For what it’s worth

Posted: 7 October 2011 in Uncategorized
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Some students were complaining before class today that Occupy Wall Street had no hope of success. My response was that it already is a success—since thousands of people in New York City and across the country, instead of blaming themselves for the plight of the 99 percent, are talking with one another about the larger causes, conditions, and consequences of the current crises.

A great deal more has already been gained since Wall Street was first occupied on 17 September. Consider the fact that:

  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced yesterday that a tax increase should be imposed on the “richest of the rich,” in order to finance a new jobs program.

“The American people believe it is time for millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share to help this country thrive,” Reid said on the Senate floor this morning. “So when Democrats bring this commonsense job legislation to the floor, we’ll ask Americans who make more than $1 million a year to contribute more to help this country reduce its jobs deficit.”

The move would throw out the pay-for provisions that were listed in the White House’s American Jobs Act, and now include a 5 percent tax increase on millionaires. The 5 percent surtax on a millionaires’ earned income would not be permanent but would last for the next 10 years, and would provide the funds for the jobs bill, Reid said today.

  • Many unions, including the Greater Boston Labor Council, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and the AFL-CIO have endorsed the occupation.

The Transport Workers Union Local 100 applauds the courage of the young people on Wall Street who are dramatically demonstrating for what our position has been for some time: the shared sacrifice preached by government officials looks awfully like a one-way street. Workers and ordinary citizens are putting up all the sacrifice, and the financiers who imploded our economy are getting away scot-free, increasing their holdings and bonuses.

Young people face a bleak future with high unemployment, and minimum wage jobs. Public sector workers face Mayors and Governors who demand massive wage and benefits givebacks or face thousands of layoffs. That’s not bargaining. That’s blackmail.

One out of six Americans lives in poverty today, and the richest one percent control more wealth than at any time since the Gilded Age of the 1920’s.

The TWU Local 100 Executive Board is united in our determination that this state of affairs is dangerous for America and destructive to its citizenry. We support the Wall Street protesters and their goal to reduce inequality and support every American’s right to a decent job, health care, and retirement security.

  • The protesters have circumvented the banning of electrified microphones and speakers, as well as battery-powered bullhorns, in Liberty Plaza by adopting the human microphone.

The overall effect can be hypnotic, comic or exhilarating—often all at once. As with every media technology, to some degree the medium is the message. It’s hard to be a downer over the human mic when your words are enthusiastically shouted back at you by hundreds of fellow occupiers, so speakers are usually pretty upbeat (or at least sound that way). . .

There’s something inherently pluralistic about the human mic too; it’s almost impossible to demagogue, to interrupt and shout someone down or to hijack the General Assembly for your own sectarian purposes. That’s clearly been a saving grace of this occupation, as the internecine fights over identity and ideology that usually characterize left formations haven’t corrosively bubbled over into blood feuds there—yet. The human mic is also, of course, an egalitarian instrument, and it exudes solidarity over ego. . .

But the greatest hidden virtue of the human mic has been the quality that almost every observer has reflexively lamented: it is slow. . .

But really, what is the goddamn rush? As my colleague Betsy Reed points out, it’s Occupy Wall Street’s raw anger and simple resistance to being beat down (sentiments well suited for the human mic) that have captured the public’s imagination, not the elaborate policy proposals of other efforts. . .

It is, of course, ironic that New York City’s attempt to crackdown on political protest by restricting “amplified sound” unwittingly ended up contributing to the structural strength of its rowdiest protest in decades. But like in Egypt or Argentina or Belarus or other places where the authorities sought to silence speech, the people found a way to be heard.

  1. […] What Has Occupy Wall Street Accomplished? Some students were complaining before class today that Occupy Wall Street had no hope of success. […]

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