Sunday, October 09, 2011

What They Said, a.k.a. Which Side Are You On?

I've been meaning to post about #occupywallstreet since I first heard of it. But I haven't found anything particularly original to say. So, for the moment, I've given up that search, and will simply say What They Said:
Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.

What they said. Keith Olbermann read the document in its entirety on the air if you're more for audio/visual.

No, it's not what I would have said how I would have said it. (The footnote about how "these grievances are not all-inclusive" is about 15% cute and 85% ridiculous; I think the whole animal rights/factory farming bit was a mistake to include; and so forth.) But it doesn't matter. What matters is the movement, the overall thrust of the matter. As Kevin Drum (as anodyne and mainstream a liberal as you can find in the left-handed blogosphere) put it: Keep Asking Yourself One Question: Whose Side Am I On?

Or, as Pete Seeger sang years ago: Which side are you on?

I assume you've all seen the links, so I won't bother to include too many. I will, however, point out that Greg Mitchell's blog at The Nation is the best source for updates I've seen (via Gerry Canavan). And here is Zunguzungu's most recent link list on OWS (most of which I haven't read, but Zunuzungu's rep as one of the best linkbloggers around is well-earned). But I did particularly like this 50 best signs collection. (If any of those signs bother you, go (re)read the Kevin Drum essay.)

Alasdair Grey famously quoted (from Dennis Leigh) that one should "work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation". Until occupy wall street, I was finding it impossible to do that.* And I think I'm not alone. If they were to accomplish nothing else (and they already have: they have changed the national conversation in ways unimaginable a mere month ago), I am deeply grateful to them for that.

* Two days after the occupation began -- although before I'd heard of it -- I wrote:
I myself see no possible hope on the horizon. Oh, we can fantasize about some massive citizen campaign changing things. While we're dreaming, though, I'd like a few million dollars, and a pony. Seems just about as likely. I think that 2009 may well have been this country's last chance to change course.
Maybe OWS won't be that "massive citizen campaign": but maybe it will, in which case that moment of despair came even after it had already begun. (Hey, can I have my few million dollars now? You can keep the pony...) Perhaps -- just perhaps -- our eucatastrophe has begun. If not, it is at least a bit easier to imagine hope now.

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