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“To Express a Feeling of Mass Injustice”: #OccupyWallStreet Hits a Tipping Point

So much for the idea that there isn’t a specific policy message coming out of the Occupy Wall Street protests. This video, from the Institute for Policy Studies, which has been widely linked on the We Are the 99% Tumblr page, shows how easy it is to convert the frustrations of a generation of poor and disenfranchised people into action.

This is still a message about budget deficits, which doesn’t really match the current problems of the economy. But it’s also a message about political economy, which is the more important one. We know from a wide range of evidence that rampant inequality is a breeding ground for financial crises, recessions and depressions. We know that money pooled at the very top leads to a two-tiered system of justice and a lack of accountability for the rich and powerful. We know that a great deal of our problems – from climate change to health care to anything else you want to name – don’t get fixed because people with a lot of money profit from the status quo. In a time when everyone not at that top range is being squeezed over and over again on a variety of levels, you could come up with a far worse message on policy than what is listed in that video from IPS and their site Inequality.org.

The declaration of the occupation of New York City, the first official statement from the occupation, leads with the need “to express a feeling of mass injustice.” You could hardly come up with a better elucidation of that injustice than the fact that social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security and welfare are being offered up for cuts, while the richest people and corporations aren’t asked to contribute. Corporatism and massive inequality is the core grievance of this occupation, and of the dozens of smaller movements we’ve seen over the past year. They are connected in spirit and sentiment. And maybe the bill of particulars is variegated, some might say “unfocused.” But everything on that list springs from that core grievance.

And the only call to action, at the end, is one of greater civic participation:

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!

That’s a message that can build and grow something quickly. And we’re already seeing that, mass arrests notwithstanding. Major trade unions and labor leaders are taking the side of OccupyWallStreet and providing reinforcements. The culture has already created the narrative that the protesters are plugging into. A series of direct actions, many of which were already planned weeks ago, have picked up the “Occupy” branding and are rolling out across the country, with 100,000 people signed up on Facebook to support them. Even major media types have understood that this is something not only to be studied, but to be celebrated.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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