Curious about the current issues of the Occupy movement? Check out this article in The Stranger to learn about the repercussions of the May Day protests in Seattle.
I started to make a mini zine to try to define Occupy Wall Street for myself. This image is the cover of a delightfully blank inside. Originally I had started this exploration with the concept of art. An analysis of art in the movement. Maybe the movement itself is the art, the art of people. Just expressing humanity through protest, through drum circles, general assemblies, and contradictory platforms seems like a good enough definition to me. At least it is something I feel isn’t a lie when trying to define #Occupy. In this way Occupy Wall Street is an exploration and study of ideas. In the general assemblies, many people have come together to learn from each other, to discuss, to debate and to share. Like any work of art though, everyone has their own spin on what “it” means. The movement is to some about economic disparity, to others it’s a platform for advertisements. I think there’s a beauty to the Calvinball reference. http://owsanalysis.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/what-is-calvinball/
Occupy Wall Street is a movement that is constantly evolving and will never be the same. It’s different in everyone’s minds from the viewers of Fox News to the individual occupiers themselves. There are individual meanings that simply makes it human. To me Occupy Wall Street is just an answer to Jeopardy “What is Occupy Wall Street?”
How about loyal authors?
Readers may or may not know that this blog was created for a school project. As the semester has ended, the number of posts has gone drastically down.
I am testing the waters. Readers: like this post if you think we should keep the blog going.
Also, I might be able to finagle some new authors onto the blog if any of you are interested in sharing your ideas about OWS as well. Let me know.
In my post discussing the connections between the War on Women and the Occupy movement, the idea is brought to the table that although there may be no clearly defined goals (and many occupiers may not want to be defined), there are a plethora of groups and causes that do have goals. With this idea in mind, it is easier to see how the Occupy Wall Street movement has grown to become more of an umbrella revolution. By being general enough to encompass a broad range of ages, geographies, ethnicities, ideologies, and sexualities among other factors, the Occupy movement has been able to spread and gain a wider audience, increasing its potential abilities as a movement.
Many critics have proclaimed that the popular slogan “We are the 99%” is not, in fact, an economically or racially accurate representation of the population against which the occupiers are protesting. An animation depicting statistics that helps to the air on this discussion can be found here:
Beyond its realistic interpretation, the concept behind the slogan has been more than enough to invoke a response in people that has catalyzed a generation to stand up and fight the injustices they see in their lives. More than anything, it is this point that I feel “defines” the Occupy Wall Street, Occupy, and #occupy movements around the world. An idea that began with a spark has been able to ignite the fire not under just one cause, but countless causes. Whether or not people deem this movement as successful as a whole, its horizontal network, connected through social media and active interpersonal relationships, has potentially engaged a previously lethargic and negligent society. If even less than 1% of the “99%” is able to use the Occupy movement to their advantage, and, in the name of progress, make some sort of positive change in the world, then I feel as though this movement had a purpose. Whether that purpose or end goal is clearly defined as of right now is up to the occupiers of individual causes; however, the movement is still young and, I feel, even though it has been on the decline, that people will always need something to turn to to give potency to their beliefs. To wrap up this idea is a quote from the Occupy Patriarchy blog which explains that the 99% is a very general representation of an extremely varied population: “It is not sufficient to say that we have to come together as the 99% against the 1%. The needs of the 99% are not homogenous…”
This quote sums up the concept of what Occupy Wall Street is ideally; however, if this fact is not widely embraced or acknowledged by the participants, then it can be a very divisive factor. My thoughts are that because this is still a young protest it will only continue to evolve, but it is essential that the participants spend the time to value all of the parts that make up the movement in its entirety.
