OWS Demands Are Clear
by Sheila Musaji
DEMAND FOR DEMANDS IS A DISTRACTION
The movement continues to grow and to spread across the country. The media is beginning to take notice. One of the most commonly heard complaints has been that there has not been a clear statement of demands and goals from the organizers.
Ben Tripp commented about this demand for demands:
Don’t be fooled by the complaints that the Occupy Wall Street movement hasn’t got a clear set of demands. Everybody in a position of power knows exactly what the people want. They simply don’t want to acknowledge it. Because, one issue at a time, the demands all boil down to one thing: we don’t want you running the world any more. You’re bad at it. Your motives are evil. The future you imagine is a vision of hell.
If I were in charge, I wouldn’t want to acknowledge that, either.
It’s an old trick: when an angry mob descends on your castle, ask what its demands are. The commoners will argue and bicker and eventually hand up a watered-down set of conditions for not torching the castle. Those can be negotiated down to a few easily-managed, cosmetic modifications to the status quo. Demands met, mob disperses. Nobody’s happy, nothing has really changed.
... Now, there is a powerful, growing movement—a genuine populist movement not funded by the Koch Brothers or egged on by radio shock-jocks—that demands the American government get out of bed with corporate money. No more revolving-door lobbyists, paid-off politicians, or highest-bidder politics. Right there you can see why nobody in power wants to address this.
But add to that the desire to address the destructive income gap between richest and poorest, reverse the concentration of wealth, energize the economy from the bottom up, retool our future work to a sustainable model for a rapidly changing global environment, and rebuild our infrastructure—that we need a universal healthcare system not geared to profits but to wellness, rather than leaving millions of Americans to die for lack of resources—and I’m willing to bet there is genuine fear in the halls of power.
We’re not seeing it, of course. But there must be panic building in Washington, Wall Street, and the many other seats of political and industrial control. And those are just a few examples of the wrongs people want to address. The entire status quo is a disaster. It needs to be reinvented. That is a revolutionary idea.
... A list of demands is not going to arise from this movement. It’s not about bumper sticker slogans and catchy signs. A real people’s movement is far more complex and filled with nuance than that. What Occupy Wall Street (and now, beyond) is demanding is nothing less than a return of democracy to this country, and the overthrow of Big Money’s stranglehold on our nation’s future. That’s not a demand. It’s a promise.
RJ Eskow wrote about the issue of demands
But the fact that the movement doesn’t make demands of Wall Street - or Washington, for that matter - doesn’t mean it doesn’t have demands. It does, but they’re not directed at Wall Street, or K Street, or Pennsylvania Avenue. They’re directed at you. And at me, and at every other citizen in this country.
... But the “one demand” that matters most is directed at our society, not our policymakers, and it’s much more fundamental than these excellent ideas. The demand is this: “Come back to sanity.” That’s the underlying demand that unifies all those items on the #OccupyWallSt website. Our culture is insane today, and they recognize that. Create a transactions tax, and they’ll simply rob us another way - until we restore our society to sanity.
... How do you end insanity? By seeing the reality as it is - not by seeing parts of the truth, but by seeing the whole. You start by seeing that we’re being run by, and manipulated by, a system. It’s a corporate system that drives our politics, our news, and even our entertainment. You begin to see it as a system that’s overthrown our basic values and discarded our basic sense of decency, replacing themwith an exaltation of consumerism and a condemnation of the unfortunate.
People have been waiting for someone to connect the dots. They’ve been waiting for someone to explain how these forces act together and work totether to exploit us. They want to know how and why they’e been losing their wealth, their security, and even their self-esteem.
The #OccupyWallSt protestors are succeeding. They’re carrying the message - and they’re being heard. They’ve won over the Transit Workers Union, the Airline Pilots Union, the SEIU, and - in an echo of Tahrir Square - soldiers in uniform who are willing to defend them. You don’t do that by proposing a financial transactions tax, as important as that is. You do that by demanding an end to the insanity, the madness that’s being manufactured and distributed every day by the leaders of corporate America.
