Over the last 30 years, the 1% have created a global economic system—neoliberalism—that attacks our human rights and destroys our environment. Neoliberalism is worldwide—it is the reason you no longer have a job, it is the reason you cannot afford healthcare, education, food, your mortgage.
Neoliberalism is your future stolen.
Neoliberalism is everywhere, gutting labor standards, living wages, social contracts, and environmental protections. It is “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” It is a system that ravages the global south and creates global financial crisis—crisis in Spain, in Greece, in the United States. It is a system built on greed and thrives on destabilizing shocks.
It allows the 1% to enrich themselves by impoverishing humanity.
This has to stop!
We must usher in an era of democratic and economic justice.
We must change, we must evolve.)
With this, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) launched a national “Occupy Uprising.” While the impressive formulation more or less describes a Distributist critique of the current economic system, what exactly is Occupy Wall Street? It is a spontaneous grass-roots movement, which is on the one hand its strength and on the other its weakness. Its origin as a spontaneous grass-roots movement is clear from the crowds it draws: Democrats and Republicans, working class people, veterans, and retirees; everyone but the top 1% the conservative talk radio personality Rush Limbaugh defends, but then again, Rush has always been an establishment mouthpiece who simply has the gift of “entertaining.”
It is no surprise, however, that the wealthy—who have no concept of what it is like to work—shockingly have nothing good to say about OWS. “If you’re not rich, blame yourselves,” was the response from Herman Cain, former Federal Reserve tycoon and 2012 presidential hopeful. Indeed, this response is a clear example of what some do not understand about the spirit and motivations behind OWS. The protestors are not mad because they are not rich, but because they can’t subsist. They stand against giving away their hard-earned money to the likes of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Ben Bernanke, and the financial firms on Wall Street.
Protestors have also shown an amazing and resilient adaptability. They have randomly, yet efficiently, managed to set up a cafe with free Wi-Fi, manage trash and clean up their New York City park headquarters with environmentally safe cleaning products to address the city’s concerns. To someone like myself who has witnessed out of control riots in the United States and Europe, or has watched the Greek riots and the London riots streaming on the Internet, this is quite impressive. What we are witnessing is common and hardworking people demanding not wealth, but subsistence, and the pleas of OWS protestors have taken Occupy protests nationwide. On 15 October every major city had occupy movements moving in, waking up the masses. OWS is also hitting countries as far away as Thailand. In a word, this is a powerful movement.
On the other hand, while OWS has organizers, it is a radically diverse movement that does not have concrete goals. This creates a problem. Without an organized and internal vision, the protests cannot effectively produce any coherent effect. As with the Tea Party, it will be simply co-opted by the establishment, the corporations and the banks. Case in point: Ben and Jerry’s, which is actually owned by a Dutch company, have “endorsed” OWS. Why are corporations beginning to endorse OWS? For the very same motivations that the OWS exists to protest: they can make some money. This is only the beginning. The media are also specifically ignoring protestors with anti-bank messages and instead come up to Michael Moore-type protestors and only airing messages that are more in line with our current President’s agenda.
Without plans for managing the OWS protest and what demands to sign onto, big business and big government will step in and choose the agenda for the protestors. It’s a classic trick going back to Caesar dressing like a commoner during the Saturnalia, or Lafeyette putting the tri-color French Revolution symbol on the King’s hat at Versailles to calm down the mob. It’s an old trick and it has worked in this country for the populist movement and may very well work again.
What ought OWS to do? It needs to adopt a Distributist platform of local accountable government, local business, local infrastructure, local banks, and justice. The Distributist plan is the only one that cuts across liberal and conservative lines; it is the only plan that defends our sovereignty, encourages jobs of our own, and subsistence. Some people will be rich in a Distributist economy, but Distributism doesn’t aim on being rich. It aims on private, productive property. If OWS took on its platform demands for more access to productive property, more access to subsistence, more access to living wages and investment in America, rather than market fundamentalism and the gambling of Wall Street and the big banks, of traders who “dream of recessions” so they can make money, then there would be a coherent message that is neither Left nor Right, nor in this anomalous concept of the “center,” but rather just.