From the violent shutdown of Zuccotti Park on November 15 to continued police brutality, the OWS movement is no stranger to crime. There is, however, a very large difference between the crimes committed by people who participate in OWS-related events and occupiers who commit protest-related “crimes.” What is unfortunate is that the media has played a role in discrediting the movement as a whole by its association with and response to these crimes. According to a statement issued by the Women’s Caucus of Occupy Philly:
“Rape happens every day, murder happens every day and suicide happens every day. These tragedies are not symptoms or creations of the Occupy Movement, nor are they exclusive to the Occupy Movement; they are realities of our society and of our everyday lives.”
By taking what this quote says into account, the difference between the two groups is more easily defined. As a “society,” a term defined by Dictionary.com as “an organized group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes,” the Occupy encampments are bound to have individuals in their midst who are prone to committing crime. Therefore, when sites like OWSexposed.com and PunditPress put together statistics seen in the chart below, it’s important to remember the circumstances that contribute to those statistics.
It’s sad to acknowledge that rape and sexual assault in particular have occurred in multiple locations across the nation; however, these actions weren’t carried out as measures backed by the OWS movement. In order to counteract this issue and raise awareness for its implications in society, some people are attempting to educate about how these issues go completely against the goals of Occupy Wall Street. In order to potentially eradicate sexual violence from first the movement and eventually the world, many people are asking for help.
With that being said, there are both those who commit crimes within the movement that can detract from its legitimacy (one woman reacts to an action by one of this type by saying, “You’re giving this movement a bad name right now, because you are going around and violating others’ space, and it makes people feel unsafe.”) and those who commit crimes for the movement. An example of this—most likely an occurrence that added to the 6000+ arrest that had already been made by February 2, 2012—can be seen in how one group of occupiers was promoting the idea of getting arrested. In the flyer below for a recent event, one of the two ways that the organizers ask people to get involved is by “acts of civil disobedience.”
With the intention behind this call to action as a demonstration of the evils of this nation’s justice system, these arrests are hardly seen as “crimes” in the eyes of occupiers and other supporters. Therefore it is important to realize that statistics cannot always be taken at face value.
The Occupy Wall Street Movement takes a stand against corporate greed and economic inequalities stemming from the United States capitalist system. Members of the movement protest the influence wealth can have on the United States government. The movement has recieved criticisms of its protest tactics as well as what specifically this movement is fighting for.
Whether the movement will accomplish its goals or not is unknown at this time. However, what is more significant regarding this movment is what does this movement truly mean in the larger picture of history. This movement will set a precedent for future protests. In the last ten years, the two largest protests in the United States have been the Tea Party Movement and the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Both, of which, have expressed citizen frustration of economic discontent. This movement has definitely caught national attention through mass and social media. It is unknown, but not unreasonable to postulate, that the Occupy Wall Street Movement’s presence could have influence over future polls and legislation. The Tea Party Movement had a significant impact on polls. According to a poll conducted by CNN, roughly 49% of Republican or GOP leaning independents support the Tea Party Movement (“New CNN Poll: GOP Divided over Tea Party Movement.”). Though they do not support a particular party or candidate, in upcoming elections, the Occupy Wall Street Movement could potentially have similar effects.
The concept of the 99% and the Occupy lingo, has nudged its way into our common lingo. This is also true in the political sphere. Newt Gingitch and Mitt Romney have both used Occupy lingo. Gingrich calls it “Unamerican” whereas Democrats in Congress call it “American.” Romney says
…I worry about the 99 percent in America. I want America, once again, to be the best place in the world to be middle-class. I want to have a strong and vibrant and prosperous middle-class. And so I look at what’s happening on Wall Street and my own view is, boy I understand how those people feel… The people in this country are upset
It has infiltrated the American political discourse, including campaign rhetoric. This rhetoric has not only been used by the Republican party, but has certainly become a topic of discussion for Democrats. Obama’s Jobs Act was passed including Occupy rhetoric. House Democrat Leader Representative, Nancy Pelosi, states, “I support the message to the establishment, whether it’s Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen” (Desvarieux 1).
Overall, the Occupy Wall Street Movment has set logistical and methodical precedence for future protests, while making their goals of protest seen on a national scale.
