We Can Do Better

Like a lot of others I was somewhat perplexed by the ongoing, albeit peaceful, demonstrations being referred to as Occupy Wall Street when they first originated in New York in mid September.

While the movement was predominantly driven by young people when it started, it now involves people of many colours, cultures, and political persuasions. As they put it, they are the 99% who will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. Since initiated, the protests have spread to an astounding 900+ cities around the world and, as such, have become a movement that is tough to ignore.
When it first made headlines I vaguely understood it was a protest against Wall Street corruption and greed, but, I didn’t see that it had a lot to do with me.

I was wrong. 

Occupy Wall Street has become a unifying force for anyone fed up with injustice and a lack of accountability whether it’s about creating jobs, ensuring a living wage, ending free trade, improving health care, or reducing the costs of education.

It’s getting clearer that the protests also have to do with anyone who cares about an unjust system, the pollution of our waters, the vast amount of carbon we’re putting into the atmosphere, and governments too influenced by corporate power. It’s about taking a stance for how we treat one another, for encouraging goodness and decency, and for making sure we don’t lose our civility. Ultimately, the protests are important for anyone who wants a better world.

While the movement has been criticized for having no formal demands, others are seeing it as a democratic awakening whose time has come. Some see it as having a primary goal of growth.

Ultimately though, the movement is what all social action is about – power. It is about the inequality of power that results when some hold too much and those who are overlooked or oppressed believe their best option is to take on the role of an activist who utilizes conflict tactics, confrontation, and direct action. The intent is to ensure the power is reclaimed and distributed more fairly and equitably.

So, while the pundits may suggest the movement is leaderless, it would be better to say it is leader-full because the intent is not to have one leader but instead to ensure everyone involved is empowered to lead within their corner of the world.

The test will be to ensure that once a greater awareness is created by the social action, a community development approach is utilized. It is community development that will help people to help themselves and develop plans that identify and respond to their specific needs and issues. In other words, the Wall Street Movement will need to result in the empowerment of real people to create real change from the grassroots up. And, perhaps that’s really what the Wall Street Movement is about – change.  It is also about people who have the courage and the heart to challenge the underlying values that govern our society and say, “We can do better”.

Posted on 10-30-11

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