. Say that again?? We all were confused, bewildered, scared, and we all came to see the great economic divide which all but rendered us powerless – until we discovered the power of solidarity, standing together. Further, taking our cues from the uprisings in the Middle East, Occupy Wall Street was born. Ninety-nine percent commands certain power to draw attention and demand change, regardless of the prosperity of the one percent, not to mention that many in the one percent camp rendered their support to the 99%. This was the power of us, standing united.
Heady with power, we occupied city after city, months after months. Some small businesses, in these areas, prospered, many could not operate as usual, generate decent revenue from honest work and provide jobs, cornerstone of requirements for us to prosper. There came traffic jams, causing disturbance and anxiety among the residents, in these areas. For the most part, protesters showed admirable restraint. And yet, some broke windows and vandalized businesses. Then came the confrontations with the cops. We needed to pause to think, since when did cops cease to be part of the 99%? There were heaps of garbage and debris that was often left behind after the confrontations with the cops. Cities had to intervene and divert meager resources to maintain order, restore peace, clear garbage, enable businesses to operate and individuals to go about their daily lives.
The movement that began by uniting the 99% was splintering with divisions, even as the gap between the 1% and 99% was growing wider, by all accounts. According to a report posted onDecember 5, 2011, by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a research and policy group that has 34 member countries, the gap between rich and poor has grown in most of the world’s major economies, and now stands at its highest level in 30 years. The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its widest amount on record and is now 14 to 1. My daughter and I had our first of many disagreements about OWS movement, after the confrontations between the cops and the students protesting against the fee hikes in academic institutions inCalifornia, taking their cues from OWS protesters.
I am making two simple points. She is young and emotional and idealistic and instead of seeing that in the broader picture, we stand together on the same side, she sees me as someone who is betraying the cause, as the going gets tougher. Sigh!! So here are the points I am making………..
– Although we got the inspiration from the protest movement in theMiddle East, our movement is a far cry from theirs where people were brutally suppressed. We always had and still have “pursuit of happiness” as our basic right and I concede that this pursuit is far more challenging without money but money does not hold the key to happiness, we do – legally. We are becoming a nation of whiners and we cannot instill any positive change, with negative tone. As yet, we have not heard any concrete goals or steps from OWS, other than whining. Ya…. Ya…. Ya….
– Can any society seek to introduce a change that sustains, without the 99% taking on their share of the responsibility? As yet, we have not defined our role in the events that led to the economic collapse and our responsibility in emerging out of it. So I concede again the role played by the greed on the Wall Street, the law makers who gave great latitude to them, and the unrealistic and unchecked optimism among them that refused to see and acknowledge the signs early on. However small our role, we too overextended, we bought homes we could barely afford, we spent recklessly, saved little, and invested unwisely. How hypocritical that we have not once acknowledged our role in the mess that we find ourselves in?
After having said that, I would say that I am completely on the side of the 99%. I don’t have answers and nor was this movement born to provide simple solutions, as my daughter says. This is truly people’s movement. Admirable qualities and strength of character is evident during this long-lasting movement. People have helped each other, cleaned garbage, shown restraint in joining vandalism, exercised great restraint against the heavy hand of the law, and more than anything, shown the tenacity and courage to show up and stay put, in solidarity. Point is made. Let us now take it to the next step, whatever it is. Let us define our role and take responsibility in the process, as we move forward.