When speaking about demographics one is describing the basic characteristics that make up a human being. A demographic is a person’s race, economic or economic class, education, gender, age, etc. Therefore, when attempting to answer the question, “What is Occupy Wall Street?” in terms of demographics it only makes sense that the response is simply an explanation of who the people of OWS are. Although OWS is an extremely complex movement with many different facets, its demographics are not so complex. Occupy Wall Street is a social and economic movement that is claiming to represent the 99% but is failing to do so. Occupy Wall Street is a misrepresentation.
In three of my previous posts “Race is Important Too,” “Is OWS Racist?” and, “A Visual Representation,” (links to all three posts are provided below) I examined three separate studies done on the demographics of OWS. All three studies provided me with extremely similar findings. I made the decision to look at four particular demographics that are irrevocably interconnected with socioeconomic status, a major concern of the OWS movement: Age, Race, Employment, and Education. First of all, the vast majority of either respondents or interviewees were white. In two of the studies less than 2% of OWS supporters were African American, less than 8% of respondents were Hispanic or Latino, and less than 4% were Asian. Second, The majority of supporters were between the ages of 25 and 44. Third, the highest percentage of OWS supporters were employed full-time in each study. Finally, most supporters had at least a college education.
I decided that I wanted to draw a comparison between these statistics and the latest demographical studies done by the US Census Bureau. As of 2010 there were approximately 308.7 million people in the United States. If we’re to go by what OWS claims, that means that 1% of the United States population includes 3, 087,000 people. Therefore, 305,613,000 Americans are included in the 99%. This being such a large number still, US Census Bureau findings are applicable to the 99%.
According to the US Census Bureau, the highest percentage of Americans are actually over the age of 45 at almost 40%, while in the OWS movement the majority of supports are below 44 and older than 25. The biggest difference between the Census statistics and those of the OWS movement was in education. Most of the OWS supporters in the studies done have had at least a college education. According to the Bureau 4 out of 5 Americans have a high school education or lower and only 1 in 4 or 28% have a college degree or higher. This is a pretty large discrepancy. In terms of race, the US Census Bureau’s findings are that approximately 72.4% of Americans are white with Hispanics/Latinos as the second largest racial group at 16.4%. African Americans are the third largest group at 12.6%. Although these numbers do not seem too far off from those of the studies on OWS, there are a few things to consider. Yes, this is a majority Caucasian country. However, the difference between the national percentages of Hispanics and African Americans and their presence in the OWS movement is significant. 12.6% of Americans are African American and yet less than 2% of the OWS supporter basis comes from that racial group. It is a similar case with Hispanics/Latinos who make up 16.4% of the United States’ population and are only around 8% of the OWS movement. Employment seemed to be the only comparable statistic with the national unemployment rate at around 8.2% and around 14% of OWS being unemployed. Although, I question why a group demanding socioeconomic inequality and injustices is, for the most part, employed full-time themselves.
I want to make it clear as I did in my, “Is OWS Racist,” post that although race has been a significant issue in the OWS movement, I do not consider the movement to be racist. In her post titled, Shepard Fairey and OWS Part 2 Evelyn made this comment at the end, “It seems like minority populations didn’t receive the invite, or might not have received it well.” I would agree with this a hundred percent. For whatever the reason, minority groups have not rallied around this cause. However, I will claim like I did in my, “Counterargument: Steps Toward Diversity,” post that OWS is making moves toward changing this. Nick’s post, “Kanye West and Russell Simons Occupy,” shows that this is happening. Two prominent African American celebrities have stepped out declared support for OWS. Again, although I claim that OWS does not represent the 99% accurately, one thing that OWS is not is racist.
Occupy Wall Street is many things. Some of these descriptions are imposed upon the movement by those that are third-party observers. The one description of the movement that everyone can agree on is one that the movement has placed upon itself: “We are the 99%”. Sorry, OWS, this is just not true.
