You ARE the 99 percent.

Over the past few weeks, I have spent as much free time as possible at Liberty Square, even sleeping on the pavement there. As you may know, thousands of activists have been gathering at Zuccotti Park (Liberty Plaza) in lower Manhattan about two blocks from Wall Street. However, unless you have been there, you many have a very misguided understanding of what is going on there. With thousands of people gathering in lower Manhattan for over two weeks, many of them camped out in the park for the duration, partaking in two or more marches per day, and with similar movements now popping up all over the nation and abroad, you might think there would be sufficient coverage of the events in the mainstream media. You would be wrong. Instead, reporters and cameras come in and out all day, most with a preconceived notion of what their story will be and proceed to film, edit, and add their monologue to push their own agenda. Allow me to offer you SOME of the real story.

A group of activists has occupied Liberty Plaza next to Wall Street to express our mutual disdain of the current state of affairs. While there are many reasons and personal stories that reflect the discontent, a common thread is we feel disenfranchised because of the institutionalized power and wealth in huge corporations and banks. Less than one percent of the population reaps the benefits of this power and wealth on a grand scale. They control our political and economic landscape. We want freedom for all people. We believe that as long as the abundance of wealth and power remain accumulated in less than one percent of the population, and in these large, undemocratic institutions, genuine freedom for all is impossible. Everyone has an interest in returning the power of self-determination to the people; well 99 percent of us do.

The movement is large and growing rapidly. Many people have been staying at Liberty Plaza night after night. Some have mattresses, air mattresses, sleeping bags, blankets, or tarps to sleep on. Beyond those living in the park, thousands of people pass through every day: some campaign with us for a couple of hours, some march with us, some just walk around and observe. The questions that everyone asks are the same: “why are you here?”, “what’s the point?”, “what’s the end game?”, and “what are your demands?”

This movement is much more complicated than those simple, sound-bite questions. The questions AND the answers are much deeper and complicated than that. While everyone gathers to show their contempt for corporate greed and its power over our political system, there is not one unified message as of now as to what should happen, and there doesn’t need to be. There is a full spectrum of participants here and the opinions regarding problems and, even more so solutions, vary. However, people should recognize that in many ways ONE end result has already been accomplished. We are here. We are living change. It’s organic and at times sloppy, but it is real. We are raising awareness and showing people that you can take control over your own life. You can meet people and talk to them. You can organize your own political discourse and democratic experience. The movement holds one or two General Assemblies every day. We organize them without hierarchical leadership and with true democratic principles. Everyone really does have a voice. This is a major accomplishment in and of itself. As for the external impact we will have? Give us time. The movement is spreading. Occupiers are popping up everywhere. We will let the people decide. After all, we have 99 percent of the population’s needs to consider.

So in response to all these questions, I ask you this: “Are you living to your fullest potential?” For most of us, the answer is no.

If you believe we need to end corporate personhood (and/or); we need to end corporate lobbying and political representation (and/or); we need equal political representation, open sources, and transparency in government and policy (and/or); we need to stop environmental degradation and exploitation and hold violators accountable for their destruction (and/or); we need diverse political representation, not just two very similar choices (and/or); every gender, race, religion, and people deserve respect and equality; (and/or)….

then you are the 99 percent.

If not now, when?

4 thoughts on “You ARE the 99 percent.

  1. I get that…. you all are setting an example and sparking thought… somebody asked me the other day, “But when will it end?” The point is that it never ends, I said… that it changes our cultural leanings and conceptions. That’s the point. If it ended, as an example, when I could comfortably afford groceries/gas again, then it would all just go back to the way things were in short order. It’s a long term fix… I think you NY’ers should camp in that park until the end of time.. get permits and start building the Ewok village there, seriously. Start a long term community, they can’t arrest ALL OF YOU… eventually you’ll have enough people from all over to topple their coveted bull with the brass balls.

