[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]
In the summer of 2011, 14 million Americans were unemployed and 16% of the country was officially poor. Student loan debt eclipsed credit card with over $1 trillion outstanding. One in five mortgages was underwater. Our leaders said the economy was recovering from the recession caused by the financial crisis, but their soothing pronouncements seemed to mock the evidence of our senses. On September 17, a group of activists converged on a small concrete plaza in lower Manhattan, determined to Occupy Wall Street.
The 99% opens with some founding texts of the occupation including speeches by author Naomi Klein, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, and union leader Leo Gerard. Person-on-the-plaza interviews capture the voices of a striking Teamster, a farmer/mental health technician working the medical tent, and a Wall Street insider-turned-digital activist.
The next section describes the nuts and bolts of a communal occupation: Staying safe, keeping warm, charging cell phones, making decisions as a group, and cataloging the People’s Library. Sarah Jaffe describes the ingenious system of solar panels used to generate energy and the grey water filtration system that protesters rigged up to water the park’s flowers. Richard Kim writes about the practical and symbolic impact of the human mic. Journalist and illustrator Susie Cagle offers a helpful graphical guide to the hand signals of the occupation.
Subsequent chapters describe critical events in the history of the occupation, including the mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge, and the early morning standoff to prevent Bloomberg from clearing the park for cleaning.
The book devotes considerable space to analysis of the economic crisis that sparked Occupy Wall Street: the consolidation of wealth, the mortgage crisis. Lynn Parramore explains how the consolidation of bank deposits in the hands of a few mega banks contributed to the current crisis. Josh Holland describes how Citizens United short-circuited democracy. Economist Jamie Galbraith dissects the meaningless claim that smaller government is inherently better.
The final chapters explore possible futures for the Occupy Movement beyond physical encampments.
The 99% is an important early work on a defining social movement of our times.