After one year, Occupy Wall Street accomplishes nothing
Occupy Wall Street celebrated its anniversary on Monday. One year ago, Americans took to the streets and exercised their First Amendment right to protest. Utilizing social media and citizen journalism, OWS spread to cities across the nation. The world heard their voices.
And one year later, that’s pretty much all that’s happened.
The OWS movement has incited no changes in politics or policy in the last year, and its momentum is fading. While OWS is not a complete failure, its jumbled message and haphazard organization has made the movement, to quote William Shakespeare, “Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
OWS protesters’ main message is that they are the so-called 99 percent — average Americans who have been “wronged by the corporate forces of the world” — according to their “Declaration of Occupation,” approved last year.
OWS’s list of grievances is so broad and prodigious that meeting its demands would require not reform, but revolution. Protesters occupied Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan to condemn the corporations that rule our lives, a corrupt government that offers its consent and an economic system that only guarantees equality of opportunity, not outcome.
Where should we start?
In reality, OWS’s enemy should be a corrupt financial system that favored ruthless control over free market capitalism. This small but powerful group was responsible for the sub-prime mortgage crisis that caused our recent economic meltdown.
Also, OWS’s leaderless groupthink mentality hasn’t helped its cause. Its “human microphone” exercise simply advances the ongoing stereotype that the whole movement boils down to white noise. OWS lacks both a chain of command and a centralized method for communication. Social media crowdsourcing may work to promote a new season of “Pawn Stars,” but not to launch a radical political movement.
Above all, OWS could learn some lessons from a different 99 percent. This 99 percent of Americans share OWS’s deep concern about the economy, unemployment and the shrinking opportunities of the American dream. But instead of blaming corporate corruption or democratic capitalism when their hopes fall short, they double down on hard work and ingenuity. It’s that uniquely American tradition of blue-collar perseverance, no matter the odds.
That tradition helped us win World War II and blaze out of the Great Depression. It sent a man to the moon, won the Cold War, fostered a technology revolution and built a society in which optimism and economic freedom make us the envy of the world.
While this 99 percent wipes their brow and goes back to work, OWS sits, complains and waits.
The parallels between OWS and the Tea Party movement are worth noting. Both built grassroots campaigns in response to policies they deemed unconscionable. But the Tea Party, as flawed as it is, has actually become a political force in our democracy. It has affected public policy. Americans take it seriously.
How many OWS protesters will be elected to Congress in November? Who in the 113th Congress will join the “Occupy Caucus?”
Even Jay-Z — rags to riches music industry millionaire — criticized the movement. “This is free enterprise. This is what America is built on,” he said.
Without any direction, influence or public interest, in just one year, OWS has sunk deep into the shadows of the Manhattan skyline.
It appears Occupy Wall Street got 99 problems, but the 1 percent ain’t one.
Jared Kraham is a senior political science and broadcast journalism major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @JaredKraham.
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