  2. There is so much you have said in 2 relatively short blogs. Some things really stand out… “the interconnectdness”, the “sound bites”, the “political issues”. People so EASILY get sucked in to breaking down the grand problem of social injustice into separate political issues. The media organizes it this way so they can have their little “expert panel discussion” on this “issue” or that “issue” but they never get to the heart of the problem or anything that matters because they don’t want to. They use the media outlet to push their own agenda which is generally to maintain status quo.
    This movement is exactly what has been needed. The 99% NEED a rally, a voice, if you will, that represents not ONE issue that can be on some 30second sound bite… But we needed a total movement that calls attention to ALL of the problems and issues as they are in reality…one interwoven web of social injustice.
    Thanks Colby. See you in Liberty square.

  3. Interesting thoughts. All of my information up until this point has been from mainstream media outlets. I do see your point that there are various agendas and/or interpretations from my sources. In all fairness, I do have enough awareness when I am following the stories to try to pull the facts from the spin. I can’t say I will always be able to do this successfully as I am working with 2nd hand information that usually has an “angle”. I follow the “Occupation” daily in the news. Like a lot of my professional colleagues it’s more an intellectual curiosity at this point. There are those of you that feel called to speak out publically against various issues that I think your average American sympathizes with…greed, corruption, etc. I think for some of us with good jobs, not struggling (by this I don’t mean wealthy but paying the bills so to speak) we are paying attention and we are listening. I can only speak for myself but I really can’t action on any of the information I’ve gotten to date. Do I stand against corporate greed and corruption? Yes. Do I want greater accountability and transparency? Yes. I would be hard pressed to find anyone that I know personally that didn’t feel that way. I guess my point is that there are a lot of folks like me. People that probably agree with a lot of the basic messages coming out of this movement but may feel that reform that comes from legislation like SOX or DFA may help to bring about less corruption and more transparency. I think a lot of the intangibles coming from the “Occupation” and the varied agendas/messages will continue to keep many like me tuning in for now but not quite sure what to make of all of it…but that being said, maybe that’s all this movement seeks to do for now. Like you said, calling attention to the problems is certainly something.

  4. I think in any movement there are opportunities for the current structures to institute laws, policy, regulation, etc that can appease many people within the movement. I’ll even go further than your point about those people who haven’t felt compelled to jump in. Appeasements can make many people already in the movement feel as though we “won” or that they got what they wanted so there is no need to fight anymore.This is of course a possibility. Laws like SOX and regulation like DFA could do just that. They make people think that with accountability and more transparency, companies will have to the right thing or they will lose money. Sort of forcing them to stay in line.With that, many people might feel that change has been made. And when that happens we just allow an inherently unsustainable economic system and an dysfunctional political system to continue. When neither is necessary. Look, everyone knows the flaws in the economic system like we are plundering the earth, creating huge wealth gaps, and people’s needs are not being met. And everyone knows the political flaws of our system with a two-party system and corporate lobbying, no one has a real voice. The debate is only in how to fix those things. Some people will continue to debate along the lines of the status quo (or not at all), which is totally understandable. Especially, people in situations similar to yours.The people in the square are standing up and saying that they are not going to sit on the sidelines of that debate anymore.

    While in some senses the intangibles may seem like a weakness, they could also be a strength. Your job and family life keep you way to busy to march everyday, even if it was something you supported. A general sense of frustration is very inclusive and while it might not bring some people out to the street, what would? If the goal of the campaign was to end the federal reserve, would you come to Liberty Square? (“You” meaning a general you, maybe you specifically would but most in your situation would not) Probably not. Even if you supported that. My belief is that tangibles like that could be divisive.

    Like you said, people like you who haven’t felt the need to shout and protest are still paying attention and listening. While you might not march, you may be likely to go to a meeting in your neighborhood to discuss ideas and alternatives to the current system. And some people may not even do that, but if people around them were using alternatives (i.e co-ops, bartering, gold and silver money, whatever the alternatives are to different problems) it becomes more approachable.The fact that people are gathering in squares all across the country to talk about these issues is in itself a big deal. Maybe people will begin to look into things for themselves a bit more and not wait for leaders to make decisions for them. Maybe people will start looking up the Federal Reserve and see the obvious flaws. Maybe, sources of alternative energy that seem impossible to institute would be easy when a community of people got together and figure it out. Could be too idealistic? Maybe not.

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