Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: A Movement on the Move

If you thought Occupy Wall Street (OWS) was just a fly by night initiative, think again.  What began September 17, 2011 as a series of minimally publicized demonstrations in the financial district of New York City has blossomed into a full blown movement which has not only swept the United States, but crossed into international terrain, as well.

The participants' slogan "We are the 99%" refers to the vast difference in wealth between the top 1% and the rest of the population in the United States and abroad. The main purpose of the protest is to bring awareness to social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the power and influence of corporations, particularly from the financial service sector, and of lobbyists, over government.  In just over one month,  demonstrations modeling themselves after the “Occupy” protest brand have expanded into 70 major cities and over 600 communities in the U.S. and over 900 cities worldwide including Sydney, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Hamburg, and many others.

Perceptions vary as to the specific goals of the movement, which is why most media outlets did not take the protest seriously initially and for the most part ignored it.  The message of the protests, due to the nature of its participants’ complaints, is not as obvious at first glance as others that have taken place this year.  Protestors have not congregated at Liberty Square to overthrow a dictator, like they did in Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Nor do they aim to violently depose the government, like protesters did against Moammar Gaddafi and his dictatorship of Libya.
According to Adbusters, a group which organizes protests, the central demand is that President Obama "ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.” Documentary film maker Michael Moore said that this protest, unlike others before it, represents a wide array of demands with a common statement about government corruption and the excessive influence of big business and the wealthiest 1% on U.S. laws and policies.  While some analysts agree, others say that the President has become irrelevant; the 99%, being the majority, should lead and inspire the nation’s change.  A recent editorial in the New York Times said it is not the job of the protesters to draft legislation; that is still the job of the nation’s leaders, and if they had been doing it all along a need for these marches and rallies would have never come about.

One fascinating part about this movement is the list of celebrities joining the group who are clearly NOT among the 99 percent. While some have called celebs heroic for their efforts, others have snubbed the famous faces and labeled them as downright hypocritical.  Hip hop royalty, Kanye West (reported net worth $70 million) and Jay-Z ($450 million) have been spotted making appearances with the Occupy Wall Street protesters this month, while hip-hop mogul, Russell Simmons attended the NYC protests daily for more than two weeks straight.  Despite the criticism stars like West have received for attending the protest in a $350 Givenchy t-shirt, Simmons maintains that naysayers of celebrity support are missing the point and should focus on the issues in Washington.

Whether you support the protesters or not, one thing is certain: the Occupy movement doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.   As the diversity of the protesters expands to include persons of a variety of political orientations, religions, race, sexual preferences and ages, the movement becomes more massive each day.  While the outcomes of the protests are yet to be determined, you can bank on this being the year historians will recall as the time when citizens collectively expressed disapproval of their governments and social inequalities from Cairo to California.  While thousands may have been ignored at the start, a movement involving millions cannot be.

Until Next Time,

Seek Wisdom, Find Wealth & Be Blessed

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