By James Gabbard
Occupy Everything: A Brief History
Occupy Wall Street has been going on for months now. In July, the site AdBusters.org called for people to flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens and peaceful barricades in order to protest like the people of Egypt. The call then for change was simple: “we demand that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington “ said the site.
From there the organization moved to it's own site and created its own press releases. It urged people to come to meetings before the protest began to discuss an opposition to budget cuts. The first use of the 99% showing up on August 4, 2011.
On August 12, AdBusters released another statement. Suggestions of what the movement could demand: “the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act … or a 1% tax on financial transactions … or an independent investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the corporate corruption of our representatives in Washington … or another equally creative but downright practical demand that will emerge from the people's assemblies held during the occupation.” The release was riddled with statements implying not to seem too far-left, and urging people of the left to do something.
On August 24, the online group Anonymous released a video supporting Occupy Wall Street. The group is known for cyberattacks and has threatened banks. Recently they claimed they would be hacking into banks, using people's credit cards and giving the money to charity.
September 1 a test run protest on a sidewalk had 9 people arrested. A week later, the 99% Project launched with people sending in photos of their financial situations.
September 12, a statement titled “Why?” explained the reasons behind what they are doing, coming down to a single line: “The people coming to Wall Street on September 17 come for a variety of reasons, but what unites them all is the opposition to the principle that has come to dominate not only our economic lives but our entire lives: profit over and above all else.”
And on September 17, Occupy Wall Street began- once more changing the tune of its horn and calling for what appeared to be a change in society and democracy itself.
Who Is AdBusters?
The company- yes, company- that started this movement is known as AdBusters- a Canadian based anti-consumerism magazine started by Kalle Lasn. Lasn's history might speak for itself: after spending childhood in German refugee camps in World War II his family, originally from Estonia, fled to Australia. In the 1960s he moved to Japan and started his own market research company until moving to Canada in 1970 and working on documentaries for PBS. He has published numerous books and won a handful of awards for his documentaries.
The company claims not-for-profit, but non-profits in Canada cannot deal with politics and if the company is truly not-for-profit the money would need to go to a charitable organization (yet you can also donate money to the magazine). The company has no information on its site for any charities it donates to. The magazine itself is ad-free and is supported by readers.
The website is registered under Lasn's name, but the Occupy Wall Street site- occupywallst.org has registration hidden. The only information given is the street address and phone number- both with do not coincide with each other in location (the address is in the 310 area code of Los Angeles while the phone number is the nearby 661 area code). While many companies are listed on the address, only one has a listing for Suite 200: A Divorce Center of Los Angeles. What makes this even stranger is the website for this company, divorceSOS.com, has no registrant data besides being owned by ALW Enterprises. With no information other than the name, it is unknown which ALW owns the site- as two exist: one in California and one in Birmingham, Alabama. Numerous other companies use the ALW name as well, making it difficult to pinpoint.
Why a website needs such hidden information is questionable, but the site was immediately created a day after AdBusters called forth for people to Occupy Wall Street.
This becomes an ironic twist in the face of Occupy: the entirety of the movement was created by a company that sells anti-consumerism products just like consumer products. A quick look at the site under subscribe, and you'll find products for sale: shoes, a calendar, back issues, media empowerment kit for teachers, a set of 1200 photos and illustrations of what's called 'design anarchy', corporate American flag, DVDs, t-shirts, and even a keychain tool to turn the TV off so you're not brainwashed by the media (or as the site calls it “mental pollution”).
This is No Revolution
AdBusters promotes culture jamming- the idea of taking societal mainstream expectations and disrupting them. The Occupy movement is a culture jam- the idea that people seeing someone standing out and up for something will inspire them to do the same like in Tahrir in Egypt, pushing out the government that was there and replacing it with one that isn't oppressive. But the situation in Egypt is far different from the one in the United States and other parts of the Western world the Occupy movement has captured and begun to influence.
In Egypt the people demanded change from an oppressive government: one that was known for police brutality, unfair laws, corruption and many more issues- specifically affecting the people being low wages and high food prices.