... Let’s compile our list of policy ideas. They’re badly needed. But first comes the song: End the corporate-driven insanity. Restore the values that have guided our country for more than 200 years. Make us human again. Make us a community again. Make us sane again.
There is a movement forming, a community, a process of coming to a consensus using democratic principles. It is an experiment in real participatory democracy and community building. It is a call to restore America’s original vision. This is possibly more important than specific demands to solve particular issues that are all a result of a systemic corruption.
As Edward Murray noted
... Some people say that the protestors are only undermining their cause by not having a clear mission statement. But that may not be true, either. In fact, Occupy Wall Street may expose the Achilles’ heel of many other civil protests. Occupy Wall Street has no repeated cheer to stop coal mining, or to grant civil rights, or even to end a war. This protest cannot be boiled down to a simple soundbite because this protest is ambitiously seeking a complex, fundamental, philosophical change in the social, political, and economic infrastructure of our country.
... The strength of Occupy Wall Street lies in the ambiguity of its mission. There is no laundry list of specific, unreasonable, and untenable demands. There is only the demand for change. Change of, by, and for the people, enacted by our elected officials. If the powers-that-be respond with absolutely nothing, then it is clear that they will never, ever be interested in effecting substantial change of our financial system, no matter how strong public support may be.
On occupywallstreet.org, the closest thing you will find to an official mission statement is this: Our nation, our species and our world are in crisis. The U.S. has an important role to play in the solution, but we can no longer afford to let corporate greed and corrupt politics set the policies of our nation.
Now, if you don’t believe that statement to be true, you are either on the payroll of an organization with a politically-biased agenda… or you’re no longer reading this due to a lack of funny cat photos. This statement reflects a sobering reality of 21st century America, whether we like it or not. And this watershed moment in our culture brings us the unprecedented opportunity to truly evoke change if we all agree that this reality is a problematic one.
... The questions now arise: do you really think it is possible to wrestle away the disproportionate amount of government influence currently held by corporations that care nothing for the individual worker upon which they rely? Do you think it is possible to sever the connection between our elected leaders and corporate financiers? Do you truly think change is possible? Because if you do, then you share something very strong and very special with those who are currently involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement; you share something that cannot be boiled down to an easily digestible sound byte that will be scrolled along a CNN ticker. You share a common belief in a complex philosophy and a noble direction for the future of the United States of America.
This protest may fizzle out tomorrow, it may gain more traction, it could turn into a riot with a harsh media, political, and police backlash. However, if this protest can garner attention and foment the type of change that would dissolve the undeniably repugnant bond between our financial industry and our government; the average American citizen (all 300 million of them) would emerge victorious, regardless of race, creed, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.
Chase Iron Eyes on Indian Country Today notes that
It seems obvious that this movement is a response to the state of the American economy and the obscene inequities of Western capitalism. In that line of reasoning, neo-classical economics should bear the brunt of the blame. Pundits generally refer to neo-classical economics as the modern world economy. To me, neo-classical economics describes the economics that has been propagated all over the globe, controls our means of survival, and is propped up by all institutions, be they government, legal, academic, media, etc. Neo-classical economics pretends it is a science, attempting to force us to believe in its authority, attempts to make us accept that GDP should be the measure of civilized nations; that with its aloof formulas and it can best provide for any nation’s needs. It is a kind of economics that does not take into account rapid deforestation, loss of species, loss of fresh water, oil spills, melting ice-caps, nuclear disasters, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc. in its “cost” or GDP calculations. Purveyors of neo-classical economics do not want us to know their economics is myth that presumes mother-earth has limitless “resources.” Whether expressly or not, I believe all the protesters are standing up against these basic tenets of modern economics, which are incompatible with continuing sustainable civilizations and our spirits.
... Usually protesters present a list of demands and we watch the T.V. to see the results. This time the reasons behind the protests are at the very heart of our modern existence. Hopefully, protesters are not only protesting because they want more pay, job security or other incidental benefits of a corporate-world economy. Because, surely that system cannot last—we are keeping it on life support.
