On Sept. 17, the Arab Spring becomes the new American Fall, with 20,000 revolutionaries in a tent city. Plus “solidarity” occupations in major financial centers worldwide, all ready for a long siege, vowing not to leave till they get their “one simple demand.”
Occupy Wall Street is a “leaderless resistance movement” spearheaded by the edgy Adbusters magazine, which in July issued a call for the Sept. 17 occupation of Wall Street.
Their allies have names like “CultureJammers,” “USDayofRage.org,” “People of the NYC General Assembly,” “TaketheSquare.net,” and recently they were joined by the noted civil disobedience anarchists, “Anonymous” and many others worldwide. This movement reminds us of the historic rag-tag armies General Washington commanded from 13 Colonies for the first American Revolution.
The new ones are also united in the spirit of the Tahrir Square revolutionaries: “One thing we all have in common is that we are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%,” according to posts on the Occupy Wall Street website.
Leaderless, yes. But now their real power comes in a new strategy: “one big swarm of people” challenging authority. They want their democracy back: “One citizen. One dollar. One vote.” Get the corrupting influence of money out of elections.
Bottom line: They want to eliminate “the greatest corrupter of our democracy: Wall Street, the financial Gomorrah of America.”
Yes, the ‘Arab Spring’ is now the new ‘American Fall’
This revolution started back in February at the peak of the Arab Spring. Around the time Mubarak resigned Adbusters talked of a “Million Man March on Wall Street.” Then the “call to action” shifted, became “Occupy Wall Street.” That caught on. Since then many other resistance movements jumped on board in cities worldwide.
Now a massive show of solidarity is rapidly emerging for Occupy Wall Street rallies at major financial centers: London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, L.A., San Francisco “and with a bit of luck, this list of participating cities will expand” maybe even include the world’s most powerful bank, the Federal Reserve Bank in Washington.
But will 20,000 show up? Warning: Could be lots more. After Tunisian President Ali fled his country in January, Egyptian revolutionaries issued a “call for action” in Tahrir Square. And 90,000 arrived. Given today’s intense anger against America’s totally dysfunctional government, no one should be surprised if 90,000 arrive for Occupy Wall Street and its solidarity allies at other financial centers across the world, armed with their rallying cry to stop “the corruption of our governments by Wall Street money.”
Warning: Ignore this rebellion at your peril. Reading their materials reveals a deeply frustrated, angry, fed up army of revolutionaries. Like their “Arab Spring” brothers,
The new American revolutionaries are no longer interested in talk. They want action.
Is America ripe for a Tahrir moment? Will Big Money counterattack?
No, this is not a one-day rally. Earlier talks of a “Day of Rage” and “Million Man March” have evolved. They have new tactics. Prepare for a long siege of the Wall Street/NYSE fortress that organizers say could last “months.” Adbusters asks rhetorically, “Is America Ripe for a Tahrir Moment?”
Their answer is an enthusiastic “yes,” thanks to a “deluge of solidarity messages have been pouring in from Spain, Egypt and elsewhere.” With a flair for the dramatic, here’s how they see a key scenario unfolding during this occupation:
“Imagine … the dawn of the 13th day of the occupation … you’re tired, not sleeping or eating too great … you’ve been harassed, maybe tear gassed and beaten. Bloomberg is threatening to call in the National Guard. … But you are sitting tight because much of the nation is cheering you on … Al Jazeera and the BBC are beaming your struggle to a captivated world and the tension is building for Obama … It feels much like it did in Tahrir Square moments before Mubarak caved. You’ve never felt so alive!”
And while this may seem like a local challenge to Wall Street bankers, New York City commuters and Mayor Bloomberg, the real threat is much bigger and culturally deeper: a challenge to every Senator and Representative in Washington, to their wealthy campaign donors financing their reelections, to Washington’s high-priced special interest lobbyists, to every overpaid CEO in Corporate America, to all the Super Rich on the Forbes 400 list of billionaires, to Fed Chairman Bernanke and to President Obama.
Listen closely. This is not another internecine political squabble. These revolutionaries are pushing America back to its roots. You sense they’re drafting a new Declaration of Independence, driven by the same powerful motivations as the 57 original signers who wrote: “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive … it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.” Back in 1776 King George III was the destructive force far away. Today greed is the corruptor, from within.
