Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

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Occupy Wall St , a set on Flickr.

I grew up in a country where protests are the norm: you aren't happy with the the amount of hours you are working? Get out into the streets and protest! The government is too right-wing? Set up a demonstration down the main streets of the city. You aren't getting paid enough? Go on strike! I, for one, completely agree with popular uprising. If your voice is too quiet to be heard, then group together and shout louder together. I've always been lucky enough to live in countries where I am allowed to voice my opinion and go out onto the streets and demonstrate if I want to. And if I don't feel like demonstrating outside on the streets, there are other ways to do it nowadays: blogging, Facebook, Twitter... We don't need to wait for the main media sources to come in and start talking about it.
But (and there is always a but), in France, strikes, protests and demonstrations had become the norm so much, that they started to become a running joke in other countries. It was as if no one took popular uprisings seriously anymore. And then they started to become violent. Demonstrations became coupled with burning cars and police using tear gas, peaceful protests became riots and so forth, bringing up a multitude of questions on why there was such underlying anger and violence in today's youth, why the need to destroy and hurt, rather than build and grow? Look at what started in London and spread to other places in England just this last August. Once the riots were over, the kids were jailed and something more important happened in the world (maybe George W Bush choked on a pretzel again or something), the story disappeared. So what happens next? We just clamp it down to a few shitty days in England, and continue to move forward in the same way that we were before the riots happened? I cannot stand violence, and do not think it is in any way or form a way to make anything better, but come on, it happened for a reason, and if the root cause isn't dug up, analyzed and then destroyed, how can we stop it happening again in the future? No wonder the kids of today are disgruntled: nobody cares about what they have to say!
Violence is definitely not the answer, so this is why I am becoming more and more interested in the Occupy Wall Street movement that started about 3 weeks ago, and is growing rapidly (not just in NYC, but all around the country). For a few weeks there was no media coverage on the movement, only Twitter and Facebook posts from different people involved and bystanders. Without smart phones and portable video cameras we would not have seen the images of the women being fenced in by the police and maced for no reason apart from the fact that they were part of a demonstration. Peaceful demonstration may I add. Or how about the 700 or so people who were arrested walking over the Brooklyn Bridge last week. What did they do wrong? There has still not been ONE incident of violence or intent to riot, the only violence that seems to have happened comes from the police trying to police the demonstrations. I am not going to bash the police on the streets right now, they are obviously following orders from above, but come on, spraying mace on a group of screaming girls?!
In any case, the movement is growing, and doesn't seem ready to disappear just yet. I finally made it to a gathering yesterday, and am glad I did. The General Assembly was held in Washington Square Park at 3pm. People gathered there, and others marched up from Zuccotti Park (renamed Liberty Park). The park was full of people, groups sitting down in front of the speakers and everyone else standing behind them. The speakers are not allowed to use microphones, so the crowd repeats each sentence in waves so that everyone can hear what each speaker has to say. Different groups introduced themselves, and explained what their role was and where to find them, and then a speaker called Mohamed from Egypt said a few words. He actually brought tears to my eyes, just because he was passionate and inspirational. I know that the movement here is not the same as the Arab Spring uprisings, but in the end the message is the same: WE WANT CHANGE.
So this brings me to my only real concern: we know what the message is, and it's coming across loud and clear. But without a concrete list of what needs to change I worry that the message will get lost in the melee and people will lose interest. A revolution needs to start small, gain momentum and bring actual change. What do you want from this? The same as what I do: to live in a world that is a better place for all of us. How can WE make that change? This is the message that we need to get across to the government and anyone in charge. The voices are finally being shown by the media, so now is the time to get the real points across to those who aren't listening.
And this is exactly why I will be going back again. Because I HAVE a list of things that I KNOW need to change, and I want to talk about them to a group of like-minded people.

For more information please grab an Occupy newspaper at one of the gatherings (available in English and Spanish) or visit the following websites:

This is not the last post I will be writing on this subject. I need to limit myself otherwise I will literally write all day.

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