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Why We Will Occupy
by Cliff Cawthon
All of us have a reason to go to New York City on September 17: to occupy Wall Street.
Between 2004 and 2008, over two million quality jobs were outsourced. Racial economic disparities mirror policing disparities. We have a 700-plus-strong (and expensive) network of military bases and a global war on terror. Pollution has firmly established itself as a cause of disease among poor communities.
This one action will not resolve all of these problems at once, yet, as in Egypt, it will be a political breakthrough moment—or as in in Spain, where tens of thousands of citizens began a direct democratic process to build a new movement for social justice. Where the earlier alter-globalization (a.k.a. anti-globalization) movement left off, we will pick up the slack with a flourishing new movement of movements.
Over Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and email, activists and disenfranchised people are having a virtual assembly 24 hours a day to cite each abuse of this economic system. In this conversation, every progressive measure that is necessary to fix our country and our world is on the table: ending corporate personhood, community control of localized economies, collecting corporate back taxes, community banking, progressive taxation, and a New Deal-style stimulus plan.
The action, organized by Adbusters, will be a camping action like the actions taken in Puerta Del Sol in Barcelona, Syngtama Square in Rome, Tahir Square in Cairo, and recently in Tel Aviv, Israel. All of these were non-violent actions. Non-violent direct action has been utilized in both reform movements (e.g. the Civil Rights Movement) and revolutionary situations (e.g. the 1959 Cuban Revolution’s own Che Guevara, who advocated direct action). A direct action is defined as the direct reclamation of power on a specific issue or campaign by a group of citizens, outside of orthodox political/ social channels of change or influence. This can be achieved by taking space without the consent of bodies of power, obstructing an institution that is perceived as hurtful—such as Wall Street.
Yes, this may be outside of what the authorities and experts may deem “appropriate,” but that raises the question: Why would we listen to our opposition on how to beat them? If politics is a game, then why aren’t we playing the game on our own terms? After all, the rules are constructed and artificial, but they are also created through a complex process—a process that is still in motion.
Our laws and our system are the result of a history of conflict between nations, peoples, and classes. However, this occupation is not a destructive act, such as the recent English riots or a global military campaign. This is a constructive act. We may hate Wall Street and perhaps even the Stock Exchange building itself; however, people live in New York City. New York City, like Buffalo, is a community like other communities that have been blighted by the systematic collapse of the financial system and economic injustice.
On September 17, we have the possibility to make a difference and fundamentally form our own demands and push bureaucrats and politicians to do right by us. As the organizers from Adbusters say:
The beauty of this new formula, and what makes this novel tactic exciting, is its pragmatic simplicity: we talk to each other in various physical gatherings and virtual people’s assemblies ... we zero in on what our one demand will be, a demand that awakens the imagination and, if achieved, would propel us toward the radical democracy of the future ... and then we go out and seize a square of singular symbolic significance and put our asses on the line to make it happen.
This is a simple, democratic, and efficient tactic for social change. There will be tents, kitchens, sanitary facilities, any kind of accoutrement that one would see at a concert. The questions we must ask ourselves, if we live in a democracy, are: Who controls our country? Are those who are in control doing a good job? The answers in order are: corporate executives, their lobbyists, and a Democratic-Republican axis; no, a 10-15 percent unemployment rate is not the sign of a good job.
Go to www.occupywallstreet.com and get involved. Also, there’s a Facebook event page titled “Western New Yorkers Occupy Wall Street” that’s organizing buses down to New York City. Join us…it’s about time.
> Cliff Cawthon, Buffalo
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