We thought that Occupy Wall Street was just a flash in the pan, a fad of the political liberal left, as the tea party was a mostly a conservative reactionary right-wing response, serious as well as knee-jerk, to the rapid changes in the world.
Well, it has not been the case. Started Sept. 17, 2011, down Zucotti Park in Manhattan, OWS' poster with the iconic dancer on top of Wall Street's “bull” has since become a classic. Supported by Adbuster's focus on social and financial inequality prevalent not only in the industrial and financial world but elsewhere, OWS followed the Spanish protests began earlier in May and the Arab spring in Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria, with expectations for ripple effects in Iran and China.
If for anything, the OWS interactive influence to other broad-based movements around the world is unmistakable. Its metaphorical slogan of “we are the 99 percent” has universal appeal, never mind which statistics the numerical equation came from. We even had the press calling the Saipan vigil on immigration earlier as an Occupy cousin. While organizers were not intentionally relating it to the OWS impetus, the reality of Beach Road coming alive was not missed.
Canada has grown legally belligerent, legislating fines against protesters, and the current standoff in Montreal between students and school officials on tuition fee raise is getting confrontational and ugly. Barcelona's airport cleaning crew are throwing trash to protest pay cuts.
That the “1 percent” is not taking things lying down is clearly shown in how money is used to influence the outcome of popular elections. The Romney vs. Obama contest in U.S. politics is a clear delineation between the financiers and a populist incumbent.
Even China is not immune to this dichotomy. Recently deposed member of the Politburo Bo Xilai, erstwhile mayor of Dalian, governor of Liaoning, and most recently mayor of the national municipality of Chongqing, represents the taizidang (princelings), children of revolutionaries who “inherited” choice positions and derived status that favor a rapid economic growth regardless of distributive consequences. Opposed are the tuanpai, ideological former Youth League members who keep an eye on the broad benefits that need to accrue to peasants, workers, and the general proletariat. Current President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao belong to this latter category. The upcoming president and new premier represent each of the sectors, a balancing act worth following.
OWS did the world a favor in re-examining the influence of the Bilderberg Conference of Europe and America's “princelings.” Bilderberg is the name of a Netherlands hotel where the first royalty-initiated meeting in 1954 was held to stem the rising anti-Americanism in Europe.
Intended to keep a balanced view of both the liberal and conservative sectors of the Western industrialized societies, it evolved into a gathering of invitation-only elites. Its attendees are primarily bankers, politicians, and directors of corporations from Western Europe and the United States.
Rethinking the fundamental economic structure of the planet is a favorite pastime of the “development” set. A number of NGOs and think tanks tinker with structural models. Economist David Korten of the '80s When Corporations Rule the World fame, and chairman of the board of Yes magazine, facilitates a refreshing group of thinkers and activists who see hope in local civil sectors even as dismayed heavyweights paint doomsday scenarios, from climate warming, population explosion, and the addiction to perpetual war.
Not an altogether insignificant contribution to that needed reflection is an expanded political tract, a call to deep thought and action, the book The Road from Empire to Eco-Democracy.
Contrasted to traditional modes of planning that relies on “what is absent,” usually expressed as a “lack of” but really a hidden proposal, The Road identifies existing contradictions, concrete and imagined blocks, and offers ways to deal with them, including methods on how determined groups might come out with appropriate and effective set of actions in their own situations.
The method leads to concrete strategic thinking rather than to utopian dreaming, usually seen in glossy documents in shelves of planning and implementing bodies. It avoids the traffic of ideational generalities. Rather, it lends itself as a readable study guide to serious civic and religious small circles. Amazon.com offers both the hard copy and the e-book editions.
OWS has not been content in just being a protest movement. While it unsettles the comfortable, it also affirms the truth that the immediately doable does not excite, nor is it a source of enthusiasm and passion. Mr. Z of Facebook himself, though hardly an OWS figure, holds disestablishment hackatons to engage the imagination and invite creativity.
OWS is a force to reckon with, and if the Bilderberg Conference has evolved into an influential defense mechanism to protect the established well-to-do, OWS invites a local celebrative approach to change.
A pirouette atop a snorting bull, anyone?
Jaime R. Vergara (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a former PSS teacher and is currently writing from the campus of Shenyang Aerospace University in China.