Links to my previous posts:
Links to references posts:
Link to US Census Bureau:
This video featuring Occupy Wall Street protestors violating the instruction of a police officer to clear the Brooklyn Bridge was used in an article featured in The Economist as evidence when describing the Occupy Wall Street Movement as ineffective political action (“This Is What Ineffective Action Looks Like.”). One of the highly debated issues throughout the Occupy Wall Street Movement has been the police action used to suppress protests. This criticism has brought into question what specifically defines freedom of symbolic speech and protest as protected in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. In one of my earlier posts, I showed a video which examined two lawyers exchanging differing opinions on the legalities of forcing protestors to leave Zuccotti Park in New York City. The Economist goes on further in this article to blame their protest as ineffective because the age group protesting does not vote, claiming only 24% of people 18 to 29 vote (“This Is What Ineffective Action Looks Like.”). …And of course none of those 24% could possibly be any of the thousands of political activists spending their time protesting in the streets of New York.
Another article I found on Forbes.com takes The Economist’s article and discusses how flawed the author’s ideology is when critiquing the Occupy Wall Street Movement as a form of ineffective protest. Kain opposes the notion that the Occupy Wall Street Movement will fail to bring people to the poles. He compares the Occupy Wall Street Movement to the Tea Party Movement, which definitely had a significant impact on Republican primaries and politics (Kain). The Tea Party Movement is comparable to the Occupy Wall Street Movement in many ways. Similarities between the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the Tea Party Movement include:
- No truly defined National goals or purpose
- Fueled by Social Media
- Consist of enraged activists from extreme sides of the political spectrum
- Both fueled by economic discontent
In The Economist’s defense, I believe the article was intended to call the Occupy Wall Street Movement ineffective protest compared to the Tea Party Movement on the basis of the specific problems each contested most prominently. The Tea Party Movement was against excessive government regulation and increasing taxes. Whereas, the Occupy Wall Street Movement opposes corporate greed and the increasing economic disparities between demographic groups. It is easier to fight specific policies such as raising taxes than fighting the whole capitalist system American society revolves around. Furthermore, another article from Forbes.com discusses a greater sense of peaceful protest can be found in the Tea Party Movement as opposed to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. On September 12, 2009, a Tea Party demonstration of 100,000 people was planned to occur on the National Mall, but over a million attended with fewer police intervention and little violence (Kibbe). Many question the practicalness of demonstrating by blocking the Brooklyn Bridge and causing, what many to perceive as, chaos. Personally, I feel the Occupy Wall Street Movement has ambitions to large to accomplish the optimal desired change, while the Tea Party Movement was basically just telling legislators to stop raising taxes.
However, Kain argues that the full legal and political impact of the Occupy Wall Street Movement will not be visible until a few years and elections down the road (Kain).
Moreover, many believe the Occupy Wall Street Movement is not influencing policy or protesting to the right audience. Wall Street doesn’t make the rules of the game…they just play it. Perhaps OWS protestors would be better suited in Washington D.C. There could be legitimacy to this argument. Yet, it is truly impossible to tell if the Occupy Wall Street Movement has impacted public policy. The government’s size and complexity make it impossible for any legislator to pass a one time “fix it” bill that would end the discontent of the supposed 99%. In many cases, Public policy is something that is more accurately evaluated years after put into effect. In a previous post of mine, I outlined a series of unconnected government decisions and corporate actions that directed the United States towards the present era of financial instability. However, it should be noted that a policy change of the Federal Accounting Standards Board seriously contributed to the housing crisis of the last decade. Once this reaction was seen, policy change occurred. It is naive to assume at the current time that legislators are not noting the movement’s importance and that its meanings will not be incorporated into future legislation.
The video posted below features Richard Norton Smith of George Mason University speaking on the Washington Journal. He goes through historical references of political encampments in United States. He also outlines parallels between those movements and movements of today like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. Smith traces political demonstration using “occupy” techniques all the way back to 1894 (Smith). He also references Hoovervilles of the 1930′s during the economic hardship of the Great Depression. He does concede that these significant forms of protest throughout United States history has usually eventually resulted in favorable social or political change of some degree.
