I am fascinated by the Occupy Wall Street movement. I am impressed that it has remained peaceful so far and hope it remains so.
The protesters seem to be asking for some fairly reasonable things, as far as I can tell (granted I am usually reading pro-OWS material, and the anti-OWS, if it even deigns to exist, has been fairly silent, at least among sources I read). People want their education to be affordable and to mean something. They want jobs and affordable homes. It doesn’t sound to me like they are demanding to be the 1%, they just seem to want to not have to choose between rent, groceries, and medications (which makes me wonder what the Canadian protesters want). Protesters have a problem with a CEO being walked to his car with a multi-million dollar severance package while the company (which was just bailed out with public money) from which he has just been fired is laying off workers. I get that.
In trying to figure out what has brought America to this point, I have come to understand that the problem is that Big Business and Big Finance have a stranglehold on politics and therefore the economy. Because the 1% essentially finance political campaigns, there is a sense of accountability to them. I wonder if it would help to pass legislation forbidding trade unions and corporations from donating to political campaigns. If parties were forced to raise their funds by appealing to the grassroots, those obligations might be less skewed.
The idea that we should all, in the First World, have affordable education and safe housing and reasonable employment doesn’t seem that outrageous to me. Nor does a social safety net to protect those who are unable to protect themselves (not those who are unwilling, mind you). The problem, I fear, is that the system is so corrupt that it is rotten to the core, and only levelling the whole thing and starting from scratch could ever fix it. It strikes me that business and politics should be fairly separate entities – that politics should concern itself with law and serve the individual, and business should be a private enterprise that governs itself according to the laws of the land it occupies, laws which it should have no greater power to influence than the individual voter does.
It will be very interesting to see where OWS goes. Unfortunately, I don’t see it going too far – politicians, who are the ones with the power to do anything, are too afraid for their jobs to do whatever it will take to make it possible to meet the protesters’ requests (I won’t even call them demands). Big Corporate donors still have them all by the short hairs, and there is still enough brute force to keep the protesters from getting too unruly.
The movement is so far quite democratic. I expect though that continuing to ask politely is not going to get them what they want. It’s likely that only full-scale revolution could achieve that, but would be a worse idea. If they thought they had problems now, imagine what would happen if there were no rules at all.
Hmmm… now that sounds like the kind of story I always wanted to write. I am going to think more about that.