What Does Occupy Wall Street Protesters want? Listen & you'll learn

Occupy Wall Street – a street rally of disenfranchised Americans in New York City’s financial district – is going off like a frog in a sock.

According to Occupy Together, protests by the 99 per cent of the world’s people against the greed of the 1 per cent of the world’s richest citizens, who actually run the place, have spread to 1939 cities around the globe.

Not surprisingly, the 1 per cent are fighting back. Given their disproportionate wealth, power and privilege compared with the demonstrators, their PR message is cutting through. It is that the dissidents are ridiculous and their message unclear.

I can’t agree. I’ve been following the action, and tweeting about it, and have been impressed by the articulateness of those occupying Zuccotti Park and the sacrifices they are making (camping for weeks on the street is not a lot of fun).

I have been equally awed by the tenacity and clarity of purpose shown by the tent protesters in Israel, whose anger at being employed but still unable to make ends meet arguably kicked off the Occupy movement in July.

Not to mention the democracy protesters who may have inspired them in what has become known as the Arab Spring.

This may be because I’ve led grassroots movements before and know how hard it is to get diverse, and not always educated, strangers to agree on political goals and tactics. And the fact that, unlike some commenting on the movement, I’m not paid to provide a third-party endorsement of corporate Australia’s aspirations.

Last week was Anti-Poverty Week, an Australian expansion of the UN’s International Anti-Poverty Day. The messages of Anti-Poverty Week are consistent with many from Occupy Wall Street. They include reminders that a fraction of the world’s population control most of the wealth, that a lack of affordable housing and inadequate income support contribute to the often invisible struggles of the working poor and that, while Australia is among the eight wealthiest countries, we are among the four most unequal.

Here are some snippets from the declaration of occupation agreed on by the New York protesters that, taken together, can be understood as a manifesto of the principled and practical problems that result when democracy is for sale. I invite you to judge for yourself.

‘'As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality … that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations – which place profit over people, self-interest over justice and oppression over equality – run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here … to let these facts be known.

‘'They have taken our houses through … illegal foreclosure …

“They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity and continue to give executives exorbitant bonuses.”

‘'They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions …"

‘'They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies continue to produce …"

Join us and make your voices heard!‘’

Publication history

What do they want? Listen and you'll learn  Moral Dilemma, The Sun-Herald (Sydney)