Through Changing Times, Occupy
Wall Street Remains on Message
While the third anniversary celebration of the Occupy Wall Street movement was a subdued affair last Wednesday at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, it’s fitting that Strike Debt, one its offshoots, was scoring a major win on its efforts to buy and cancel debt.
As a couple of hundred activists were back at the place where the protest was launched, on Sept. 17, 2011, the group’s Rolling Jubilee fund announced that it’d cancelled some $3.9 million in private student debt it’d acquired.
Raised by donations, the amount covered unpaid tuitions owed to one of for-profit Corinthian Colleges‘ schools, and so far, represents the only effort being made nationwide to alleviate an estimated $1.3 trillion owed in student debt by some 40 million Americans, no thanks to Congress or the federal government.
Not bad for a movement that has refused to abide by a national political agenda, has no recognized leadership, and despite declarations to the contrary, remains one of the sole voices still seeking justice for millions of Americans penalized by the Wall Street excesses that brought the world financial system to its knees in 2008.
While the movement as a whole is not exempted of criticism for its at times fractionary strategies, and internal divisions, it’s managed to remain on its progressive message long after the massive street rallies that dominated the headlines for the rest of 2011 and most of 2012, in the U.S. and around the world, had dried out.
Another almost spontaneous, and certainly unofficial, subdivision of the OWS group, the Occupy Sandy, proved its worth during the hurricane that devastated parts of New York, in October of 2012, at times outperforming even seasoned relief organizations such as the Red Cross.
Thus, even though many call such efforts, charitable at most, or to use an outdated term, ‘assistencialism,’ the ongoing deconstruction of social mechanisms that would assist millions of working class families facing hardship is so vast at the moment, that community drives such as those led by the OWS remain relevant and vital.
As for the future of the movement as a whole, or whether we’re approaching an era when the way for progressive forces of society to express their demands for social equality will be to tackle issues individually, in a much smaller scale than the OWS rallies, and those of the 1960s civil rights movement, it remains to be seen.
But so far, in three years of convoluted and often contentious history, the OWS, its subgroups and many others inspired by the same ideals, have been on target. There’s no question about how harder things would be now, if that ragtag group of activists hadn’t been so stubborn in their defense of ordinary citizens’ right to protest Wall Street fortunes.
We all owe them a heightened awareness about America’s realities, circa 2014, being it through the 99 Percent movement, which also arose from the original OWS group, or the introduction into the national debate, of concepts such as income disparity, CEO compensation, and even climate change, which has a big march scheduled for this Sunday.
So those who showed up to mark the date may be few, but their numbers have no bearing on the overall reach and depth of the movement they came to celebrate. However few, they still represent the majority of the population, whose needs for jobs, affordable health care, housing and dignity remain at the bottom of the agenda of our two major political parties.
* Occupy Wall Street
* Used Books