It's not the Tea Party of the Left, if for no other reason than the members can spell and haven't assembled to denigrate, humiliate, or marginalize any socioeconomic or ethnic segment of society. The Occupy Wall Street movement is also different from the games Teabaggers play in that it has mushroomed overnight to cities all over the nation while receiving barely a mention in the press. This is encouraging, indeed. Let's hope the remaining labor organizations take note and soon publicly support these important efforts.
Here is an excellent essay on the new protests by Richard (RJ) Eskow: Consultant, Writer, Senior Fellow with The Campaign for America's Future -- Here's Occupy Wall Street's "One Demand": Sanity
Even the sympathizers don't always get it. I'm sure I get a lot of things wrong too, but here's one thing I do understand: Change doesn't begin with policy. It begins with perception. And you don't change things by asking. You change them by acting.
But it begins with perception. "All money is a matter of belief," as someone once said.
In the New York Times, Nick Kristof shows that he understands the #OccupyWallStreet movement more than most of his peers. "The protesters are dazzling in their Internet skills," he writes, "and impressive in their organization."
But like many other sympathetic observers, he misses their most important point when he says "the movement falters in its demands" because "it doesn't really have any."
As a movement participant told the Take Back the American Dream conference this morning, "We don't have demands. If we make demands of Wall Street, we're saying that Wall Street has the power."
But the fact that the movement doesn't make demands of Wall Street -- or Washington, for that matter -- doesn't mean it doesn't have demands. It does, but they're not directed at Wall Street, or K Street, or Pennsylvania Avenue. They're directed at you. And at me, and at every other citizen in this country.
To be sure, these "demands" aren't couched in the strangely condescending and hostile language of all the Democratic fundraising emails going around lately. ("You think of yourself as a smart voter, don't you?" said one I got this weekend). These "demands" come in a friendlier, more respectful tone, that of one person saying to another, "Hey, did you see that?"
Some mainstream liberals and politicos rolled their eyes at the protesters' response to requests that they come up with "one demand." Their "one demand" page includes the execution of Troy Davis ("Ending capital punishment is our one demand"), Yahoo's blocking of emails that included the OccupyWallSt URL ("Ending corporate censorship is our one demand"), and a list of others: "Ending health profiteering is our one demand." "Ending American imperialism is our one demand."
That was a signal for the snark to commence. "I'm not a genius at math," said one commenter, "but I've been counting these demands and I've gone way past one." Meanwhile well-intentioned voices like Kristof and my friend Mike Konczal helpfully provided them with policy demands. And they're good ones: A financial transactions tax. Investigate Wall Street crimes. Cancel excessive debts.
But the "one demand" that matters most is directed at our society, not our policymakers, and it's much more fundamental than these excellent ideas. The demand is this: "Come back to sanity." That's the underlying demand that unifies all those items on the #OccupyWallSt website. Our culture is insane today, and they recognize that. Create a transactions tax, and they'll simply rob us another way.
"Sanity: The ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner; sound mental health. Reasonable and rational behavior." (Oxford Dictionaries Online)
The scope of our confusion and delusion can't be addressed by specific policy measures, any more than you might have overthrown Mubarak's regime in Egypt with a "single demand" to end the torture of political prisoners, or fixed elections, or the theft of the nation's billions by Mubarak and his cronies. The first step is to lift the veil from everyone's eyes, as they did in Egypt, to say to others and to themselves: "This isn't democracy -- and it isn't inevitable. We can change it."
Why mention Troy Davis and the death penalty while you're demonstrating against the power of corporations and the big banks? Because executions are a diversion that corporate America throws at the people to draw our attention away from their misdeeds.
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