Thursday, March 22, 2012
What other political movement in modern times has won the sympathy and/or support of the majority of the American public in less than two months? On September 17, 2011, a group of (mostly) young adults decided to take direct action and occupy Wall Street. The people who have lost their jobs, their homes, their “American dreams” – they cathartically cheered on this ragtag bunch who got right in the face of Wall Street and said, “We’re not leaving until you give us our country back!”
By purposely not creating a formal, hierarchical organization with rules and dues and structure and charismatic leaders and spokespeople, this new way allowed people from all over the country to feel like they were part of the rebellion by simply deciding that they were part of the rebellion. You want to occupy your local bank – do it! You want to occupy your college board of trustees – done! You want to occupy Oakland or Cincinnati or Grass Valley – be our guest! This is your movement.
With Occupy, you don’t have to convince the majority of Americans that greed rules Wall Street, that the banks have no one’s interests but their own at heart or that corporate America is out to squeeze every last bit of labor and wages out of everyone’s pocket. Everybody gets it. Even those who oppose it. The hardest part of this or any movement – building a majority – has already happened. So now what do we do?
Here’s what we don’t do: Don’t turn Occupy into another bureaucratic organization. That will certainly kill it. Occupy has to continue as a bold, in-your-face movement – occupying banks, corporate headquarters, board meetings, campuses and Wall Street itself. We need weekly – if not daily – nonviolent assaults right on Wall Street. You have no idea how many people across the country would come to New York City to participate in wave after wave of arrests as they/we attempt to shut down the thieving machine that is Wall Street. About 45,000 people a year die simply because they don’t have health insurance. Do you think they have any relatives, friends, neighbors and parishioners who might be a little upset? How about the 4 million people losing their homes to the banks? Or the millions of students being crushed by debt?
And in town after town across America, people need to do similar things, but on a local level. Evictions of people who have been foreclosed upon must be met by citizens occupying the front door of the repossessed home and nonviolently blocking the bank from tossing the family out to the curb. When a neighbor can’t get the medical procedure she needs, people in town must occupy the hospital or the lobby of the insurance company. When a university raises students’ tuition for the umpteenth time, those students must occupy the administration’s office until the board of trustees relents.
It’s important to remember that Occupy Wall Street is about occupying Wall Street. The other Occupies that have sprung up around the country are in solidarity, and while they attack the tentacles and the symptoms of the beasts that exist locally everywhere, the head can be chopped off only in one place – and that place is in Manhattan.
Our kids have watched us, for years, beating our heads against the walls of power, always marching on Washington, sending in checks to the environmental groups, giving up red meat, and what they got from this is that they are the first generation who will now be worse off than their parents. They are taking a different path from ours. Let them. Millions want in on that adventure because, deep down, they know they have no choice. And they know there’s more of them than the men on Wall Street who currently occupy America. They have no choice but to win.
MICHAEL MOORE is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker and best-selling author.