Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues., or Wed., Sept. 17, 18 or 19
This week is the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, and as two new fund-raising CDs get played more and more, it’s increasingly obvious that the 1% have more in common with Saudi potentates than regular Americans. In some ways, that’s not new.
“Who are the oppressors?” Mark Twain asked in a speech to the Knights of Labor in 1886. “The few: the king, the capitalist and a handful of other overseers and superintendents. Who are the oppressed? The many: the nations of the earth; the valuable personages; the workers; they that make the bread that the soft-handed and idle eat.”
What is new – besides the excellent CDs – is the resolve of Occupy Wall Street (OWS).
A nonpartisan movement, OWS protested at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, along with Veterans for Peace, labor unions, Code Pink and other groups, and demonstrated against both Chicago’s Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker.
“The importance of the Occupy movement is that the corporate state understood and feared its potential,” said author and correspondent Chris Hedges. “I do not think the state has won. All the injustices and grievances that drove people into the Occupy encampments and onto the streets have been ignored by the state and are getting worse.”
Indeed, 54% of Americans said they had a positive view of the Occupy Wall Street movement, 23% had a negative view. Why? The 1% is out of touch. Writing in The American Conservative, former Republican Congressional aide Mike Lofgren said, “Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it. If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; if one owns a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension. With private doctors on call and a chartered plane to get to the Mayo Clinic, why worry about Medicare?”
OWS isn’t a condemnation of the wealthy but criticism of a system that lets the rich buy government.
“I think it’s anyone’s job to call attention to anything that’s corrupt or anything that’s not being done well,” said Occupy Chicago activist Danielle Villarreal. “If you have any type of politician that’s supposed to be representing the people and they’re not, then it’s our duty as citizens to call them out on that regardless of where they’re coming from.”
This spring and summer, OWS held demonstrations in Chicago over NATO and G8 and at New York’s “Night of the Living Debt” (about $1 trillion in American students’ loan burden), plus partnered with labor’s SEIU to protest Big Banks such as Citigroup.
“I am still here occupying because we are making substantial progress daily,” said Loren Hart, a Catholic Worker activist. “That may be surprising to anyone who has been relying on the mainstream media for information. Some people have even mistaken a lack of attention from popular news sources as evidence that the Occupy movement is dead [but] people everywhere are rising up and demanding a fair deal.
“I am still here occupying because of the continuing involvement of well-known activists [and] because of the dedication of retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard, retired Philadelphia police Captain Ray Lewis, and New York City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams,” Hart added.
Other involvement has come from musicians – who have a heritage of supporting progressive causes, from Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Mahalia Jackson through Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan and John Lennon to Bruce Springsteen, Green Day and Pink. Support comes from two uplifting CDs benefiting the loose movement. “Occupy This Album” is a 4-disc package with 77 cuts by the likes of Willie Nelson, Toots & the Maytals, Third Eye Blind, Jackson Browne, Patti Smith, Arlo Guthire, Lucinda Williams, Loudon Wainwright III, Debbie Harry, Yoko Ono, and David Crosby & Graham Nash.
“Folk The Banks!” has 18 tracks featuring artists such as Billy Bragg, Ani DiFranco, Chumbawumba and Tom Morello, who said, “The wealthiest CEOs reward themselves with million-dollar bonuses while millions are out of work. What can we do about it? We can protest against it, fight back against it, and sing songs that do both.”
Hedges added, “If the ruling class responds rationally to the grievances and injustices that drive people into the streets, as it did during the New Deal, if it institutes jobs programs for the poor and the young, a prolongation of unemployment benefits, improved Medicare for all, infrastructure projects, a moratorium on foreclosures and bank repossessions, and a forgiveness of student debt, then a mass movement can be diluted. The energy in the street can be channeled back into the mainstream. But once the system calcifies as a servant of the interests of the corporate elites, as has happened in the United States, formal political power thwarts justice.”
The CDs are online – http://occupythisalbum.org/ and http://occupationrecords.com/
OWS is online at sites such as www.therealnews.com/ and http://occupiedmedia.us/