I would hope that at some point OWS announces that it seeks, among other things, a true cost “global market” where we incorporate real costs of continuing down the oil-slicked road and further engaging the carbon economy. Although it is more than enough to be mad at our own economic collapse, unfair rates of pay, loss of jobs, Wall street bailouts, and corporate greed, I hope that OWS includes as a demand, that we consider an American-Western, and global strategy for dealing with our current path to planetary destruction.
Protesting within the confines of the system has often been criticized for the perceived reason that it does nothing to really change the system. There is criticism that protesters are only pacified within the system and life returns to corporate normalcy once again. Never mind that, we should be happy that a tangible spark of change has been created. We should appreciate this time, this moment, the direction it could take us.
I expect the movement to grow despite police brutality, unofficial silencing, and other tactics. We will see an increased police-state in New York and other cities. How far are Americans willing to go: loss of job, loss of freedom, etc. Can we afford to go on as usual? The financial-industrial powers are not listening to the peoples’ loud message for change.
Some professional friends caution me to write with care to not jeopardize a future job or client; I take that advice and write so as not to jeopardize my future job as a grandfather or risk losing my real client, the ancestors yet to come.
I personally hope this movement grows. We, as Americans, should all be prepared for change, abrupt growing-pains-like change, if we are to forge our way forward in a world which seeks to displace us as the pre-eminent world power. Hecegla (That is enough)
A Modest Call to Action on this September 17th - OccupyWallSt
This statement is ours, and for anyone who will get behind it. Representing ourselves (not the movement as a whole), we bring this call for revolution.
We want freedom for all, without regards for identity, because we are all people, and because no other reason should be needed. However, this freedom has been largely taken from the people, and slowly made to trickle down, whenever we get angry.
Money, it has been said, has taken over politics. In truth, we say, money has always been part of the capitalist political system. A system based on the existence of have and have nots, where inequality is inherent to the system, will inevitably lead to a situation where the haves find a way to rule, whether by the sword or by the dollar.
We agree that we need to see election reform. However, the election reform proposed ignores the causes which allowed such a system to happen. Some will readily blame the federal reserve, but the political system has been beholden to political machinations of the wealthy well before its founding.
We need to address the core facts: these corporations, even if they were unable to compete in the electoral arena, would still remain control of society. They would retain economic control, which would allow them to retain political control. Term limits would, again, not solve this, as many in the political class already leave politics to find themselves as part of the corporate elites.
We need to retake the freedom that has been stolen from the people, altogether.
1.If you agree that freedom is the right to communicate, to live, to be, to go, to love, to do what you will without the impositions of others, then you might be one of us.
2.If you agree that a person is entitled to the sweat of their brows, that being talented at management should not entitle others to act like overseers and overlords, that all workers should have the right to engage in decisions, democratically, then you might be one of us.
3.If you agree that freedom for some is not the same as freedom for all, and that freedom for all is the only true freedom, then you might be one of us.
4.If you agree that power is not right, that life trumps property, then you might be one of us.
5.If you agree that state and corporation are merely two sides of the same oppressive power structure, if you realize how media distorts things to preserve it, how it pits the people against the people to remain in power, then you might be one of us.
And so we call on people to act
1.We call for protests to remain active in the cities. Those already there, to grow, to organize, to raise consciousnesses, for those cities where there are no protests, for protests to organize and disrupt the system.
2.We call for workers to not only strike, but seize their workplaces collectively, and to organize them democratically. We call for students and teachers to act together, to teach democracy, not merely the teachers to the students, but the students to the teachers. To seize the classrooms and free minds together.
3.We call for the unemployed to volunteer, to learn, to teach, to use what skills they have to support themselves as part of the revolting people as a community.
4.We call for the organization of people’s assemblies in every city, every public square, every township.
5.We call for the seizure and use of abandoned buildings, of abandoned land, of every property seized and abandoned by speculators, for the people, for every group that will organize them.
We call for a revolution of the mind as well as the body politic.
FIRST OFFICIAL STATEMENT OF OWS DEMANDS - September 29, 2011
Declaration of the Occupation of New York City
As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
— They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
— They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
— They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
— They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
— They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.
