Sunday, October 9, 2011

What Next for Occupy Wall Street?

By Daniel Perin

Forty years ago in Denver, Colorado there was a strong alternative life style movement that began to seriously consider building a new type of community.  There were several iterations of this idea, one of which more or less grew out of the Denver Free University folks.  They targeted a neighborhood just east of downtown between Colfax and 17th and began to buy properties in that area.  They planned on closing streets and making neighborhood parks in their place.  They would have community buildings where families could share activities, including community potlucks on a regular basis.  The times changed during the process and those who had professional talents tended to return to the business community.  Others hung on for a while but the community never really came about.

The Whole Life Learning Center, which I founded in 1973, also envisioned a mountain community where people could “return to the land” as it were.  While we examined many possibilities, we never were able to pull together the resources in people and money to accomplish our dream.  A few years ago my son and I began to envision that dream of community again.  There was still a need for a place where individuals and families could gather together, share their talents and their longing for a caring community of like-minded people.  We envisioned all the aspects of how people would share in building and enjoying a sense of “belonging,” including an educational program for children.  Again, we were unable to complete that dream.

In the meantime we all have watched as our society has continued a downward spiral of lost jobs, lost homes, lost communities.  In the place of these lost values we saw the richest 1% of our society gather in 25% of all the wealth of the country.  That gathered wealth has not been used for the benefit of the society that made possible its attainment.  Instead, it continues to accumulate while corporations find more ways to automate what few manufacturing jobs remain and ship other jobs overseas with little hope or effort to replace those jobs in a meaningful way.

So now we find ourselves gathering in protests all over the country, indeed, all over the world, saying enough is enough!  Or as Howard Beale in the film, Network,[1] based on Paddy Chayefskey,s script, said, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Today I was sharing some ideas about community with a friend who told me of a dream about being in a community.  She went into great detail and as I responded I told her the vision was very much like that some of us had back in the days of the Whole Life Learning Center and later that my son and I shared.  Later, as I thought about that exchange in the context of what is happening with so many persons now displaced from their homes, jobs, and security, I could not help but think that if things do not change appreciably, we could well be forced into some form of communal living.  People are finding they cannot make it on their own.  Many cannot even make it if they return to their parent’s homes.

Historically, the family and the community shared responsibility for each other.  There was always some kind of family safety net.  It may have been sparse living, but there was more of a certainty that we were secure with those we loved and who loved us.  Often the church played an important part in that place of last resort.  Our modern day food pantries are finding it difficult to meet the demand and while some help from the church still exists, even the church is more politically involved today than it is socially active.

If the Occupy Wall Street movement is to succeed, it requires even more effort than the protests of the war in Viet Nam.  What we are witnessing right now are voices rising out of the fringes of the dispossessed, those with any number of complaints.  There may not seem to be any coherence to their message.  Mark my words, friends, coherence will come.  A primary focus will be arrived at and by that time the power behind these early efforts will have mounted to a storm that cannot be diverted.  Ambivalence expressed by our politicians, interested only in perpetuating their own position long enough to retire at full pay and at the same time go to work for lobbying firms intent on further robbing the public of its voice and self-determination, clearly demonstrates a need for structural change in our political system.

You can only keep the “rabble” suppressed for so long before they must rise up in protest.  It would be better for us all if we could establish a firm basis for our cause and convince those we have given the opportunity to lead that the time has come for them to change their ways, to reflect again our concerns and aid us as we seek to make this society work again in accordance with the founding principles that made us a great nation.

Our nation has the resources to meet all our needs.  But the manner in which those resources have been wrested from the working person and placed in the hands of the “money changers” must be addressed and must be changed.  This is no longer a job for the politician.  It is a job for the public, for society as a whole.  Maybe it is time to throw the bums out and start all over.  For the first time in polling history a majority of those polled said they would even vote their representative out of office if they all would go.  We are ready for wholesale change it appears.

Besides the Occupy Wall Street movement, there are a number of opportunities beginning to present themselves.  Of course you can stay within the typical two parties or the Independent Party.  But there is also, Americans Elect 2012. [2]  This is a grass roots effort to nominate the President through the Internet by getting on the ballot in every state.  Undoubtedly there will be more organized efforts arising out of the current protests—if we hang in there and participate in whatever ways we individually are able.

Join in, write about, talk with others—communicate!  We are the 99%.  Hear our voices!

[1]  The film won four Academy Awards, in the categories of Best Actor (Finch), Best Actress (Dunaway), Best Supporting Actress (Straight), and Best Original Screenplay (Chayefsky).
In 2000, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2002, it was inducted into the Producers Guild of America Hall of Fame as a film that has "set an enduring standard for U.S. American entertainment."[1] In 2006, Chayefsky's script was voted one of the top-ten screenplays by the Writers Guild of America, East. In 2007, the film was 64th among the Top 100 Greatest U.S. American Films as chosen by the American Film Institute, a ranking slightly higher than the one AFI had given it ten years earlier. (Wikipedia)


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