‘One Simple Demand’ shared by revolutionaries worldwide
Yes, they want their democracy back: “The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1% … The Arab Spring tactic has proven itself effective in forcing governments to bow to the will of the people. We believe this tactic can also work in America. All we have to do is show up in large numbers, block traffic, not turn into a violent mob and most importantly … We shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices and we will not leave until that demand has been met.” But is that enough?
What do they really want? It’s unclear. Initially Adbusters wrote: “It was our one simple demand that Barack Obama must ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence that corporate money has over our representatives in Washington. Our one simple demand is: stop the monied corruption at the heart of our democracy.”
Great: They don’t just want to overturn the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision that gave “corporations First Amendment rights.” They have a much bigger goal: End the corrupting influence of all money in all elections.
But another ineffective commission? Forget it. Waste of time. They’re made up of self-interested insiders. That would never satisfy the demands of these radicals. And if Obama did appoint a commission, it’d just be a ploy to delay and disburse angry revolutionaries.
Worse, commissions never tackle the key issues. And they will never pass any real reforms in today’s hostile political arena where the GOP automatically rejects everything the president proposes. So expect a much different, novel and culturally disruptive “one simple demand” to emerge later in the heat of battle.
Remember: In Tahrir Square, “Mubarak must go” was the “one simple demand.” That outcome was easy to measure. But so far with Occupy Wall Street the demands are vague. No clear rallying cry. That uncertainty adds risk and danger for both sides.
Ballerina dancing on Wall Street bull: Zen koan or a ‘demand’
Check out the poster at OccupyWallSt.org: A ballerina dancing on one toe atop the famous bull sculpture in Bowling Green Park near Wall Street. Above her, this caption: “What is our one demand?” Is this a Zen koan, an impossible question whose answer has meaning for each revolution alone?
Not enough. Can they simply trust, as Carl Jung might say, that the “collective consciousness” will be there with them? Not enough. Trust Gandhi’s message that mere assembly works: “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” Not enough.
In fact, one of the Occupy Wall Street allies has already clarified the “one simple demand” for others to consider. The “USDayofRage.org” folks put it this way: “We have had enough. Legitimate government is born of the self-interest and will of the people expressed by its citizens in free and fair elections. It does not spring from a tyranny of special interests, patronage, or a system or ideology that runs counter to the aims of life. Yet America is now a pawn of corporations using money to act as the voices of millions, while individual citizens, the legitimate voters, are silenced and demoralized by the farce.”
Get it? No more money corrupting elections, sabotaging democracy: “We demand that integrity be restored to our elections. One citizen. One dollar. One vote. Only citizens should make campaign contributions. Campaign contributions by citizens should not exceed $1 to any political candidate or party. Help us reclaim democracy …” But how?
Is America past its "Tahrir moment?" Too deep in a Greed Culture?
Yes, Occupy Wall Street wants to be more than the occupation of a street in lower Manhattan. Metaphorically theirs is a declaration of war, the start of WWIV and the Second American Revolution. But will it work? Or is it just braggadocio?
Yes, there are parallels with the revolutions sweeping Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria. But we don’t have a trigger like Egypt’s public suicide and a focus like Mubarak. The dark truth is that these rag-tag revolutionaries are threatening a powerful enemy with trillions that can counterattack with a vengeance, vested interests with so much to lose they will never permit even one revolutionary demand to be met. So government will cave again, bow to special interests.
In short, you can expect millions will be spent to quash this revolution, much as George III tried with great armies after 1776. So get ready to see more clever ways Big Money corrupts the democratic process, the right of assembly, freedom of speech. Remember Wisconsin. They’ll do everything necessary to force Occupy Wall Street to abandon their mission, leave empty-handed.
Besides, Americans are not Egyptians. We think short-term: Three days living it up at Woodstock. Two days in jail like the 842 recently arrested in Washington protesting the 1,700-mile U.S.-Canada pipeline. A one-day Day of Rage Million-Man March … but months occupying a Wall Street tent city? Questionable.
In the final analysis, this may be a bad case of “too little, too late:” Back in 1776 our original 57 revolutionaries also “had enough” when they signed the Declaration of Independence. They also risked everything, family, fortunes and lives. They actually had “one simple demand,” to be free of a tyrannical ruler, George III.
Today, the new ruler is greedy, corrupting democracy. But it’s locked deep in the American soul. Maybe they’re asking the wrong question: Not “Is America Ready for a Tahrir Moment?” Rather ask: “Is America Past That Moment, Buried Too Deep in a Culture of Greed to Change?”
If so, Wall Street wins, again. And America loses, again.