What Has Occupy Wall Street Accomplished? What Now?

by Gloria Feldt on November 18th, 2011
in Activism, Economy, Election Watch, Leadership, Politico Arena, Politics, Power and tagged , , , , , , , ,

You know how first they laugh at you, then they try to kill you, then you win? Occupy Wall Street has moved past getting laughed at and is now under attack. Today’s Politico Arena question asked whether OWS has accomplished anything, taking off from a slam by Rep. Peter King (R of course-NY) who charged the movement is “disorganized.” Below is my response to Arena. Enjoy it while playing this video performance art, and do let me know your thoughts:

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ARENA ASKS: In a recent interview with Bloomberg Television, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) had tough criticism for the Occupy Wall Street movement. “I mean, what is their position?” King asked. “They’re mad that other people are making money? They’re mad that there are no jobs in this country? Or not enough jobs? All of us believe that. We’re trying to find a way to do it. You don’t do it by living in dirt. You don’t do it by carrying out rapes. You don’t do it by carrying out anti-American slogans.”

Is King right – is the movement disorganized? And has the Occupy Wall Street movement accomplished anything?

MY RESPONSE: There are moments when leaders fail us and so the people rise up. Enter Occupy Wall Street.

OWS’s main accomplishment is rising up to show leadership in a nation whose duly elected leaders can’t or won’t.

Why do I credit a supposedly leaderless, agendaless group with leading?

First because I believe a leader is someone who gets things done. And second, with Thanksgiving soon upon us, because I am grateful to Occupy Wall Street for “doing something” in the following ways that lead the public debate forward:

1. Giving voice to those who have been unheard, thus pumping energy into the deflated hopes for change that Barack Obama’s presidential campaign promised but didn’t deliver. A stagnant economy, with many people out of jobs with time on their hands, could have spiraled down into personal depression as well as economic recession. Taking action is the best remedy.

2. Demonstrating the American ideal of social justice still has a pulse. That we can still muster a cross-section of people, young and old, rich and poor, from all ethnicities to get out on the streets and “wear the shirt” of their convictions–one of my favorite metaphors, as those who have read my book No Excuses know.

3. Courageously laying bare the root of our economic problems: the rapacious greed of the 1 percent who control most of the wealth and contrasting that with the other 99 percent’s justifiable aspirations to earn their way to food, shelter, healthcare, and a shot at the American dream. In the process, OWS has revealed how the Republican/Tea Party agenda is fueled by greed and lust for absolute power. They don’t just want their share, they want to control it all and give back nothing to society or even to the people who do the work. Nor do they want the government to work for the people.

That said, and with all due gratitude to the visibility OWS has given to the problems, it is time for them to set forth a specific agenda of solutions and coalesce its rag tag self, or selves, to push for fundamental, systemic change.

Peter King is right that Occupy Wall Street is disorganized. That’s the nature of a social movement, especially a new one. The revolutionaries who declared and fought for American independence were none too organized at the beginning either. Instead of blasting OWS, Mr. King should apply his leadership to create jobs, to feed the hungry, to lead our country back to prosperity for all.

Here’s my original post on Politico Arena, in case you want to read it there and see what others are saying. What do you think about OWS?

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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6 Responses to What Has Occupy Wall Street Accomplished? What Now?

  1. Thanks for speaking out Gloria, excellent post.

    As Robert Reich said in his Mario Savio Lecture earlier this week, change movements start with simple moral outrage, bottom up. If it really exists as a broad social wrong, it catches fire at some point. As we’ve seen over & over with each battle for socio-economic progress, since Abolition at least.

    OWS differs only in it’s speed of materialization – almost certainly the fastest ever / can only be because we have the www & the iPhone this time. After the 2008 crash that disenfranchised millions – locked them out from a shrunken economy, from a means of support – Progressives wondered often why there were not massive protests over it. Wondered what it would take, what form it needed to take. When UK Uncut had succeeded about a year ago, activists here tried to duplicate it. Myself and others said it wouldn’t stick, because too many elements of it differed from why it had caught on in the UK.

    Then the anti-union efforts of Scott Walker and John Kasich, forged a new – or at least refreshed – alliance between Progressives whom are now loosely organized on the Internet, and organized labor. Might not be a good idea to mess with both, as a unified front…

    I think those were precursors – but those with the idea to put it right in the face of Wall Streeters, and not leave, hit the formula. As Naomi Wolf remarked in a recent TV interview, what better way to refute the canard that the nation is broke. Everyone knows our table is badly titled. They’ve lived it 30 years now. This resonates.

    The fact that union leaders and some elected officials have endorsed OWS, is gigantic in my estimation. It prevents it from being cast as fringe, anarchist, bused-in, Soros funded, not real. Although all of the known right-wing outlets are trying to make that stick anyway. But this is not a simple as doctoring an Acorn video.

    Although at some point specified agendas and goals for the movement will emerge, I have been a proponent that it not try to do so yet. It’s an umbrella Inequality protest at this point, everyone can pick up on that, and it’s vagueness has worked extremely well so far. The tens of millions disaffected in some way – un or underemployed, locked out of health insurance, 401k gutted, home foreclosed upon – see an open door for themselves in it I think. Polls seem to be saying so.

    Over the winter as the 2012 election approaches, it will coalesce most likely. They’ve mentioned a 7/4/12 Convention, and it’s an open question whether a Reich or a Bernie Sanders or a Van Jones, would make an independent presidential run fronting the OWS agenda. I think it’s possible.

    Will conclude with the following link, which in one minute cuts through all misunderstandings & misrepresentations of this movement. This is what we haven’t been seeing much of from Media Inc. 212 pages & growing, of fellow Americans – that OWS can rest it’s case on;

    http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com

  2. This video has said it all. The Video is AWESOME !

  3. Gloria Feldt says:

    Thank you for these comments, Roy and Wanda.

    Roy, I hope your prediction that OWS will coalesce around an agenda or a specific political goal will prove to be accurate. A movement has to move. When a movement is just about its own process it will soon die and often from an implosion of its own making. And thanks for the link, Roy. those photos and stories do tell the tale in a powerful way. I encourage everyone reading to take a look.

  4. al says:

    I think you are dreaming. Occupy Wall Street has done nothing except show the world what a gutless, crybaby people Americans really are. Just as Obama has caused and presided over the decline of a nation, OWS has presented that decline to the world in a way that will never be forgotten. The only greed I see is the greed of OWS “protestors” thinking that everyone else is supposed to pay their way, that somehow companies “owe” them a job. Nobody owes us anything. The Chinese must be lauging their asses off at the laziness these people display. Jihadists are eyeing the moral decadence of these people and their weakness and, hopefully not, taking them for a cross section of America, which they are not. By the way, do you know how much money one needs to make, according to the IRS, to be in the 1%? $343,000.

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  6. scott fairchild says:

    Well, will you admit how wrong you were about this ‘movement’ and how wrong you are now?

    Here’s a truth few white Americans will ever comprehend: if non-whites are not involved in the organization protesting, then the odds are very high it ain’t going anywhere and doesn’t mean much. Those who have suffered unceasing, continued oppression and have no concept of borrowing from over-indulgent, well off helicopter parents who don’t know how to say,”No, go work for it yourself now that you’re 18.”, have little sympathy for a bunch of spoiled, white brats who want to now ‘hang loose and play jazz’. THAT is what the new OWS ‘meme’ is.

    Do your research before you write next time.

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