Not long ago I heard about the police crackdown on occupy protestors in Oakland that resulted in the severe injury of Iraq veteran Scott Olsen. This event sparked outrage within the movement and masses organized with labor and other sectors to attempt to shut down the Oakland Port, the 6th largest in the nation. After this port event, I was pondering the same action here in the Port of Houston, an even larger port. Just weeks later, I saw a very brief news report showing about a dozen protestors laying in the street to block access to the Port of Houston. They lay there shoulder to shoulder and one activist who was maybe in his mid twenties raised his head and yelled “This is what the future of Democracy looks like”. The handful of protestors were quickly taken into custody and the port was still open for business. These protestors attempting to disrupt one of the largest ports in the world could barely muster double digit numbers and were easily out numbered by bystanders and the police.
I certainly hope that this is not what the future of Democracy looks like: an unorganized tiny group of out-numbered, albeit noble-minded activists simply laying in the thoroughfare – quickly arrested with no actual affect toward their stated goals. This is what Democracy looks like today! The problem as I see it with the Occupy Movement is a matter of purpose and message. We all know that the corporate media is quick to belittle and dismiss the movement and do not feel the need to do any in-depth reporting or analysis, choosing easy routes such as comparing the movement to the arab spring or just saying the occupiers are just lazy hippies. The confusing fact is that even on some of the best independent media such as Democracy Now!, their reports may be larger and in principle more in-depth but the message is still convoluted. One protestor will speak of economic inequality, another of wars, and yet another on the ecological (pending) disaster via global climate change. All of these issues are relevant and very important. I could argue that this young movement is within its ranks – confused. There are so many things wrong and out of balance and outright illegal to be faced and changed that distilling the movements purpose, goals, and message is a daunting task. The goal is to find a common denominator in each of the movement’s concerns. To seek the source of the various problems they seek to resolve. My challenge to all occupier and the general assemblies working to guide this movement is to answer a simple question, applied to every major issue at hand: “What is the source of the imbalance, problem, inequity, illegal action, war, and so on? What is the cause?”
It will not take long or much debate to elevate the simple answer: Corporations. Every major issue faced by humans today; individually and collectively, and in government and structure is the result of corporations and the wealthy elites who steer them. Perhaps enough thought has gone into Occupy Wall Street to see this fact, as Wall St. is the heart of corporate Capitalism. But my thought is that this occupation is targeted at the financial system and the rogue elements within it. This would have been a sufficient strategy perhaps in the 1800s but in 2012, the corporations are more sophisticated and more importantly – Global. The Occupy Movement, if to be sustained and grown, and not splintered and rendered ineffective, must commit to this undeniable reality and incorporate their focus as such. In all of these issues, the movement must adjust with the realization that corporate manipulation is the root. Each issue may vary in exactly the manners of corporate meddling, but the fact that corporations are the great threat should not even be in question.
So with this sombre but simple notion, what do we do? After all corporation are immortal giants with virtually unlimited resources to do anything they decide to undertake. Also, the corporation and their wealthy drivers have unrelenting patience. They work for decades to shape and buy politicians, or even place their own officers into government to eventually obtain policies, tax breaks, and votes which increase their profits and expansion. Likewise, the new movement will take some time to develop into a true power of the people to face down corporate influence and reclaim our government. We do have the added tools of technology and communication which can vastly speed up the effort.
It is inevitable that the movement will need to mature and grow beyond simply gathering around and holding signs and being attacked and evicted by police. Especially with the corporate media squarely in the pocket of the very entities we struggle against. But I would argue if occupations are to continued, the targets might be rethought and deeper in scope. For instance, hundreds of thousands or millions should encircle the entirety of K. Street in Washington DC, the home of corporate lobbyists. Not a dozen, not a few hundred, or thousand. The crowd must be overwhelming in size as to completely shut down the sector of corporate influence peddlers. Smart signs and spokesperson(s) should accompany this effort to point out why K St. is being targeted. Demands shall be made that laws be written, and voted in to eliminate this practice and greatly restrict these efforts of corporate-government collusion, which directly negate the concept of a government of, by, and for the people.
The Supreme Court should likewise be surrounded and shut down. Due to their questionable, and possibly illegal decisions granting corporations the rights enshrined in the constitution and bill of rights for Human Beings. And do not be afraid to shut down Congress and the House. Making the point that they are in large part playing along with the corporations while profiting from their influence/ votes.
The undeniable point here is corporations are basically in control of everything, our government included. They have spent billions and spent decades to get to this point. This movement is the first modern one to begin to directly challenge the corporate State. This may have started in earnest with the Battle of Seattle at 1999s G8 conference. But the wide-ranging and large-scale movement in its infancy today could become the new voice of an era. It could be our only hope for a better, more equitable, more just future. We must focus, plan, and not be afraid of the change we seek. Unlike a president who was elected promising change, but immediately cowed to corporate and partisan pressure to do no such thing. Arguably, he was elected and left to his own devices to fight all of the entrenched forces of which we speak. Maybe this movement should’ve started in 2009.
As far as banks go… The strategy of people closing accounts is a good start, but again numbers ARE the key. The massive nation-wide ongoing campaign should be developed. Say, every Monday, all day, people arrive and line up to close all of their accounts and withdraw all of their money. The challenge here is what do you do with that money. Well, we should also, in tandem, start either a national peoples credit union or thousands of local versions for people to still have an institution to house and protect their money, which would then possibly have better policies, lower ATM and service fees, and low interest housing and small business loans. Losing money on mass is one sure way to get a corporation’s attention and throw them off balance causing them to re-evaluate their policies.
I’m sure some occupy strategists are developing similar efforts. Wether yes or no, I will be available to help. Most importantly, we must hold onto hope as this is a very potent fuel for a people’s movement. Strategy is just the roadmap.