November 30, 2011

What do the Occupiers Want?

People are still asking me several times a week, "Exactly what is Occupy Wall Street protesting?" This video is one response.

But a much larger number of folks want to know what the Occupiers want. Do they want to replace capitalism with socialism? Some do. But, I think it would be better to tweek and reinvent capitalism so that it will help people rather than hurting them. Over the last 30 years, the richest amongst us have orchestrated the greatest redistribution of wealth this country has ever experienced. Do we need Robin Hood to take back from the wealthiest (the 1%) and redistribute to the rest (the 99%). Some think so. But, I'd rather remodel the system so that everyone can thrive. I could go on, but what I think is perhaps not so important.

And it's probably not so important that we all agree on everything or that we have one single demand. Some pieces of the solution have overwhelming support already, and, thus, may be easier to achieve. For example, almost everybody is dismayed by the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling. It doesn't matter what the Occupiers want, because you and I can immediately pitch in by supporting efforts to amend the Constitution, by signing a petition, getting involved locally, or joining the growing number of groups to get a local ballot initiative passed.

But from my perspective, creating regulations, providing incentives, and passing laws to safeguard the common good, to promote fairness, and to create more opportunity in our economy is hard. And, it's complicated. So, what we need to do is to get everybody moving on this. The folks down at the Occupation encampments can talk to each other, passers-by, and the police who are watching them. We can all talk to our neighbors and our family members and educate each other.

There are many opportunities for action within your spheres of influence. Do you order office supplies for your company? Consider buying from a small locally-owned store. Do you have a large Facebook following? Post videos to Facebook about the issues that you feel promote economic justice. Do you prepare the food you eat? You might not be able to end the government largesse toward large, environmentally-destructive Agribusiness in the next Farm Bill, but you may be able grow your own food organically or buy from local farmers. If you happen to have a high level job with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), make sure that large financial institutions that repeatedly commit fraud against investors are served up large punishments. Are you a research scientist? You can make sure that your research results are not co-opted by your funders. If you're eligible, get out and vote, especially if there is a candidate who will represent We-The-People. Do you have a lot of friends who watch Fox News and buy into the disinformation spread there? Ask them to consider another news source and explain why. They are your friends; they might listen.

Perhaps the Occupy Movement will get organized. Perhaps they will come up with a grand plan or even a single demand. But if that does not happen, Occupy Wall Street has engaged us in conversation. We can keep the conversation going. This is a teachable moment for all of us. An extremely teachable moment. And we can all help propel it to the next level. It is not a question of what the Occupiers want. Make your contribution. Now. And tomorrow. And then again, the next day.

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