The Occupy Wall Street movement is rippling out of New York City and reaching every corner of the globe tomorrow, hitting a major city near you. Saturday October 15 will mark the beginning of mass demonstrations of people around the world united against corporate greed. More importantly it is the first real sign that America is no longer the world’s utopic society.
So what do you think of it? How could you ignore it? Occupy Wall Street is the probably the largest organized protest in North America since the Vietnam War, and it’s gaining momentum. I hope you, like me, haven’t been a stranger to these proceedings. I also hope that you don’t write this off as a passing phase. To us, mass protest is something we do not associate much with our democratic society. And to some of you, this may seem like a ridiculous thing to protest. However, this is just the beginning.
Allow me to provide a fresh perspective on why this is happening. I will admit the existence of bias in this piece of writing and also the fact that I am putting this together in just a few hours. So bear with me if you can, and if you cannot, noone’s forcing you to read.
The reality is that all societies have gone from one system of Centralized Power to the next. Ever since humans first settled down, following the invention of agriculture, it developed Centralized Power to maintain order to a society with an exploding population. Since then, the majority of states have been defined by two forms of power, its People and its Centralized Power. A state’s Centralized Power moderates its People and pools resources through taxation, and its People ensures the Centralized Power invests back in its People. If the state’s Centralized Power loses its way, its People revolt. The Centralized Power then mobilizes its army to oppress the People. Like a game of tug of war, the rope representing society’s power, they keep eachother in check. This is how society works even today.
Many forms of centralized power have come and gone, from despotism to feudalism to monarchies and so forth. The two most common systems in place today are democracy and communism. However, an interesting thing happened with democracy. Out of democracy spawned capitalism and out of this spawned the corporation, democracy’s right hand to accelerate growth.
The Corporation is a faceless entity, yet not unlike a centralized power. A corporation, after all, takes our money and provides us with that which we need to survive and thrive, not unlike the government’s system of taxation. The problem is the Corporation has largely transformed from a vehicle for innovation, to a blood sucking parasite on society. It has created a chasm between rich and poor, accelerated destruction of our ecological habitat and brainwashed our idea of happiness.
The Corporation (this includes its filthy rich) has turned society into a three player game for power within a society. It has become Corporation vs. Democracy vs. its People, and the Corporation is now winning. It is playing the game like a ruthless psychopath, as quoted from the documentary “The Corporation.” Instead of mobilizing armies and SWAT teams, the Corporation mobilizes lawyers with mighty pens. The Corporation is winning the game of power within nations through media manipulation of its people and policy manipulation of the government.
I don’t see the Occupy Wall Street movement as being different from revolutions of the past, just unique.
In the very recent past, especially, revolutions in the Middle East and northern Africa have toppled governments. This was basically a power struggle between a state’s peoples and its government. Now with corporations entering the fray, who says we can’t protest them? It’s certainly sounds odd to protest corporations. What is it but a faceless entity? But really, when you think about it, it’s no different from governments, and we protest them all the time.
Whether or not there’s a purpose to these protests doesn’t really matter either. Again, the complex way corporations have woven themselves into society’s fabric will make them even more difficult to untangle. You can’t just topple corporations the way you do governments. Or demand a union. Or demand the resignation of the Corporation’s leader. The sad fact is we have come to rely on corporations for almost everything we consume. If corporations fall, our society will fall apart.
No, the answer is not dissolving the corporation altogether. The solution isn’t that black and white. Yet, something must be done. Western capitalism has run its course and society demands change. So what will its people do?
In this case, Occupy Wall Street.
The last major protests in the United States were against the Vietnam War. What started as a small group of pacifist protesters turned large scale. Some Americans even self-immolated (set themselves on fire) to set examples, like the recent Buddhists in China and even the martyr that sparked the Middle Eastern revolutions. Anti-war sentiment became so strong that it led to the U.S. withdrawing their involvement from the Vietnam War. Now Americans have picked a new fight, the battleground on home soil, and in their own trading markets and boardrooms. Who says it can’t be done? Who says we shouldn’t at least try?
This could be just the first step in the escalating power struggle of society vs. corporation. The government is also a major player and it has to fight corruption and divest itself of corporate infiltration within its ranks. Protesters are slowly gaining momentum, as well as allies. Unions are jumping on board (although I question their main motivation); the head of the Bank of Canada supports it; even Ben and Jerry’s is handing out free ice cream to supporters. It is a bittersweet irony to see a corporation supporting the movement. It also is a sign that the people can indeed influence corporations, not just the other way around.
Change has to start with the People. And just because some people at these protests may be proud owners of iPhones, doesn’t mean you can accuse them of being hypocrites. This just underlines how most of us have become enslaved as consumers. Even iPhone users are waking up and realizing changes are needed.
And indeed, changes are coming. It’s only a matter of time.