At first I doubted the ability of Occupy Wall Street to stay the course. Three weeks later, the occupiers are still on Wall Street, and new occupations are popping up across the country. This is a real beginning to what could—should—become a real, important, popular movement.
If you’re not quite sure what Occupy Wall Street is all about, Douglas Rushkoff has an excellent explanation. Paul Krugman explains why the Occupy Wall Street movement “is angry at the right people.” (Both articles are well worth a read.)
This is still a beginning, though. If the occupiers disband now, nothing will change. It will take many weeks—possibly many months. During that time, it is quite likely that the protesters will see little or no progress. But when change does finally come, it will come in a landslide.
In the meantime, Occupy Wall Street and the other occupations don’t have an easy task. In many cities (especially New York), the police are dutifully playing the part of corporate tools, doing their best to pepper spray, beat, and intimidate the protesters into giving up. Soon it will start raining and snowing. The holidays are coming. Through it all, the occupation must continue, if change is going to come.
Opposition is cropping up in other forms, as well. Besides the predictable opposition from the banks and the GOP, not to mention the apparent indifference of President Obama and most of our political leaders, much of the media has been dismissive, if not outright scornful.
Still others can’t quite understand the movement, and are lashing out. Their argument usually runs something like this: the protesters are just a bunch of entitled whiners who took out mortgages or students loans they couldn’t afford. This line of argument works only in an alternative dimension where banks didn’t spend a decade lying to everyone—including themselves—about who could afford what loans, and where every career counselor, politician, and pundit didn’t promise a healthy economy full of jobs for every college graduate. The only person who could have made unfailingly correct decisions in the run-up to the financial meltdown would have been an omniscient, precognitive deity.
And, of course, the protesters aren’t just out-of-work college students or sad-faced foreclosed homeowners. They are also hardworking men and women angry at the collusion between politicians and bankers.
Further, the critics so far seem to misapprehend the protests as anti-corporate. That’s surely a common sentiment, but in general, I get the impression that the protesters understand that business is essential to our economy. They even like a lot of businesses, as indicated by the fact that they wear clothing, carry smartphones, and presumably own furniture and cars. They just don’t think vacuuming money out of the pockets of 99% of our country is a valid business purpose. I tend to agree.
I am the 99%, and so, probably, are you. Support the occupiers. Stop by an occupation this week, donate to Occupy Wall Street or a your local occupation, if you can spare some money. They will need help to stay on the streets, and that is the single most important thing for the occupiers to do. All they have to do—for now, at least—is stay out there.