Eight days ago I wrote the following words:
I was really put off by their website, bad videos of kids who had no idea why they were there, online comments like 'the streets of America will burn', and stupid shit like "let's go march on this street and look at the cars we'll never be able to afford which THE RICH own" - probably written by kids skiving off their 40k a year schools. I do not want to join a protest which is a bunch of trustafarians in a park with a well meaning but vague claim to be 'the 99%' and an inability to clearly state what their aims are.
I am a member of the media. I am a journalist, a novelist and a screenwriter. I’ve marched against War, against government cuts to public spending, for the DREAM Act, and more. I worked on the Obama campaign. I was unemployed for two long years as a direct consequence of the economic crash in 2008, despite my privileged education at Cambridge University, despite doing everything ‘right’. But when a group of protestors started holding up signs in Zucotti Park three weeks ago, I didn’t pay much attention. When they grew in numbers, I scoffed at them. When Michael Moore showed up, and the Unions pitched in, I did a bit of mild mocking, but my curiosity was piqued. When NYPD responded with brutality, I was shocked, but thought, ‘Well, maybe it’ll all calm down now. They can’t really expect anything to change’. And then I looked around, and I realized I sounded like everyone else. The people who represented everything I no longer believed in. I sounded like Erin Burnett on CNN. My writing about Occupy Wall Street resembled that now-maligned New York Times piece. I could have been an anchor on Fox News, for godsakes.
My suspicion and cynicism was founded upon my own disillusionment with the radical idea that anything might possibly change for the better in this country and in this world. It was founded upon my own empirical evidence: life. Experience that ‘the system’ sucks - ergo, it seemed safe to conclude it’s always going to suck, and there’s not a damn thing I or anyone else can do about it, aside from cast a vote in an election every few years, hold up a banner for a couple of hours, then go home and gripe. I’d lost hope, and because I’d lost hope, I saw all those in Zuccotti Park, exercising their First Amendment Rights, as naive--as dreamers.
But I was wrong, just as the mainstream media is wrong. I joined the movement eight days ago. The media and politicians are wrong to ignore us, to mock us, to denigrate us. You may have heard them claim that we have no clear aim, no demands, no focus, no direction, no cohesive platform. We are doomed to failure, they tell us. Our movement is wishy-washy liberal bullshit. We’re simply a bunch of unemployed hippies, camping out, having a party, dancing around in hemp clothes, not really sure what we’re protesting about, indulging our gripes with some bongo drums as an accompaniment.
I was at the march from Pershing Square to City Hall on Saturday. This felt like any other march or protest, but there was one difference. This was not a march to ask for a concrete objective: ‘Audit the Federal Reserve’ or ‘Jail CEO’s’ or ‘Overturn Citizens United’, although these are undoubtedly issues we will carefully discuss in our General Assemblies across the United States in the coming months. This was a symbolic march which led us to the place where we would set up our alternate ‘tent’ city, our occupied space which has evolved to run in a way which directly contrasts to the way our country, and our global economy is run. The point of our presence is to make clear that the people will no longer accept a warped version of democracy. We will no longer tolerate corruption and the lies of “false scarcity” that we are force fed on a daily basis. We want something more, something different, something better.
We are rapidly creating it.
Our General Assemblies, lengthy as they may be, allow all our committees: Action, Finance, Security, Media, Arts and Entertainment, Print Media, First Aid, Food - to check in, to discuss all decision-making with the people. These General Assemblies are live-streamed to the public and recorded, to allow complete transparency and accessibility. Our economy, again, is completely transparent: donations are logged, placed into a bank account under our name, and transactions available for all to see. No one goes hungry in our city: food is provided by donation from supporters in the community, from small businesses, from local farmers such as CSA California. Medical and health supplies, as limited as they may be, are free to all. Childcare services are being set up. A sanitation committee and a pledge to “leave no trace” ensures that we are respectful of our environment and local eco-system. We are phasing out all use of disposables such as paper plates and plastic bottles, and our occupiers, protestors and supporters - all members of the community - are encouraged to bring their own bottle, tin plate, utensils, for use. We work alongside the city council and the LAPD, and we are unique amongst cities with identical occupations in that we have not yet suffered from police brutality despite engaging in civil disobedience. We do, however, observe our brothers and sisters in New York and across the United States, suffer for doing exactly the same thing as we are doing.
