Is Occupy Wall Street lacking focus?
When Occupy Wall Street started a month ago, I was thrilled. The top 1% in this country has most of the country’s wealth, and in our democracy, money speaks. I was thrilled when 2,000+ people showed up in New York to protest the irresponsible actions of the world’s banks, and excited about the potential of a clearly large movement to change economic policies in our country. The “We are the 99%” stories are compelling and real, and you feel the pain everyone is suffering in this economic climate. The world-wide protests this weekend were phenomenally powerful, and the Times Square crowds were huge and inspiring. The more the movement gathers steam, the more impressed I am with its organizers and participants.
But as the days and weeks pass, I worry that Occupy Wall Street is losing some of its initial focus. I went down to the protests on Friday at Liberty Square (and did a little dancing in the rain), and once I went home it hit me that there was so much about the movement I didn’t know – what their core goals were, etc. So I did a little research. And when I was clicking around their website this weekend, I could find no evidence of what protesters were looking for – the most I found was this:
Our nation, our species and our world are in crisis. The US has an important role to play in the solution, but we can no longer afford to let corporate greed and corrupt politics set the policies if our nation.
Important for sure, and a fantastic goal, but a bit lofty and broad for the highly specific nature of our laws and culture. In order to enact real change, leaders should come up with a solution that they would find acceptable. Because it’s not enough to complain, no matter how warranted and overdue the complaints are. We need to also take action.
The claims made in the conservative media that Occupy Wall Street is just a bunch of dirty hippies is flat-out wrong, and their claims that protestors don’t know what we want or what we’re talking about is also wrong. But in order to fully shake that image, the leaders of the Occupy Wall Street protests need to come up with a list of clearly stated and written demands and goals. When that happens, it’ll be impossible to ignore the 99% any longer.
Edit, 10/27: Dahlia Lithwick over at Slate published an interesting piece on whether or not OWS needs to define its purpose further, and she makes a pretty compelling argument.I still think a little more definition wouldn’t hurt, but she’s right – their message shouldn’t necessarily have to be put in 1 minute sound bytes — it should be defined on their own terms.