In a span of three weeks, Occupy Wall Street has changed the political debate in America. Instead of the same old divisions of left versus right, Americans are beginning to stand together for economic justice. We realize that this issue transcends party and gets at the core of what we want our civilization to be. It is clear that America has been on two different tracks for a long time. One track holds out the promise of true democracy where every person, no matter how humble, is entitled to be treated with basic human decency by the society in which they live. A democracy entails equality. Equality entails equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is the premise on which the United States of America is based, as laid down by the Founding Fathers. The other track holds that self-interest should be the law of civilization. Anything done in the name of self-interest is fair. Those that gain an advantage in wealth and influence have earned it. Those who fall behind have only themselves to blame. The state has no right to interfere with the clash of those self-interests in the marketplace, or most anywhere else for that matter. The past 40 years of American history, highlighted by the Great Recession through which we currently live, has shown us that these two tracks are incompatible. The people have been left with no choice but to take our democracy back.
Our democracy is sick. The One Percent is thriving. The presidential elections of the past 40 years have seen voter turnout hover around 50%. At the same time, the flow of corporate money into political campaigns has increased exponentially. Politicians simply have had more reason to fear the One Percent than the 99. They have waged class warfare on the 99 percent at the behest of the One. Politicians made free trade agreements allowing corporations to move jobs overseas, yet they fired the air traffic controllers union when they went on strike. Politicians started deregulating Wall Street in the 1980s and then bailed them out after they destroyed the economy in 2008. Yet, since 1980, the incarceration rate of the 99 percent has gone from less than half a million to nearly two and a half million due to tougher sentencing standards imposed by politicians. Those same politicians have handed out huge tax breaks and no-bid government contracts to the One Percent while at the same time gutting the infrastructure and social programs servicing the 99. Politicians ensured that the One Percent profited from two wars while the 99 percent fought and died in them. The One Percent has more wealth now than at any other point in our history. The 99 percent works longer hours for less pay than they did 40 years ago. The One Percent can commit massive fraud that jeopardizes the global financial system and get away with it. The 99 percent gets the Patriot Act, surveillance, body scans, bag checks and more jail space awaiting them now than at any other point in American history. All of these are facts. We have a duty to state these facts to the world.
We take up this duty because the media has failed to do so. It is the One Percent who controls the media. Television, radio, movies, magazines and book publishing are all dominated by a handful of corporations. Americans who wish to access information about the wider world have to do so after it has been filtered through a corporate outlet. It is these outlets that set the parameters of public debate. 40 years ago, media outlets by law had to devote equal time to opposing viewpoints on public issues. That law has since been repealed and now media outlets consistently present one viewpoint and call it news. Media outlets used to be required to set airtime aside for political campaigns. Now they sell campaign ad space to the highest bidder. When Richard Nixon told reporters he was not involved in a cover up of the Watergate scandal, those reporters dug deeper and discovered he was lying. When George Bush told reporters Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, those reporters repeated his words far and wide over their corporate outlets. The media has kept us in the dark about the destruction of our democracy. Our presence here on Wall Street is finally making America aware of what corporations have already done to our country.
Occupy Wall Street is here for one reason: to end this dark chapter in American history written by the corporations and to begin a new one that starts with “We the People”. We are here to return America back to its original promise of true democracy. It means reversing the tide of the past 40 years. There is no one goal. There is the awakening that the greed of the One Percent has hijacked our democracy. This awakening helps us build a signpost pointing to the future. No longer will the people of this country be shut out of their democracy by corporate money. If we cannot match the campaign funding of the corporations, we have our numbers. We will no longer be fooled by the rhetoric of a free market because we now see it has led us into slavery. We will no longer pretend that unbridled greed is the American way. We are the people and we determine the American way. Occupy Wall Street is showing us the way: compassion for your fellow man, freedom to speak and be heard, power in numbers instead of dollars, peace, and a genuine sense that America is OUR place, OUR democracy and this point in history belongs to US, WE THE PEOPLE.
There were HUGE crowds at Zuccotti Park all day. The protestors started heading over to Foley Square at around 3 pm. I was among the first wave, leaving around 3:25. The march got slower as we got closer to the park. We got to the park and WOW!!! People EVERYWHERE for blocks with no room to be had. It was the largest crowd I have ever seen in person, excluding sporting events. And it just kept growing. Each new wave of people with different chants: (“We are the 99%”, “This is what democracy looks like”, “We got sold out, banks got bailed out.”. and many more.)
