On or about October 15th, the “Occupy [insert city name]” phenomenon intends to make its Richmond debut. The nascent group has quite a large Facebook presence — larger than what the tea parties were able to muster at their height back in 2009 — and reading through the postings provides an education in online organizing. It’s also a sometimes hilarious, sometimes depressing, trip through the fever swamps.
There are a few earnest folks trying to herd the cats into Richmond’s Monroe Park this weekend for an organizational meeting to help determine why they intend to conduct an occupation and where that occupation will take place. Early on, it was supposed to be near the Federal Reserve building in downtown — completing the echo of the tea party protests held near there in 2009 and 2010. Or maybe it won’t be there. In one of the Facebook posts, we learn:
Kanawha Plaza has not been decided by consensus as our place of occupation. We will, however, reach a modified consensus at our next *full* General Assembly meeting on October 15th; Monroe Park, 4pm. Come back to stay informed on additional General Assembly/Working Group meetings that arise between now and then. This is our time, let’s seize it in solidarity.
The resulting discussion would make Monty Python proud.
Yet under the conflicting visions, incompatible agendas and vague ideas, there’s no denying that, like the tea partiers before them, this potential gathering has a problem with what they see as an unaccountable force lording it over the rest of us. It must be stopped.
But what is this force? Is it the Federal Reserve that insists on propping up a system that has become rotten? Is it the financial institutions that were rescued from an abyss of their own making with taxpayer dollars? Or is it the larger corporate world, parts of which are increasingly wed to, and dependent upon, government for their livelihoods?
It seems to be all of these things — but we’ll have to wait for the reports of the working groups to be sure.
Until those minutes are read, these would-be occupiers do seem to have a lot in common with elements of the tea party movement. Those earlier protesters had no love for the bailouts, the Fed or government giveaways to corporations. But the similarities tend to blur after that.
The tea partiers, in general, wanted and continue to advocate for less government. If the list of grievances published by the occupiers of Wall Street offers any guide to what this new order of protesters wants, it’s more government and less (much less) of what they see as corporate over-reach. Consider:
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
And so on. The irony, intentional or not, is that not a few of these grievances are the result not of corporate greed, but individual choice. Holding students hostage to loan debt? Sorry, you (or your folks) singed for those loans. We can debate — and often have here at the Rebellion — the costs of higher education. The beef these folks have is with the schools, not corporations. And also with themselves, for choosing to sign on the dotted line.
Have evil corporations sold your privacy down the river for their gain? Undoubtedly some have. That would include Facebook, the platform these folks use to organize. But also remember — Facebook and others can only sell that which you give them. Want to take back your privacy? Here’s small tip: never fill out warranty cards. Their real function is to build a marketing database, not to give you better service.
But let’s also hope that these protesters understand that what they, the tea parties and others rail against is not new. Whether it was the king and his ministers, the Bank of the United States, the Freemasons, Demon Rum, the railroads, the gold standard, war profiteers, the Red Menace or any other vague, faceless, utterly nefarious entities, bad economic times breed discontent. Even it what some consider the best of times, there are those who seethe below the surface, hoping for revolution.
It’s the American way. And it usually results in folks getting the bile out of their systems and then going back to their own thing until the next perceived crisis rears its head.