Taking it to the streets. What began with dozens of ne’er-do-wells on Constitution Day (September 17th) is now a multi-continent event. With the “Day of Rage” on October 15th we witnessed thousands in the streets across Europe, and thousands more at home. In Rome, the demonstrators assaulted police and private property with bricks and stones, causing police to respond with tear gas and water cannons. Some groups of demonstrators in Germany were masked and carrying clubs – their purpose clearly not a peaceful protest.
In New York, “Occupy Wall Street” morphed into a march on Times Square. Many thousands of students, union members and their ‘paid for protesters’, the unemployed and a smattering of ‘professional demonstrators’, anarchists, and even Ron Paul supporters added their voices to the cause – or causes. And, perhaps not coincidentally, Reverend Al Sharpton and his National Action Network (NAN) held their “Jobs and Justice” rally and march in Washington, D.C. the same day. Co-sponsors and affiliated groups included AFSCME (the government employees union), SEIU, AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood, and the NEA (the powerful teachers union), among others.
The media has been frenzied for weeks, each laboring to put a label on the demonstrators and trying to discern their message and future direction. But the crowds and their varied interests and causes seem to confound definition.
However, the seeds of OWS, brainchild of AdBusters, a Vancouver based not for profit activist group, were sown months ago by founders Kalle Lasn and Bill Schmalz.
But to what purpose or end did they make this call to action? Looking to their foundation’s mission statement is perhaps instructive:
“We are a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century.” (AdBusters Media Foundation, emphasis mine)
AdBusters was founded in 1989 and boasts a circulation of 120,000 for its bi-monthly magazine. Its international editions span Australia, Sweden, France, Norway and Japan. Community organizers going global, I guess. But these are serious, creative, thoughtful people who have gained a significant following both in North America and abroad.
That last sentence no doubt caught your attention as it did mine, “Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we live in the 21st century”. To me, it sounded a lot like Mr. Obama’s pre-inaugural warning (or promise), “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States…”
Statements like these give me pause. Toppling existing power structures or fundamentally transforming a nation seem to line up well with the Occupy Wall Street messaging.
Over the past several weeks I have watched hours of livestream video, seen many “occupiers on the street” interviews, and have read countless tweets sent to and from protesters in New York and elsewhere. Together they have forged a montage of revolution in the making – an anti-capitalist rebellion. And while their numbers are not yet significant, their reach and influence is becoming so as the media laps up every action and nuance.
The 99%, as they call themselves, have at least one common theme, their hatred and distrust of the big banks and brokerages. Many among them extend these feelings to multi-national corporations and the rich (the 1%), in general, and some to the corporate/government cronyism.
What brought each individual to New York and elsewhere, though, spans the ridiculous to the sublime. Many are university students or graduates calling for forgiveness of their student loans. Many there are demanding jobs, or a “living wage”, or an end to foreclosures, or free anything and everything. And there are those who just want to stick it to the rich, either through higher taxes or through confiscation. And some are there because they just don’t know where else to turn.
It is a shame really, that because so many of the participants are such ultra fringe, that some reasonable complaints and cases of real suffering are lost due to the messaging and messengers. We are indeed in a world of hurt in this country. The OWS crowd view capitalism, big banks, and corporate greed as the cause. Unfortunately, we are what we teach. For decades, our students have been fed a steady stream of Progressive thought. From grade school through the universities, we are beginning to see that a different set of values and a corrupted view of our history and principles is being taught and cemented in the minds of our youth.
This worldview is supported by much of the media and the Progressive leadership in Washington, D.C., not least our own President. When you consider each of the protesters concerns or complaints, it is easy to find examples of the same sentiments from Mr. Obama. Bank-bashing, talk of corporate greed, the haves and the have-nots, the millionaires and billionaires not paying their “fair share”, and a desire for equality of outcomes. With a presidency that began with a worldwide apology tour, Mr. Obama has railed against almost every major industry in the United States, faulting big pharma, big oil, big insurance, big banks and others for our economic malaise. With his redistributionist philosophy and anti-capitalist rhetoric, is it any wonder that these people are now in the streets echoing this mantra?
Many others in academia, government and media have added their voices to the chorus. The aforementioned Reverend Sharpton made this statement on Tom Joyner’s Morning Show, “We cannot sleep through the revolution…because those students, those young people that started a movement that’s now spread over the country are right about the distribution of wealth and the 1% controlling the country.”
MSNBC analyst Donny Deutsch recently spoke about the “clarifying moment” of the 1960s movement and “its most stirring image” – Kent State. He almost seemed to yearn for “a climax moment of class warfare somehow played out on screen that articulates the clash.”
Illinois State Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. in a press interview this week called on the President to “declare a national emergency” and “take extra-constitutional action administratively” and have the Federal Government directly hire the 15 million unemployed at an average salary of $40,000. He also called on the President to erase state and local government debt.