We are diverse, inclusive, non-hierarchical. My first evening at City Hall, I spoke to a forty year-old, middle-class, clean cut father of two who’s never lost his home or his job, but has watched others suffer, who feels acutely the unfair and horrendous divide between those at the very top: the 1% who use their superior financial position to wield unlimited power over the government of this country. I spoke to an unemployed Hispanic 28 year-old mother who wants a future for her son. I spoke to an Iraq Vet who is now homeless and sleeps on the sidewalk every night, an organic farmer from Northern California who has seen the severe rises in taxes oust fellow farmers from their land, young, passionate hippy Burners from Venice Beach, a gay fashion designer from West Hollywood, experienced activists with the trademark dreadlocks who’ve passionately fought for their beliefs in various campaigns for years, a disillusioned Republican accountant who no longer believes in Big Business, a screenwriter who has few interests outside the Hollywood movie industry and that bubble, but is so moved by watching true democracy at play that she returns several times a week.
There is no ‘type’ of person in our movement. We do not identify with a political party, corporation, race, economic or social class, career, area, tax bracket. We are not Socialists, Anarchists, Hippies, Liberals, Republicans, The Tea Party, Activists, or Vegans, although those who identify with these labels are welcome to be part of our movement. We claim to be ‘the 99%’, because we represent everybody in America who is not in the richest 1% and has suffered because of this. They have suffered because our capitalist society - our corporatocracy - is set up in such a way that this richest 1% cannot fail - or if they do, the 99% will pick up the bill. To pay for this richest 1% to maintain their lifestyle, we have had to make sacrifices which have all but destroyed us, our lives, our families, our identities, our pride, our hopes, our dreams, our faith in this country, and in this global economy. The corporatocracy has sedated us, so that we have become inured to pain merely by our familiarity with it on a daily basis. For many years, this rendered us inactive. We grumbled, but did not act. Despite watching Bush sign TARP back in 2008, we did nothing, because we had not yet fully realized the extent of the corruption inherent in this country. Perhaps we did not yet comprehend how little our government and our system cared about us, the 99%.
We are people who have had out homes taken away from us in the subprime mortgage crisis, have lost jobs, have had our cars repossessed, have watched the APR on our (maxed out) credit cards rise to 19% and above. We have dropped out of college because we can no longer afford the tuition, or we never even considered it as an option in the first place. We do not have health insurance, and something as simple as a UTI which can be treated with antibiotics costing less than five dollars, can produce horror and absolute fear in us, because we cannot afford the $150 dollars or more to go see a doctor to obtain a simple script. We see no future for our children, and we are afraid to send them to this country’s failing public schools. Life’s daily pointless pain has been made unbearably acute, has been accentuated to a point of screaming incomprehensibility, by the financial burden of merely existing in modern-day America, of being made to feel, every day, like a failure, a loser, a fuck up, nothing. We are told if we do not earn enough money to be in the top 1 percent, that this is our fault, that this country is a meritocracy, that we are jealous of others’ success. We are told that this 1 percent have earned their tax breaks and their bailouts, that if we were only better, we too, would be allowed entry into the hallowed halls of the mega-rich and the power they wield - but we are never given the opportunity to reach even a fraction of our potential because our days are filled with the painful task of merely existing, of striving hopelessly to survive.
We Are The 99%, and we know the truth.
The truth is that the system is not ‘failing‘ us. The system is working exactly as those in power intended it to work. It was always set up to benefit those who run it, and punish those underneath it, keeping us in check by ensuring our placid, docile acceptance of unfairness.
As a movement, we have been criticized for “not having a cohesive platform” - but those who accuse us of this have either failed to see what is emerging, or they are afraid of its ever increasing potential, and these lies are spread in a vain attempt to halt our momentum. Our movement has not been planned, it has evolved naturally and organically from a simple callout in a Canadian magazine called Adbusters which asked for people to turn up in Zucotti Park one day in September. From a dozen or so protestors, we have grown into a global movement in less than a month. This is not a mere march, a protest, a group of people with nothing better to do. The numbers in and of themselves are clear evidence of a seismic shift in the consciousness of the vast majority of people in this world who are sick of being the 99% who facilitate the 1%. Over 750 cities globally have now joined our movement and expressed solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. Over ten thousand people of all ages, races, and creeds have turned up to march in Portland, Oregon on Thursday and now the occupation has spread all over the city. The numbers of supporters turning up to march daily in New York are in excess of twenty thousand. We have union support, colleges have staged a walk out, our supporters have pledged to close their bank accounts and move their savings to a credit union instead. Tent cities resembling microcosmic nations are springing up all around the world, run by the people, using our General Assembly to make decisions. We are not a march, we do not “struggle for definition” - we are a growing movement of consciousness, and we are evolving at a rapid rate, and our very existence proves its own point. We have grown weary of the globalist system. We are poised on the brink of a true bloodless Peoples’ Revolution. We have no party affiliations. We choose nobody to represent us, as we already have a Direct Democracy. We welcome you to General Assembly.