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Projecting Wishes and Dreams onto the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Guest Blogger: Joan Ruaiz

Initially, the Occupy Wall Street movement was ignored by the corporate media. The networks and cable outfits figured that perhaps after a few days, the movement would simply go away. But it didn’t, and in fact, the movement gained more sympathy than scorn from various factions for different reasons.

It’s been almost humorous watching the media insist that OWS needs to “define” itself in order to “achieve” their (unstated) goals. They need to have a list of clear demands, news anchors on the six o’clock news bellowed. But once again, the corporate media misses the obvious mark. For one, “Occupy Wall Street” is a moniker that speaks for itself. No explanation is needed, if one reflects on the current turmoil that our nation is experiencing. In a Twitter-oriented society, it helps, not hinders, to label a movement with a general descriptive tag that is short and inclusive.

It is not a mystery that there is a general consensus that Wall Street’s gains have not alleviated the misery of those on Main Street. “The 99%”, which is a self-conferred name, has also provided a connective link to the general public. What could be so wrong about a movement that calls itself the overwhelming majority? After all, most folks know doggone well that they aren’t part of the 1%. So both the name of the movement as well as that of its participants have allowed a visceral kinship to ordinary Americans without even trying, something the media doesn’t quite yet comprehended. The OWS’s truth in labeling is its connective strength that could be key to its eventual success, however that success materializes.

Also, the recorded acts of police brutality perpetuated upon the young, peaceful protestors certainly helped foster public sympathy early in the movement’s plight. As YouTube provided visual footage of inexplicable police action against peaceful protestors, that pitiful sight allowed a large segment of the public to side with the defenseless. This has always been the case in prior successful movements. Americans who might have otherwise paid no attention realized that the young women being pepper sprayed could be their own daughter or granddaughter who showed up to protest their lack of finding a job after graduating from college. These events had an impact.

Simply put, the Occupy Wall Street Movement is Americans’  individual calls of shame on corporate greed, but done collectively. It represents the frustrations of millions of Americans who did everything right, but have been forced to realize that their hard work no longer brings with it the promised spoils of the American Dream. It is the father whose job was shipped to China while he watched a padlock put on his castle, now only one among millions of foreclosed houses. It is the teacher who dreamed of working on his long-yearned-for though ill-paid passion, only to be demonized and given a pink slip. It is the tale of a young college graduate who sacrificed to attain a degree and, saddled with massive student loans, is unable to find work in her chosen field, or perhaps any work at all. It is the young war veterans coming back to barely nothing. Or the owners of small businesses whose efforts were nullified for not being able to secure credit to weather the current business downturn.  These and others scenarios are the diverse tales of 99% of us, those who aspire to achieve and yet have been let down at every crossroads.

Interestingly, there are various diverging interest groups who seek to mold this burgeoning  movement into their own image. There are the Ron Paul supporters who mistakenly believe that they share a common link with the OWS, simply because it is a movement that isn’t positive towards the accepted status quo. They ignore that many in the movement are demanding more financial regulations, not less, that the unemployed within the movement want stronger social programs to assist those hit hardest, not weaker ones. They don’t get that the  protestors don’t care as much about the budget deficit as they do about the apparent compassion deficit.

Meanwhile, the Tea Party supporters selfishly want to believe that this OWS movement is against the government, when it really isn’t.  OWS protestors actually are demanding more governmental intervention in reigning in corporate greed, not a system of laissez-faire “free” markets where only the strong survive. In contrast, the Republican establishment has already explicitly denounced the movement as nothing more than a mob of irresponsible idealists who are demanding something for nothing. But as the GOP mouthpieces lob insults at these protestors, privately they pray that this movement will hurt the Democratic Party, as the 1968 Chicago DNC riots once did.

For its part, the Democratic leadership hopes that this movement will help them gain popular support for their own proposed policies, although deep in their hearts they understand that they are offering less than enough.  They are fully aware that the dysfunction of Congress, made even more polarized by the results of the 2010 election, will not allow various proposals to even see the light of day, no matter their moderation.

Then there are the extremists on the fringe whose wish is a third party movement that shouts “a pox on both houses”. These folks envision their movement as the American Awakening that ends America as we know it. They demand nothing short of the entire  system being turned on its head; a revolution, so to speak. Unfortunately, many of the 99% don’t have the luxury of waging a full-blown revolution, and many more understand that fighting for such a thing won’t necessarily translate into victory, however much it should.  And the folks of no party, always dissatisfied with everything, going way back , don’t see that many of the protestors are seeking workable solutions that can be implemented effectively and immediately. They are already tired to death of waiting.