Arun Gupta, Editor of New York’s Indypendent News, a part of IMC, was interviewed this week at OWS and was asked about the Occupied Wall Street Journal, the newspaper that quickly appeared on the streets of New York. His answer as to how it came into being – it was a group effort, a coming together of Naomi Klein (linked to AdBusters), Code Pink, Michael Moore and Anonymous, among others. Gupta’s organization, IMC, has been a beneficiary over the years from George Soros’ Tides Foundation and Open Society Institute ($376,000 in grants). His characterization of the movement – “this is a social media revolution…global capitalism is the problem”.
Seemingly echoing the thoughts of Jesse Jackson, Jr., Mr. Obama, speaking of his frustration with Congress and his “Jobs Bill”, said this, “But we’re not going to wait for Congress…I’ve instructed (jobs council members)…to scour every corner and identify all those areas where we can act administratively without additional Congressional authority, and just get it done.”
And then there is Van Jones, president of the “Rebuild the Dream” group, and former White House Green Jobs Czar, who has put together a coalition of more than 70 progressive, union, and socialist organizations. Their goals mirror FDR’s infamous Second Bill of Rights. Van Jones appears near daily on one or another liberal talk show expressing his support and solidarity with those occupying Wall Street and speaking of his “Progressive fight back”.
Similar expressions of support and solidarity with the cause have been heard from Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (head of the DNC) and many other Democrat legislators, all yearning for their version of the Tea Party.
It is clear to see that all the “usual suspects” are circling the wagons with the OWS crowd. Coupling these far flung groups and organizations, pundits, politicians and union leaders, I am reminded of the Madison, Wisconsin movement earlier this year, only on a much grander scale. Notably and thankfully, to date, both the OWS protesters and the police have shown restraint and violent behavior and property damage have been minimal. I pray it remains that way. Make no mistake, though, the likes of Donny Deutsch are many, pining for that “climax moment”, that Kent State event, to stir the masses and define the movement.
Occupy Wall Street is the culmination of a deteriorating economy, widespread fear and frustration, and a convoluted and misunderstood or mischaracterized cause and effect view. This movement is sure to have some legs with the widespread support of the aforementioned parties and a potent, progressive media endeared to the causes.
On one thing I agree with Donny Deutsch. He has wrapped up the OWS group cause as leading to a call for corporate social responsibility – a nice sounding term. But behind it, effectively he is seeking a socialist/fascist political system that will hold major businesses under the thumb of the Federal Government, governing hiring, wage, and employment practices.
In recent weeks and months, we have witnessed the NLRB dictating to Boeing (our largest exporter), we have seen Dick Durbin on the Senate floor calling on Bank of America customers to run on the bank, and we have heard the relentless class warfare rhetoric from our President. Is there any doubt as to the direction we are moving as a country?
Nikolai Lenin, founder of modern Communism, told us long ago, “give me your children for four years, and the seed I plant will never be uprooted.” Supported by our liberal media and dumb-downed by our schools, our children and young adults have bought the socialist view hook, line and sinker. They have been weaned on “The Story of Stuff” and “the Rainbow Fish”, then steered in our institutions of “higher learning” by the likes of Bill Ayres, Bernadine Dorn, Frances Fox Piven and Ward Churchill. Lenin only required four years. Remember the Nazi youth? We have given over our children for a generation or more.
As I wrote earlier, we are what we teach. Occupy Wall Street is simply the latest manifestation of our education system, our failure to teach our American history, values and principles. The underpinnings of our civilization have been lost. Our Founders knew their experiment in self-government and individual could only exist with a moral and educated people. We are failing on both counts.
We see the results in the lack of personal responsibility, the moral degradation in our society, the decay of the traditional family unit, and the gangrenous infection that has gripped the government/big business complex.
The Occupy Wall Street crowd has rightly identified some of the symptoms of our decaying society. Now we need to attack, with vengeance, the real disease.
I am saddened by what I see occurring in our country and by the stresses and heartaches felt by so many families and individuals across America. Many feel helpless, hopeless and angry. Few families in America have been left untouched. For those who, through no fault of their own, have lost jobs or homes, or have seen their savings devastated, one cannot help but be moved. There are some demonstrating on Wall Street that fall into this group, and their frustration and anger is warranted, though partly misdirected.
If the jobs, debt, and economic crisis weren’t enough to face, we also clearly have an enormous deficit in education and values. These deficits are evident with many protesters on Wall Street, and for that matter, in the halls of Congress. There is no understanding of very basic economics, no understanding of business – how it works and the benefits that accrue to all through their success. Our core values of faith, family, hard work and personal responsibility have been undermined, forgotten or ignored.
Occupy Wall Street may be a small, forgotten footnote a decade from now, or it may turn out to be the tipping point for America, defining our next generations. Which it will be, I can’t foretell. But as with the rise of the Tea Party and 9/12 movement, and now OWS, it is clear America is grappling with a momentous decision. Will we restore the Founders vision of America or will we fully embrace the Progressive/Socialist vision? Again, no crystal ball. But I will pray for the former.