In America, we don't have such an issue. The Occupy Movement has suggested numerous ideas of what to demand, but none are as important to the well-being of Americans like that of the people in Egypt. Considering the country was demanding free elections at the same time, comparing ourselves to them seems a bit farfetched.
The Occupy Movement is not a revolution. The anti-consumer statements is not what the 99% are about. People do not want to live in a nation that, as Lasn once described, spends $100,000 on a car and $250 to fill it up with gas. We simply want to live in a nation that has jobs, is growing, and we feel is truly representing us.
The Call for True Change
The issue is that Occupy Wall Street is actually doing what it intended to do: piss people off. Many who are caught up in this are wanting true change, but have no idea what to do or how to fix it. And for the first time, they can see a group similar to themselves- people standing up and saying enough is enough. They are tired of struggling and tired of the economy, the politics and much more.
But we need true change. This movement is not going to give the people true change. We need to actively ask for something more than what these protestors are asking for. This is politics, not capitalism.
The Steps We Must Take
Our first step is Justice. We need to urge the government to investigate the fraud of the banks and charge people with the crimes they committed that lead to where we now are. We should investigate companies that have falsified documents in order for market share or cash and charge the people responsible with committing these crimes. This justice will help solidify the people's trust once again in banks and companies, assisting with financial aspects of the stock market and eventually creating a sustainable and profitable level once more.
Our second step is Tax Reform. We need to reform the tax code first and foremost, from a completely difficult and convoluted mess of loopholes to something simple and straightforward. Corporations should no longer be allowed to pay less than an average American, and Americans from all walks of life shouldn't be exempt. Our infrastructure works on taxes, and when people stop paying them- we cannot keep the infrastructure going without going into debt. At the same time, we should not expect the government to continue taxing us beyond reason. It is not in our interest to spend tax payer dollars on programs that are inefficient and waste the money of the people.
Our third step is Regulation Reform. Regulations were put into place for companies in order to protect consumers. Many of these regulations are now gone, and either reinstating them or implementing new ones that aim to protect consumers are necessary. Companies have proven that they are not able to govern themselves respectfully and in consumers' interests. Not only that, but current regulations that are being broken need to be more enforced. A company that spent billions of tax payer dollars only having to pay millions in fines does not seem logical.
That leads us to step four: Government Reform. The Occupy Movement has one thing correct- there is a lot of money involved in politics today from companies. The recent judicial decision, allowing companies to donate as they are seen as a person, is getting hate even from President Obama. But even before that, lobbyists and special interest groups have campaigned to elect people in order to get laws passed that benefit them. And many times politicians, who have friends or have made money in certain industries, will act to assist those friends or themselves in order to make more money. Getting this kind of money out of politics won't solve much, people can still donate personally and make under the table deals. But we need to do more as voters. We need to put people who could actually do well in the position to seats in the government. Campaigns are now riddled with lies and misinformation. Changing the way the game is played and actually standing for issues instead of who cheated on their wife with whom is where politics needs to go.
What About [Insert Issue Here]?
There are hundreds of issues that should not be issues in this day and age. A government that is meant to be separate from church and state constantly is using religious ideologies to give reason for a law- but I won't go into that now. I understand that things from healthcare to homosexual rights to abortion are hot topics and need solutions. But I don't think anyone can disagree that in this time we need to really sit down and figure out what is working in our government and what isn't, and fix the major issues that plague the nation.
These four steps I mentioned would get us back on track, more than we are now. Every day consumers continue to see worse conditions, job seekers aren't finding much to do but pray, and people are no longer seeing the American dream.
I myself have given up on the American dream. I don't feel like what was possible only 4-5 years ago when I started college is now possible today. I'm part of the real 99%. The part that has applied to over 1000 jobs and gotten nowhere. The part that has time and time again pushed to be the best and always worked our asses off. We don't have a name like Occupy Wall Street or the Tea Party. We don't all have the ability to put our lives on hold and stand up for something. But we want change, and we are going to find it somehow in our lives. I know that I plan to change my life, and I urge everyone else to do the same. Maybe someone who can put their life on hold can take the reigns and start a movement that actually pushes forth what we all have wanted for so long: change. I know I will support that movement more than I ever will support Occupy Wall Street again.