Wednesday was busy for me, with the debate and all, but before all that started I had gone over to city hall and talked with people from the Occupy Philly movement, who are affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street people unofficially. I say unofficially mostly as a sort of joke because there is no central control, group, or message which is acting as the guide for these movements. At least not yet (this notwithstanding).
Honest Discussioner and I talked with all sorts of people at the event. He had his camera with him, and so there is video of some of our discussions from people lending logistical, technical, and media support. Also, it became clear, as I had noticed even before Wednesday (I had been to the location a couple of times in the last week or so) that people have different opinions and expectations from the movement, even if they did share some common concerns and goals.
Some were antagonistic to the police, and others pointed out that they were friendly, part of the 99%, and even helpful. This, among other issues (such as that of whether regulated Capitalism, Socialism, or Communism is ultimately the goal) are things which will have to be worked out internally and over time.
Here is what HonestDiscussioner put together from our trip:
The first thing to understand about this movement is that they have a legal right to be there. They have a permit from the city, have received police assistance in terms of protection and even the ushering of some homeless people to the area (where there are resources to feed them and address their health issues). There are tents for media, tech support, first aid, food/water, and many for people who are residing around city hall.
You know, like occupying Philadelphia. In other words, this is not merely a place where people will get up and make there way over to for a day of activism, but rather it is that people are living around city hall right now. It is a small sea of tents, information tables, a library, and advocacy groups of various stripes. I hope that paints some of the picture somewhat.
Essentially, there is no central message coming from the Occupy Philly groups yet. The reason for this is that the movement is still taking shape. There are logistical concerns, and no one group is taking charge of anything except their own messages.
And, of course, there are various groups involved. There are union groups (the AFL-CIO had an event on Wednesday, for example), as did Action United, Philly Jobs with Justice, and many other groups friendly to the goals of Occupy Philly can be found around and willing to talk to interested visitors of residents.
So, Shaun (says the impatient reader) what precisely are the goals? What is the message? Well, since you insist, I will summarize what I think the central message seems to be so far. Money. More specifically, money in politics. The concern is that large business interests control how elections, legislation, and therefore policy are all implemented. There is a feeling that the people (the 99%) are left powerless, unimportant, and sold out.
One sign I have seen several times says “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.” The message seems to be that as it stands, our political system is geared to protect corporate interests and not people’s interests. Where certain banks are too big to fail, the majority of people who are struggling, with or without jobs, are not. I’ll let economists tackle that question.
But what is clear to me is that in an economy like ours right now, jobs are needed (this blogger sure could use one). The people who have the ability to affect change in that direction are not doing much to help (Jobs bill, anyone?). The “job-creators,” in other words, are not fulfilling their name-sakes. Banks are holding onto money, many people are left with little to no money ( I think I do have 2 or 3 dollars around somewhere…quite literally), and there seems to be systemic reasons for this.
This has been true for a long time, of course. In fact, this issue is not far off from the early Tea Party’s message (before it was bought out by business interests itself, of course). So the question this presents to me is whether the Occupy movements will become something like the Tea Party movement. The irony of it being bought by corporate interests would be high, but this does not make the possibility unlikely. I mean, look what happened to the liberal movements of the 1960’s; totally corporatized both in image and ideology. Not to say there are not still hippies out there who avoided corporate branding, just that they don’t have political power.
But I will not allow myself to become too cynical yet. I will allow people who are working day and night for this movement to create something, and I will allow some small hope that they may achieve something beneficial for all of us.
So, I will continue to follow this movement and hope that it leads to at least some consciousness raising for more Americans. The super rich (those 1%, or even there cronies the top 5% or so) are not likely to simply roll over and change how they operate within politics. Their values seem to be at odds with those of us who are interested in seeing less disparity and inequality in the United States and the world.
If we educate ourselves, become involved in some sort of effort to change the world for the better, and demand more from people who have it we might be able to affect change in the world, even if only a little. Oh, how I hope that’s true.
Here’s a touch of hope, perhaps: