“Occupy Boston. “
“We are the 99%.”
“End the corporate influence in our government.”
These are the slogans, the chants, and the motivation for students at Boston University to make their way to Dewey Square and participate in America’s Occupy movement.
There is a revolution going, but there has been much confusion.
“What is Occupy Boston?”
“What is the goal?”
“What do you hope to accomplish? It’s so disorganized, why isn’t there a leader. Why do they hate capitalism?”
These are the questions, the worries, the concerns of those who haven’t fully been exposed to the movement, to those sitting on the border and weighing the consequences of each side.
I hope to clarify some of the confusion.
Occupy Boston is a physical manifestation of something that incubated in the mind. It is the action that occurred as a result of a collective awakening. People are pissed off. We are tired of the way our government and economy are corrupted by the influence of a few very powerful people. The occupation is a way of meeting other people who feel the same way. It is a forum from which to decide what must be done to fix the problems that are so clearly bringing this country down. It is what the political system in our country should provide us, but doesn’t. It is participation in a democracy.
So what exactly are we pissed about? To sum it up, there are two general areas of concern: economic inequality, and corporate influence in our democracy. From these two broad topics stem a plethora of other problems. Economic inequality means addressing the wealth disparity in the country, it means addressing the tax policies that restrict the middle class, it means acknowledging that the top 1% of the country owns 40% of the wealth, 24% of the national income, and 50% of the countries stocks, bonds and mutual funds.
Corruption is the other big issue; our government sees corporations as people; it allows a corporation to donate to campaigns with numbers far more significant than an individual person. It allows corporate lobbyists to skew the function of Congress because our elected officials answer to those who pay for their re-election campaigns, not their constituents.
The goal of this Occupy Movement is to bring these concerns to the front of the collective American mind so that we can work on finding a solution. It is to bring people to attention; to wake people up. There has been much talk about how this movement does not have a concrete goal, does not have a single leader. My answer is to ask: how can you think there would be a single, concise answer to a problem of this magnitude? The entanglement of corporate influence in our government is so strong, how is it possible to have a simple solution? It isn’t.
This isn’t about proposing a simple bill in the House of Representatives so that it can be volleyed back and forth by the corporate drones we call our officials. This is about having the people who live in this country come together and realize that there is a systemic problem in the way our country works, and then collectively coming up with solutions. This is about participating in a democracy, something we seem to have forgotten how to do.
Participating in a democracy isn’t just voting for the candidate you think represents you. When you have republicans and democrats who are essentially the same characters wearing different rhetorical armor, you can’t rely on voting to express your democratic opinion. You have to start thinking on your own, learning from those around you as well as the experts. You have to start asking questions and coming up with your own solutions. Then you can suggest your ideas and discuss it with your fellow man (or woman).
I hear a lot of people looking for answers that they can rally behind; they want an idea, a specific leader to follow. I think this is a part of the problem. When you wait for someone else’s opinion to decide how you feel about something, you write yourself out of the equation. Some people are more qualified than others to talk about certain topics, but it’s the collective negligence on the part of the people that has allowed this monstrous corruption to infect our political system. It has allowed corporations to buy out politicians because the elected officials know that their constituents aren’t informed enough to care.
Think about how you feel a problem should be solved; think about the things important to you. Then look to the more knowledgeable people to refine your position. Why are we looking for leaders to base our opinions off of? You elect a leader that reflects your view (or as close to it is a possible); you shouldn’t choose your views based on a leader.
Despite the supposed ambiguity of our goals, the Occupy movement is producing solutions. People are down there talking about how to fix things, and they’re talking quite specifically. There are people who are there because they’ve been kicked out of their foreclosed homes, or they’ve lost their jobs. Those people have specific areas of concern. Others are there because their school tuition and student loans are ridiculous. There are bankers discussing the internal structure of our financial institutions, and political scientists debating the best way to weed the corporate influence out of our political system. Some of the people there want to end the Federal Reserve, and others just want to see our government stop treating corporations as people.
The point I’m trying to make is that there are a lot of different goals and motivations for people to be a part of the movement, and they are all centered on the two major concepts discussed above. If you are looking for a specific, minute goal, you won’t find it by sitting at home and being a cynical critic. You have to go down there and see for yourself. You have to think for yourself; you have to wake up.
If you go down to Dewey Square and you don’t see the topics you want discussed, start the discussion yourself; debate people who have differing views and try and reach a consensus. Learn from your fellow citizens and feel the empowerment of participating in a democracy.
So what if we don’t have as concise a goal as passing Amendment ___ to the Congress. So what if this isn’t as focused as the Civil Rights movement. This is not something that can be compared to anything before it, so stop trying to diminish its validity by forcing it into a category.
This is OUR movement, for our generation.
Our government has failed us, so we’ve taken to the streets.
The media has failed us, so we’ve taken to the internet.
This is our chance to show the entire world that Americans are not the sleeping zombies they think we are.
Some have compared this to the Arab Spring, but I say no. This is not the Arab Spring. We don’t know what it’s like to face down guns and militant dictators. We have a different type of oppressor, one that is far more ingrained into our society. We are fighting a mindset that has made our people complacent and distracted. Our battle is far harder for our enemy is not a person, but a system. And you know what? If we can do this, if we can get enough people to care so that we can effect a change…then we will inspire the entire world with our action. America is always on the spotlight in some way or another, and I feel it’s our generation’s time to make a positive impact on the rest of the world. Imagine the children in an oppressed country, hearing about how the American youth worked to topple a monstrous and corrupt system and reasserted their political rights. This is far more efficient in promoting the values of democracy than any invasion ever could be.
You, my fellow students and readers, are the fuel for this. It is your duty, your obligation. This is our battle, our fight. These are our brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends. Our people are without jobs. They are losing benefits, and being thrown to the side in favor of gigantic, faceless corporations. And we are going to fix it. We are going to help these people and help ourselves. We live in the United States of America and we deserve better than what we have right now. Join us and fight. Fight with your brains, and fight for what’s right.
I’ll see you all at 12pm on Monday at Marsh Plaza. Together we will march. And together, we can change the way this country is run.
We ARE the 99%