Occupy Everywhere: Inspiring Words Precursor to the Storm
On Thursday, November 10, 2011, The Nation organized a panel at the New School to discuss the future of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. The panel included some big names, including Michael Moore, Patrick Bruner, Rinku Sen, William Greider, and Naomi Klein. It was facilitated by The Nation’s executive editor Richard Kim. Their words brought inspiration and hope to the audience. And all this just five days before last night’s raid, an even that will surely go down in the movement’s history.
Now more than ever, in Occupy’s moment of greatest frailty, it is important to reinforce the messages that we all gathered in support of just last week. Here are some highlights of the panel discussion: Please note all the comments are paraphrased and should not be directly quoted.
Moore: It all started with Bradley Manning, who set himself on fire because he was sick of all the corruption within his own government. This set off the Arab Spring.
Klein: We are occupying Wall Street because Wall Street is occupying the state department.
Kim: We are currently experiencing a Democracy Deficit.
Bruner: We aren’t creating a utopia, we are just making room for discussion by presenting an alternative.
Greider: We need to have democratic conversations everywhere, in clubs, in small self-organized groups. And that is exactly what the Occupy movement has realized. And we need to include those who are not like us in those conversations.
Sen: This is not a campaign. A campaign caters to people’s opinions, but a movement shifts public opinion. This is a movement.
Greider: The idealistic drive for the realization of the original American ideals is like an underground river. Every so often it surfaces. This is one of those times.
Klein: We are currently in the Outrage phase of the process.
Moore: The 1% is only 400 people. That’s how many people are in this room. And they are so scared, because they only have 400 votes. The think, “maybe we’ll just use fear to get people to vote like us, or pay people off,” but they are really scared.
Moore: We have to get out of the habit of being victimized; we are a powerful force, and we are not victims.
Bruner: We’re pissed off that we all feel broke even though we are living in the richest country in the history of the world.
Sen: Think of the movement like a house party. The question of equality within the movement isn’t like asking whether people of color are invited to the party. The question is whether they are allowed to change the music.
Moore: This movement is really thanks to the young people. I’m old and am used to compromising, but the young people don’t take crap. When they voted in Obama being promised change, they actually expected change. “Dad! You said you were going to close Guantanamo!”
Sen: There is a big difference between Libertarianism and Anarchism. Libertarianism is basically every man for himself, whereas anarchism is about autonomous collaboration.
Klein: Healthcare and the environmental movement can be a source of job creation, however not within the current structure we have set up. The solution to the environmental crisis can be the solution to the economic crisis. Republicans deny the environmental crisis because there is no way to confront it economically within the current structure.
Greider: There are three possible courses of action. Collaborate with the Tea Party, get small business owners on board, and/or get the support of the military. All these groups have more in common with the 99% than one might think.
Bruner: We should not affiliate with the government because they are corrupt. The Tea Party tried to collaborate and became absorbed, effectively losing all their power of influence.
Moore: The first thing to do is to pass that bill that says that corporations are not people.
Greider: One step of the solution is debt-forgiveness. The debts that exists will never be paid off so they are effectively dead. Companies have fail-safes for that situation exactly. That’s why bankruptcy exists, however it is immoral for an individual to file for bankruptcy, which makes no sense.
Sen: We need government involvement. Historically, when all control is localized, people of color have been suppressed. There should be universal regulation to prevent this sort of discrimination from establishing itself.
Klein: Not to be depressing, but Greece and Italy had similar movements, equally dedicated, but they just got squashed. Argentina is a better example because they occupied, resisted, and produced. If Occupy is to survive, they will need to figure out how to be economically sustainable.
Sen: We don’t need to convince racists and bigots to tolerate us because we need their votes, it’s because they are our neighbors.
Kim: We no longer refer to Liberty Square by it’s slave name, Zuccotti Park.
Moore: Everyone is doing what they can. An ice-guy in Jersey offered free blocks of ice to build igloos for the winter.
Bruner: We will survive the winter by buckling down. It will not be easy.
Sen: The biggest fear is that eventually organizing will get too hard, and we will abandon consensus decision making, which is so central to the movement ideologically.
Moore: If we trap all our youth in debt, then they will spend their time worrying about bills instead of innovating and creating culture. What amazing future are we depriving ourselves of by perpetuating this system of indebted youth.
Klein: The biggest fear is of our own habits. We turn on ourselves, and we use theory as a tool to justify inaction.
Bruner: The biggest obstacle for Occupy is Liberty Square, because it makes it seem like the movement is connected to a place. Really the Occupy movement needs to take place everywhere.