Sunday, October 23, 2011

What is Occupy Wall Street About?

A Work in Progress

Why is that so hard to understand?  Support Occupy Wall Street.

UPDATE 12-3-2011

After I posted the list above, We formed our own Occupy Aroostook.  As with other Occupy groups, our local  group is wrestling with the issue of stated goals for the Occupy movement.  Having arrived at a consensus opinion about the need for a trifold brochure to explain what we are about to community and media who keep asking, I drafted one and sent it around to our email list for comments and suggestions.  For purposes of discussion, the draft included the following list garnered from discussions at assembly .  Although there is no consensus about most of the items on the list, there are passionate loyalties among some for or against particular items.


Get money out of politics.  Reform campaign funding.

Stop congressional insider trading.

Reduce deficit via fair-share taxes for the rich and stop wars.

Reform banking:  restore Glass-Steagall Act. 

Stop corporate welfare, too-big-to-fail companies, government subsidies that support big profits.

Better education for a better world: publicly funded K through Ph.D., stop public funding of private for-profit schools, forgive student loans.

Single-payer, universal health care.

Protect workers’ rights, and support small-business prosperity.

I did get disagreement as expected, and I responded with the following message.

Thanks for input on the OA trifold draft.  This is an important part of the process.  I would like to have more.

I’m going to speak as myself here and not for Occupy Aroostook; I want to express some opinions that some of you will likely disagree with.  That’s OK; give me your argument for disagreeing. 

First, the brochure itself—do we need one?  As I read the consensus of those attending Assembly, yes we do.  I agree with that.  We need to explain ourselves to the larger community in some format(s) more than what we can communicate with signs at marches.  I think we are not in agreement about what such communication should contain.  So, I decided to draft a brochure to use as a basis for discussion.  I tried to put in it all the issues I have heard discussed about what we should stand for.  I hope and assume there will be revisions, deletions, replacements, expansions, etc. that will happen as we come to better understand the issues and grow our opinions about them.  I hope we never stop keeping an open mind to new evidence or knowledge that might require us to change our minds, even after we agree on a brochure, or whatever else we decide to do.

Second, the list of goals—do we need one?  I don’t think we have consensus about that in assembly, but the issue keeps coming up in the Occupy movement nationally and locally from marchers and non-marchers and from media.  Every time I have spoken to the media, they ask the question in one form or another.  My preferred list would be one umbrella term, like “social justice,” which, to me, captures a sense of all the issues we are concerned about.  Unfortunately, that term is too loaded, ie. socialism, to be practical and too abstract to be useful.  My next preference would be simply what we have been using “Economic  & Political Justice.”  But that, too, doesn’t satisfy the media, nor the public’s legitimate right (we are in their faces every week) to know more specifically what we are about.  I can think of no other mechanism to let them know in a brief format other than a list.  Do any of you out there have ideas for how to do this?  Perhaps we should call such a list “Some Issues of Concern,” since I don’t believe we are ready to declare specific goals that we can achieve consensus about.

Third, the content of the list.  For my ideal preferences, even the list suggested by one of you (economic justice, money out of politics, corporations are not people) is too long.  But for the purposes of communicating to the public what we are about, 3 items is too short, too limiting.  I would, at this point in my thinking, try to boycott any list that does not include concerns about education and health care.  These issues are too basic to the cause of economic justice to ignore in such a list.  I am open to a good argument against including them; I haven’t heard that argument yet.  

Fourth, the forgiveness of student loans that some object to.  I’ve been on the fence about that.  So I went looking for good arguments that would allow me to fall over to the side of forgiveness as part of a more-comprehensive solution to the whole problem of funding education, such as “universal education for life,” in multiple senses of for life.   I’m still doing research, but for now, here are a some arguments persuasive to me:  for an economic view:; for a moral view:;  for comment on the moral view:  

Please feel free to join or continue in this conversation about a list of Occupy concerns:;; or any Occupy facebook page or website.   Or draft your own list and submit it for discussion.   Be peaceful.  Be respectful.

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  1. As a former student, I can't resist the urge to share some well given advice in regards to the list fo goals and content of that list.

    "Be specific. Be concrete. Use semi colons where appropriate, and avoid them whenever possible."

    You are right, "Social Justice" may capture it all, but it's too vague. Any two or three word label will be too vague for the media. It would be better to specifically characterize a piece of social justice, to start there. Provide an example. Use the forgiveness of student loans. 'If we think of all persons carrying student loan debt as a large corporation struggling to survive, can we not see it fitting and just to bail them out as we already have another large organization? Pay their debts off without regulating what they will do with the rest of their lives. Let them then take a vacation, buy a new car, have a baby who will one day be a contributing member to society and another source of tax revenue. Would that not be fair, to do this for all of the educated public struggling to balance their debt? Would that not also boost the economy, as without that debt they would feel more free to spend again, to reassign their income to other ventures, thus boosting economic growth in multiple manufacturing and service industries instead of just the specialized sector of education lending?'

    Sure, it's a hell of a lot longer than "Social Justice," but it begins to paint that picture, right. As you've said,

    "Show, don't tell."

  2. I wanted to post a brief comment and let those out there know that you have supporters all over--I haven't been coming to the meetings, primarily because of the cost and fossil fuels involved in traveling to the demonstrations--but my support for what the Occupy Movement stands for remains as strong as ever. Economic justice for all needs to remain at the forefront of our mission. Are there things we can do from where we are (in Bridgewater)? I'd especially like to get involved in lobbying for the twenty-percent renewable energy referendum going on the ballot this year in Maine.

  3. Hi, TC. Good to hear from you.

    Melissa,you can always be involved by writing letters to legisltors, to newspapers, etc. And you can start a group in Bridgewater. All it takes is 2 or more with signs, and a regular schedule of marches or demonstrations. Whatever you can do that might get the message out, get people talking about the cause.

  4. You're absolutely right, Alice. And it's so easy to allow ennui to rob me of my desire to write the letters that may bring about actual change. Thanks for keeping us focused.