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Why DO They Occupy Wall Street? | The Nation

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William Greider

William Greider

The fragile and faltering state of American democracy.

Why DO They Occupy Wall Street?

The reporters and pundits have been surprisingly respectful, withholding the usual cynicism. They did not jeer and make weak jokes. Still, they couldn’t resist pointing out the incoherence of this motley crew “occupying” Wall Street. What is the agenda? They asked around and duly reported that no one seemed to know. Yes, this is a charming scene, the artists and hippie types gathered in the public square, but still it must be said: they have no agenda!

Let me help the brothers and sisters of the fourth estate. It’s humanity, stupid! That is agenda enough and it is expressed clearly (even existentially) by the gaudy, loving presence of these noble citizens who have seized Liberty Park as their own free space, just up the street from the New York Stock Exchange.

Correction: Liberty Park is now Zuccotti Park, which the real estate developer who bought the land renamed after himself. Doesn’t that pretty much say it? The egotism of capital has obliterated the softer values and virtues of labor and everyone else—anything that got in the way of the engine of modern capitalism. It is not just the millions of innocents who have been trampled by the profit-harvesting machine. The Wall Street guys and their lackey economists even captured the political culture and corrupted its meaning.

Human sympathy is out, even embarrassing to mention. It sounds weak when the hard-boiled subject is how to improve on profit-making progress. Among political elites, bleeding-heart consideration for the fate of humankind is considered dangerously sentimental, even subversive to good public order. It gets in the way of the hard facts of banking and business, it skews the cost-benefit analysis of what folks want versus what the system will allow. A decent consideration for humankind—that’s what has been expelled from respectable political debate. That’s all citizens want to talk about in Liberty Plaza.

The wisdom of those young people (and old people) who planted their flag in Wall Street is in recognizing that the first step is not drafting policy manifestos for government (government is itself brain-dead, by the way). The essential first step is liberating the minds of people themselves—people everywhere who have been intimidated and abused by the Central Ministry of Official Propaganda. Giddy celebration of self-respect—that is what they are selling at Liberty Park. And it truly is subversive. If the word spreads, if there are 500 or 1,000 liberated public spaces around the country, then we can start to talk about politics or issues. The first lesson they are teaching us that democracy should be fun.

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