The Occupy Wall Street Movement has significance that is broader than the goals it is actually protesting to change. It cannot be overlooked that there have been two large, political, social protest movements that have swept across national headlines in the last five years. With many similar aspects visible between the movements, it is quite peculiar that they stem from two complete opposite sides of the political spectrum. Sometimes, two different paths can lead to the same conclusion. Outcry from radicals on both ends of our bypartisan government is a clear indication that our society has many problems economically, socially, and politically. Perhaps, we must meet in the middle. From my perspective, the greatest significance of the recent social and political movements regarding economic disparity in the United States is not about the respective goals of either movement and is more substantial when viewed from the characteristics of each movement. Politicians do listen to public opinion as much as many may disagree. Political driven movements of this caliber will result in gradual societal change as the values of American society and culture continue to shape, evolve and develop.
Kain, Erik. “The Importance of Activism for Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party.”Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 03 Oct. 2011. Web. 03 May 2012. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/10/03/the-importance-of-activism-for-occupy-wall-street-and-the-tea-party/>.
Kibbe, Matt. “Occupy Wall Street Is Certainly No Tea Party.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 19 Oct. 2011. Web. 1 May 2012. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/mattkibbe/2011/10/19/occupy-wall-street-is-certainly-no-tea-party/>.
Smith, Richard N. “C-SPAN VIDEO LIBRARY Created by Cable. Offered as a Public Service.” C-SPAN Video Library. C-SPAN. Web. 03 May 2012. <http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/302851-5>.
“This Is What Ineffective Action Looks Like.” Democracy in America. The Economist, 3 Oct. 2011. Web. 1 May 2012. <http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2011/10/wall-street-protests?fsrc=rss>.
My old boss used to always tell me,“I’m a results guy, at the end of the day I measure success in results”
Granted he was probably in 1%, nevertheless it brings up a good point when thinking about the OWS movement.
The deemed success or failure of social movements in history usually hinge on what was the outcome of the movement is. Usually these outcomes which deem success are in the form of legislative policy change.
Examples of Successful Social Movements Include:
- The Civil Rights Movement which led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a monumental piece of legislation which solidified racial and gender equality
- Labor Movements in the 1800-Mid 1900’s resulted in numerous passed legislative acts which regulated Child Labor, Minimum Wage, Safe Working Conditions, Maximum Workable Hours ect
Under this logic I would say that OWS has not been successful as a social movement. It has been successful in raising awareness to economic inequality however the Labor Movement of 1981 was also successful in this regard, however it did not result in any legislative change and when it ended it was considered at a failed attempt, and to many it is an unknown movement.
This is to not say that that OWS is a failed movement however it is a movement still seeking results.
I would compare this to the Gay Rights movement. The Gay Rights movements has been on-going since 1965 and has gained a considerable amount of rights and awareness to its cause, however like OWS I would deem it a movement still seeking the results it needs to deem itself a success. I’m sure if you asked someone involved in the Gay rights movement if it has gotten all the results it has strived for I could be willing to bet the answer would be no. There is still no act passed which has allowed gay marriage in all states and the inequality still exists. The legislative results these groups have been seeking have still not been reached. I would deem the Gay Rights Movement as more of a successful movement than Occupy Wall Street thus far, as although their hasn’t been national legislation passed, the Gay Rights Movement has seen results in different state legislative acts.
Occupy Wall Street is the same in this regard. Although motives are much less defined for OWS there has been no legislative change to effect any of the grievances they have. At the end of the day the results are: the 1% is still as rich as they were, and the 99% is still as poor as they were, and Big Banks and millionaire CEO’s still don’t give a shit.
(CEO Millionaires Bill Gross and Larry Fink don’t seem too upset about the OWS movement)
My question to the readers of this post is:
- Based on looking at Historical Movements, does OWS need results for it to be deemed a success? What do these results need to be?