Occupying ThoughtsPosted: December 14, 2011
My thoughts on Occupy Wall Street have been brewing since September. Began this post on October 28th and it’s been sitting in drafts waiting. Today when I saw Time announce The Protester as its 2011 Person of the Year, I knew the time was ripe! I’ve always been a “The pen is mightier than the sword” (quote by everyone from Euripides, to Shakespeare, to Jefferson but Wikipedia gives Edward Bulwer-Lytton the last nod) type, so with great interest I watched OWS develop on Twitter, blogs, the news, etc.
One of the first blog posts I read was by Jeremiah Owyang, a well-respected web strategist I follow on Twitter, who visited the Occupy San Francisco camp to find out what it was all about. What I appreciated is that he went to research it; didn’t just take media coverage as gospel or pronounce judgement before visiting firsthand. He’s educated, employed and was trying to make sense of it in terms of his corporate background.
On October 28th, I’d just finished watching a LiveStream of the TedXPoynter event and following it on Twitter when I saw a tweet about Huffington Post hosting a live chat with Vlad Teichberg, a former Wall Street derivatives trader who’s now organizing Occupy Wall Street via Global Revolution TV. Very interesting! Intrigued, I listened and participated in the tweet chat. Tweeted the moderator, “So does Vlad think it’s about the economy; is it politics; is it general discontent over the status quo; is it democracy?
#OWS” The most interesting thing from that interview (linked above) was this quote which I tweeted, “This movement is not about a political party, it’s not about Wall Street; it’s about the unification of all of mankind.” ~ Vlad Teichberg. And here I was thinking it was about the systemic economic collapse we’ve experienced since September 2008 and its effect on our people, jobs, housing, future.
I read Christopher S. Penn’s Awaken Your Superhero blog, so was definitely interested in his take after his visit to the Boston camp. Reading blog posts from trusted sources is another way to learn besides just watching or reading news.
Then I got very busy in November working. (Yay!) Speaking of working, in late ’08, all of ’09 and some of ’10, I worked supporting a major financial institution and insodoing read more about the financial collapse than the average bear to arrive at ‘valuable insights.’ In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s everything you always wanted to know about the topic but were afraid to ask: Wiki on U.S. collapse, Wiki on world collapse, and a funny TARP segment from Jon Stewart.
Lest you think the situation is all just about big banks, large corporations and inept government, here are three true stories I’ve heard over the past month from family, friends and just sitting at Starbucks: 1) a woman (30% owner of small biz) got let go after 17 years by partner (70% owner who was going through a divorce and needed money to send child to college) with no severance pay; 2) a woman (49% owner of a start-up) went into business with couple (51% owners and money source) and once the business was running, 51% screwed other party down to 1% owner; 3) a small business owner say, “Frankly, I don’t give a sh*t if they do call us a sweatshop; that just means they couldn’t hack it.” (Not surprisingly, they have a real burn and churn reputation.)
No matter who you are, what you do, what race you are, religion you believe in or political party you ascribe to, everyone knows someone who’s been let go or treated unfairly in business in the past three years. So I’m not the least bit surprised by the Occupy Wall Street movement. I’m a writer at heart, not really an activist, but can say I wholeheartedly understand. What has surprised me lately is the response to it however; across the country these have been peaceful assemblies, yet people have been arrested and the police have used violence to break them up. Why? Doesn’t the Bill of Rights, First Amendment, …. the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances cover this? Yesterday on Twitter I found this blog post about a reporter who got arrested while trying to cover an event in NYC, whose last line is, “It shouldn’t work that way.”
So I excitedly read Time’s Person of the Year cover story today. First, I’d like to commend Time; it’s an excellent summary of the year’s protests around the world as democracy has taken hold in places it’s never been. As a U.S. citizen who lives in ‘the best democracy in the world,’ I noted: 1) It does a better job of describing protests for starting democracy in places like Egypt than it accepts the validity of protests as a part of our own democratic process; 2) As the world’s #1 democracy, with said Bill of Rights, disappointed it didn’t mention our Constitutional right to peacefully assemble without violence from the police / government. Seriously, if people want to camp out in parks around the country, what’s the harm in it? The current police response is fear based. Fear that if enough people band together over time it could spell real trouble. Time’s article reads between the lines: ‘You think it’s bad getting arrested here, try other places where you get killed.’ In reality people have been killed here, but they weren’t mentioned. What the article did well is communicate how people the world over have asked for change: real democracy, more equality, a voice in the process and a share of the wealth, while showcasing it in a reassuring historical context akin to ‘There’s nothing new under the sun.’ My favorite line from the Time article: “It’s impossible to beat and arrest hundreds of thousands, millions. We are not cattle or slaves. We have voices and votes, and we have the power to uphold them.” “We are the 99%,” according to the author linked here, is the best branding the U.S. has seen in a long time. You decide. Whatever your answer is, based on all the data above, do not expect this situation to ‘go away’ Americans (with a penchant for sticking our heads in the sand believing we’re something we no longer are in any way shape or form) by November 2012 or immediately after for that matter.
Something to meditate on: What if these protests aren’t just about democracy or power or money or economies or cyclical change? What if these protests stem from something bigger? There’s been much anticipation of 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar; some religious sects say it’s the end of days (spawning a really bad movie), the spiritual movement claims there’s a spiritual shift coming, and some astrologers suggest it’s a reactivation of planetary cycles from the ’60′s. But what if at its heart it all comes down to how we treat each other? What if it’s really about how human beings have treated each other since B.C. and collectively we’ve outgrown it and demand change?