As I see it, the protestors have made themselves clearer than most of these interests would want to accept. The 99%, themselves, assert:

“We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.”

That statement tells us who these protestors are; they are all of us who sadly realize that the American Dream is dying an undeserved death at the hands of the 1%, who could not care less. I recently read an internet comment that crystallizes why the Occupy Wall Street movement is far smarter than the powers-that-be credit it. It read:

The beauty of the “TAKE OVER WALL ST” protest is that it is a “LEADERLESS” movement. In other words, there is not one single person that is the face of it. In this way the propaganda machine has no one to focus its venom. Limbaugh, Hannity,  and the rest of the pimps of propaganda are at a loss to get someone to target. In this way, the protest is pure patriotism. Conceptually, this is genius! Those people interviewed point to no one leader of this protest. Whoever came up with this is brilliant!”

And for those who fret and debate whether this movement will eventually help the Democratic Party, or specifically President Barack Obama, I will quote an observer who simply stated:

“I don’t think Obama needs to endorse this. From what I’ve seen, the OWS protestors aren’t all that interested in having the president endorse it. I don’t blame them. It is a grassroots movement that is alive and organic and is growing all by itself. While supportive words from the president might make attendees feel good (and he has given supportive words) I don’t think that anyone truly believe they are even the slightest bit necessary. They are protesting something that they believe in. That’s really the only thing that matters.”

We should resist corporate media’s attempts to define for us what this movement is about, or even which political force it may help.  The media would like nothing more than to be in full control of this phenomenon, and they won’t stop trying any time soon.  Furthermore,  although most of us are the 99%,  even that doesn’t mean that, as individuals, we’ll get to dictate where this  movement  goes or what it will do.  What’s reassuring is that it appears that the values of the OWS movement are based on a common goal of making the nation better at managing the collective general welfare.  In other words,  it is a protest movement which generally demands the betterment of this country, and that is what may make the difference;  it is urging us to move toward something good for Americans… or at least for 99% of us.

Also found at Democrats for Progress

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October 12, 2011 - Posted by | Budget, Economy, Financial Reform, Tax Cuts | , ,

6 Comments »

  1. Ultimately, though, the OWS/99 movement will have to manifest itself into some kind of political action if it is to avoid the fate of all such similar movements that have faded into the history books as another sound-n-fury-signifying-nothing movement.

    My chief concern is that there is a core group of people at the heart of this movement who believe that the mere act of political action is corrupting and therefore to be avoided. If that becomes the operating principle of the entire movement then I am afraid it is doomed to failure.

    All movements eventually must translate into political action. Maybe not immediately. But soon.

    Comment by Chris Andersen | October 12, 2011 | Reply

    • Eventually, it will have to become political. I agree with that.

      Comment by hockley | October 12, 2011 | Reply

  2. What is it they are trying to accomplish? This protest is very vague as to it’s purpose other than to protest. In the 60′s it was end the war now are they saying shut down Wall Street?

    Unfortunately it will become political as everything does.

    Comment by skudrunner | October 12, 2011 | Reply

    • skudrunner, becoming political is not an evil event.
      protesting is a constitutional right, and it speaks for itself.

      Comment by hockley | October 12, 2011 | Reply

      • A Houston Chronicle writer went into the crowd at Occupy Houston over the weekend and found many persons there from the mainstream, from both the left and the right. One was a well dressed man who said he was a small business man. He said, “Capitalism isn’t the problem…it’s being destroyed from within”. This pro-capitalist demonstrator told the reporter, “This is being perceived as a liberal gathering, but the problems the Occupy Movement is spotlighting run deeper than politics.”

        Paper isn’t up online yet but Daily Kos got a hold of the paper edition.

        http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/12/1025612/-Houston-Chronicle-business-writer-Loren-Steffy-gets-the-Occupy-protests?via=tag

        Comment by grantinhouston | October 12, 2011 | Reply

        • Yes, they so. William Buckley once said: “the problem with capitalism are capitalists”. There is a lot of truth in that.
          It goes some way toward describing “OWS/ we are the 99%”. The problem is: how do you manage capitalism in such a way as to prevent it from destroying itself?

          Comment by hockley | October 12, 2011 | Reply


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