Occupy Wall Street: A Movement Of The People, By The People, For The People

The Occupy Wall Street movement is not about groups of people. It is not about gender. It is not about young kids who are too lazy to get a job, as has been a common misconception. Rather, it is about humanity. As Naomi Klein expressed in her speech at Liberty Square last week, the movement is about changing our culture and the values it holds. This is not just about corporate and government greed (even though a lot of it is). It is also about how we treat one another. As neighbors. As co-workers. As businesses. As consumers. As people.

A lot of people have dwelled on the fact that the movement does not have specific demands. But those people are missing the point. This is not about leaders taking charge and creating demands for the whole group, or more importantly, for the whole movement. Instead, this is about bringing people together, engaging them, and getting them to talk about their problems and what they think the solutions are. You cannot have demands without having given the public a time to discuss what their issues are. Even more importantly, so far the point has been to represent the 99% of the people that have either been invisible, ignored, or misrepresented for decades in the United States — all of us that have had to struggle to simply survive in this world.

Foreign Affairs published a good analysis of the movement calling it a “we are here” movement and comparing it to the women’s movement of the 1970s. I think it is great (and accurate) to look at this as a long-term movement rather than just a short-term protest.

Liberty Square, the park being occupied, is impressively organized with spaces allocated for a variety of activities: a library that anyone and everyone can check-out books from; a kitchen that offers food for all throughout the day; a water filtering system that is used for watering the park plants; a drum circle that starts early morning and goes late into the night (unfortunately something that has been irritating local residents); a sleeping space; areas to host public speakers and hold the daily general assembly; a media center; etc, etc. It is difficult to put the level of organization, and feeling of community, into words. What I found most interesting though, is the horizontal democracy in place. Many people do not understand the concept of a leaderless movement. But that is exactly what this is. In this space, everyone gets a voice. And no one voice is more valuable than another. The General Assembly, held daily at 7pm, provides a great demonstration of this horizontal democracy. Following an organized process and order of speaking, as well as a variety of hand signals, the general assembly is where decisions are made based on real group consensus.

I am struggling with what role I want to play in this movement. But there is no doubt that I want to be a part of it. Whether I want to be or not, I am already part of the 99 percent. As are you (more than likely). The question is: what are we doing for it? Are you making your voice heard? If you want to take part in the movement, even if just to show you support it, join the massive protest in Times Square, or in your local areas, scheduled for Saturday, October 15th. More details available at http://occupywallst.org. As Mahatma Gandhi said: “You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.”

(By the time this article is posted, it is likely that protesters at Liberty Square will have already been kicked out and/or arrested. If you want to show solidarity with the occupiers, make your voice heard today.)