— They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
— They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
— They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
— They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
— They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
— They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
— They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
— They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
— They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
— They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.
— They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
— They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.
— They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
— They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
— They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
— They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
— They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
— They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*
To the people of the world,
We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.
Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.
To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.
Join us and make your voices heard! *These grievances are not all-inclusive.
STATEMENTS BY LOCAL GROUPS
Occupy Boston MA ratified and issued a Memorandum of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples
Occupy Iowa City IA expressed solidarity with the OWS statement.
Occupy Huntington WV also expressed support for OWS and added this list of demands
— We demand real hope, real change and something we can really believe in.
— We demand an end to monopolistic capitalism.
— We demand that JP Morgan Chase Bank phase out all funding for industries that pollute and destroy our environment. The people of Appalachia want clean energy jobs.
— We demand the creation of a clean and sustainable economy and the halt of the destruction of the environment of Appalachia and elsewhere.
— We demand recognition of climate change as fact. We demand the end of corporate ownership of mineral rights. We demand the city of Huntington stop the lay-off of workers.
— We demand the complete funding of pensions of all city employees and the recognition of a union’s right to collective bargaining.
— We demand an end to poverty and the establishment of a living wage.
Gadi Dechter wrote about what he sees as the key issues raised by the Occupy Together movement to date. They include: Rising income inequality, Shrinking income mobility, A rigged tax code, A rigged democracy, An assault on fundamental protections.
It seems quite clear that “we the people” see that the current system is unfair and want corporations out of politics, and want our elected representatives to represent the people, not corporations. We want reform and concrete change. We want accountability and oversight.
The real question is when are the 1% going to take us seriously and respond by acknowledging the grievances and working to find solutions to fix the very real problems that we face as a nation.
A NEW DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
Alex Pareene and a group of writers at Salon have just published an important contribution to this discussion about demands. A New Declaration of Independence. It states in part
... In Liberty Plaza in Lower Manhattan, in Oakland’s Oscar Grant Plaza, and at other parks and public squares across the nation (and the world), Occupiers are daily creating the more perfect democracy they’d like to see. As part of that process, groups and individuals and intellectuals and pundits have put forth proposed “demands,” to address the myriad problems laid out above. From Occupy Wall Street’s principles of solidarity to the General Assembly’s proposed New New Deal to Robert Reich’s list of essential progressive reforms to the Working Group of the 99 Percent’s Petition of Grievences, we’ve read the proposals and humbly offer our own, for ways to begin to make the richest nation on the planet fair for those of us who can’t afford a congressman. Our list is meant to be the beginning of a conversation, not a final product.
In that Declaration they list what they see as the 10 key issues:
1. Debt relief
2. A substantial jobs program
3. A healthcare public option
4. Reregulate Wall Street
5. End the Global War on Terror and rein in the defense budget
6. Repeal the Patriot Act
7. Tackle climate change
8. Stop locking everyone up for everything and end the drug war
9. Full equality for the queer community
10. Fix the tax system
They go into detail about why each is important, and possible solutions to consider working towards. They close with this statement This is only a draft: Put your suggestions, feedback, advice in the comments section below, so we can continue to evolve this document.
I hope that a lot of folks from the OWS movement will join them in this discussion and in fashioning this NEW DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE [url=http://www.salon.com/2011/10/31/a_new_declaration_of_independence/singleton/]here
TAM ARTICLE SERIES DOCUMENTING THE OWS MOVEMENT
— The “Occupy Wall Street” American Autumn Movement summary of the movement since 9/17 with extensive article collection
— OWS demands are clear with updated information on demands, statements, etc. from the movement.
— The OWS Movement and Law Enforcement including updated information about arrests, law enforcement responses, etc.
— Occupy Together - the Spiritual Dimension includes information about participation, or lack thereof, of clergy, interfaith leaders and religious institutions, and an article collection.
— Our Elected Representatives Need to Respond to Clear OWS Demands including updated information about the positions (pro and con) taken by various elected representatives and politicians. It’s Time to Fight Back and Take the Occupy Movement to the Ballot Box as a response to these politicians.