Dec 072011

What can be done?

From the Occupied Lexington Herald

By Austin Parker

Our republic is in a time of crisis. We have seen a large transfer of wealth from the hands of the many into those of the few. This theft has been aided and abetted by a compliant Congress, President, and Judicial system.

In some ways, this should not be a surprise. It is embedded in our history. Though we often praise the Founders of our Nation, they crafted a system that benefited the educated, white, predominately wealthy land-owner. At the time this was surely a revolutionary notion since it placed the responsibility of the state at the feet of elected bureaucrats whose governing credentials were established by external accomplishment rather than by blood relation. We may look back on our national history with equal pity and disgust at the treatment of women and minorities in the political process—and note that politics has always been shaped to some degree by the 1%. Our history has been a struggle of resting that power away, with many of the benefits we today enjoy – women’s suffrage, 40-hour workweek, civil rights to name a few – having to be pried from the few hands of the powerful by the many hands of the powerless.

The tools American leaders wield today to keep society in line are not so sharp as the bite of an attack dog in Birmingham, AL during the Civil Rights Era, nor are they as deadly as the smoking barrel of a rifle raised at a student attending Kent State, but they are equally as harmful. With a pliant and corporate-controlled media tucked in their back pocket, our leaders have pitted Americans against each other with a fervor hardly seen since the Civil War. Abortion. Gay Marriage. Gun Control. Welfare. Church and State. Charter Schools. Vouchers. Busing.

You don’t have to look at society for too long to see how these issues divide the 99% and are used in the class war launched by the 1%. The weapons of this war are not being fought with bombs, guns, or pepper spray. Apathy has surely killed the spirit of democracy more swiftly than any nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon that could be pitted at the heart of our nation.


When a cry sprang out of a corner of Lower Manhattan, We Are The 99%, could anyone have foreseen the transformative power of that simple declaration? Our political and media elite scoffed at the very notion that We, The People, could govern ourselves. “What do they want?” came the cry, echoed across 24/7 cable news and channeled through the radio dial. People descending upon Zucotti Park didn’t wait for someone to step up and lead. They came together and forged their world.

No one person spurs on the Occupation. Our unity is an idea. E Pluribus Unum; Out of Many, One. Our voices echo throughout downtown streets and grate against the corporate world’s angular architecture surrounding us. Everywhere, our Occupational voices cry out, “Enough!”

As I write this, Lexington’s occupation has thrived for over two months of twenty-four hour a day presence. We’ve fed the hungry, clothed the cold, and filled ourselves with a richness of spirit that comes from actualization. We don’t have all the answers, but we are learning.  The General Assembly, an open forum for the discussion and decision of issues from where we’re sleeping, to how we’ll spend our money, to the actual specific goals of our occupation, is where we practice version of direct, participatory democracy. We don’t vote, we establish consensus—refining our proposals until everyone agrees on the ideas proposed. Through consensus and direct democracy, we are establishing an alternative to society as we know it.

Is this a sustainable way to run a country? Not directly, no. It’s not about that, though. We don’t have millions of dollars to hire lobbyists, but we have markers and posterboard. We can’t afford a think tank to write legislation, but a lot of smart people cycle through our camp.  Our voices alone are tiny, but we stand against the storm and scream into the onrushing wave that we have had enough, and we demand the sort of change that doesn’t come on a campaign poster—we want action.

There’s a more sustainable representative democracy out there, one free of the corruption of millions of dollars in campaign contributions and bribes. There’s a more sustainable economic system, one built on lifting everyone up rather than allowing the richest to capture an ever-increasing amount of wealth. There’s a more sustainable justice system, where people are placed before profits and corporations are held to account for their business practices that defy human decency. There’s a more sustainable world that we can come together and create – slowly, slowly – but it starts with each of us casting off our apathy and rising up to speak with one voice, one cry, one purpose, one crystalline fact that shreds the artificial divisions of race, religion, manner of dress, style of speech, and every other roadblock that has been set upon us by society to divide and not unite. We are the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. We are the spirit of this nation, and this world, and we suffer no tyrant or king dominion over our rights and freedom. We Are The 99%.


We are here. So where are you?

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