I held up my sign, spoke to many people and went back to Zuccotti right before it got dark. I thought it was going to be empty but the crowd stretched along Broadway from Foley Square all the way back to the park and beyond. I found a good spot right in front of the Trinity Place side of Zuccotti and joined some chants, spoke with more people and even saw Michael Moore enter the park less than 6 feet away from me. I then saw a crowd forming and they began to yell “we’re taking over Wall Street, let’s go” and they ran in Wall St.’s direction. There were many of them, maybe around 20 or 30 people, mostly college-age. Shortly after, I walked back to the train to go home. By that time, it was 7 pm and I had tons of homework to grade. Broadway was packed with people, police were in the streets standing guard, people were standing on traffic lights and a crowd of young people were conferring right on Wall Street. 10 minutes after I boarded the train, those young people were beaten and pepper sprayed by NYPD.
The media have given it small airtime but the papers are front paging it. But all the coverage is saying is “they don’t have clear demands.” They still don’t get it, the demand is clear: an end to corporate power in government and our lives. Why don’t they get that? We’re for “small corporations” as much as the Tea Party is for “small government”, only we mean what we say. I guess when the media is owned by those same corporations, it is natural for them to pretend that they are not hearing the very clear message.
The crowd is very diverse but I would say the heart and soul are the college students who come from all over the nation. Many are graduates of top universities. There are also many professors and baby boomers who took part in the protests of the 60s. Working stiffs are there in force as well. This is just the start. These people are the real deal. They are SMART, they are aware and they are dispossessed. I am excited to see what comes of this and big things are certainly going to cone of this. Average people are beginning to realize what those in the know have been struggling against for years. The smart are waking up, the dumb will watch it happen.
String Theory, in vogue with many physicists today, raises the prospect of parallel universes. Scientific theory now imitates American society. The physicists who are preparing to tell us about more universes should find a ready audience in the American public, who has lived in parallel universes for well over a decade. One universe faces problems like global warming, unemployment, no health insurance and crumbling public schools. The other universe denies global warming, worries about government deficits, fears public health insurance and believes the private sector can save our school system. At first look, these are nothing more than simplified liberal v. conservative divisions. One might say that America’s political system has always dealt with division and that differing viewpoints are healthy in a republic such as ours. But by 2011 we have ventured into something beyond mere differing opinions. We have ventured into parallel universes. Somewhere in our history, Americans went from having mere disagreements to living in a totally different matrix of reality.
President Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933 and brought a cadre of Ivy Leaguers with him to Washington, the so-called “Brain Trust”. It was this Brain Trust that implemented many programs of FDR’s New Deal, as well as assisted him in converting to a wartime economy after 1939. It was these intellectuals who changed the trajectory of American history by creating its very first welfare state. Needless to say, many members of the wealthy classes believed that the Brain Trust was merely successful at raising their taxes and outlawing their more insidious practices. They had their revenge during Truman’s presidency, aided by the likes of Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon, when many intellectuals in and out of government were labeled as “communists”, destroying their careers and ending their influence. This would pave the way for President Eisenhower’s brand of American conservatism of balanced budget small government. Although Eisenhower had much less use for intellectuals than FDR, they were still entrenched in many high-level bureaucratic jobs. Then with President Kennedy, intellectuals of the Harvard stripe flooded Washington, of which JFK himself was part. It would be these intellectuals (under both JFK and LBJ) who spearheaded civil rights reform, anti-poverty programs and the Vietnam War. When the eggheads ran the show from 1933 until 1969, America had pulled itself out of the Great Depression, defeated the Axis, become the world superpower and had the biggest, longest and most equitable economic boom in its history. It was what many historians refer to as the “Pax Americana”, America’s golden age, and what historian James T. Patterson referred to as “The Biggest Boom Yet”.
John Kenneth Galbraith was a young member of the Brain Trust. He went on to become arguably the most celebrated economist of the 20th century besides Keynes.
Yet after a bloody, unsuccessful war in Vietnam and an epidemic of urban riots, Americans appeared disenchanted with egghead policy and elected the proud anti-egghead Richard Nixon. Despite being an avowed cold warrior and arch-conservative, Nixon won a second term by playing to a political “center” that was still decidedly liberal. After all, this is the president that created the EPA, visited communist enemies and expanded many parts of the welfare state. In today’s matrix, Nixon would be somewhere to the left of Obama. While Nixon’s moderate liberalism rolled along a new breed of intellectuals pressed for the Equal Rights Amendment, affirmative action and greater cultural sensitivity in education. Yet this generation of intellectuals did not seem to be as successful as the generation that presided over the “Biggest Boom Yet”. While they succeeded in getting academia to be more culturally sensitive, the ERA was never passed and affirmative action became a dirty phrase. That is because the 1970s is when the parallel universes developed in America. In this regard, the eggheads working on string theory now are behind the curve. Americans have already succeeded in discovering, creating and inhabiting parallel universes.