what have we accomplished?
The beginnings of the movement were pretty simple.
"Banks got bailed out, we got sold out."
Investment bank giants had held a stranglehold on our politics since at least the deregulation that began under President Carter, and people en masse began to recognize and fight against it. Wall Street's large-scale fraud had brought about the financial crisis, and working people were left footing the bill. That's why jobless young people drowning in debt joined with pensioners who'd seen their retirement funds tank thanks to the viral taint of the crisis. We had to stand up to them and their repellent control of our civic lives, and in bigger numbers than anyone had seen in decades, we did just that.
But where have we ended up?
Three years after the market crashed we took the streets and made tougher regulation, outrageous banker compensation, and unjust foreclosure a part of the political discourse. By moving the discourse and making action politically possible we made a space for legislators to make important moves to change the tax code, protect consumers, and strike back against the outright fraud of robo-signing. We were a catalyst for tens of thousands of people (and, now, municipal governments) to move their money out of the corrupt institutions that brought on the crisis, and into local credit unions and banks, from Bank Transfer Day through to today. We've turned up the heat on lobbyists and cash-for-legislation-farms like American Legislative Exchange Council, and their corporate sponsors like Coca-Cola are abandoning them to the tune of millions of dollars. We've saved homes.
On the score that brought us together to begin with nearly 7 months ago, we have won major victories.
But that's not all we've done.
The outrageous police response to Americans calling out corruption shocked the country. Communities of color especially have borne the brunt of police brutality for generations (as one joke on Twitter went: "Police are beating you for no reason? Huh. Weird.' --black people"), but finally some privileged white kids woke up and recognized the illegitimacy of the billy club and the riot shield. In numbers unseen in my years as an activist, people are standing up to racist police brutality against people of color and gender minorities.
In a related subplot, as protesters have spent nights in jail only to be acquitted of any wrongdoing the next morning, new swaths of people have joined the ongoing struggle against the racist prison-industrial complex. The worst of the new Jim Crow is exemplified by GEO Group, whose second biggest shareholder is--here's a twist--Wells Fargo. They'll illegally kick you out of your home, and when you get arrested for sleeping on the street, they'll get paid off that too. It's wrong, and we're fighting back. Both bearing witness to police brutality and learning about the realities of our racist prison system have activated a generation of anti-racist white allies & organizers who're joining a long and ongoing fight led by people of color.
In working to get the attention of the public against the background of a noisy American culture, we've reinvigorated & reimagined the Seattle-era activist media network for the age of social media. We've gotten our truth out virally without waiting on the middleman of corporate news to tell our story incorrectly. From cowboy livestreamers to underground newspapers to pirate radio, we've built an international apparatus that can get the word out at the speed of broadband.
Some of us, in sleeping on the streets, have learned about the struggles and harassment of the chronically homeless. We've listened, and shared nights under the stars, and worked alongside people that this money-obsessed society has tried to make invisible. We've seen the depth of mistreatment of the hardworking homeless and seen the consequences of a system that leaves the mentally ill and the addicted so often untreated. More than that, many of us have been stirred to set aright a world that leaves so many struggling at the bottom.
As people joined us to wiggle our fingers in parks, we've spread the word on the power of horizontal direct democracy, and come to know what it looks and feels like when communities come together--without the interference of the State--to make decisions and do for themselves. Frankly, it's empowering as fuck. And it's spreading--we're not in parks anymore because we're in neighborhoods, we're in suburbs, we're in high schools and colleges learning how to work with each other to find common ground and make progress on local goals.
And it's probably worth noting that a few of us have drawn connections between a society ruled by profit, the state attacking those who'd challenge that rule, and the empowering rush of decentralized democratic media and decision making. We're working, through all these projects above and still others that began long before we showed up, to build a world that might reflect our own values. As it happens, we're building this new world right inside the crumbling & corrupted shell of the old.
So the next time someone tells you "Occupy hasn't done anything," you'll know it's not true.
We just aren't done yet.