What Occupy Wall Street isn’t

We are encouraged nowadays to have a pitch. People are more easily dealt with via a schema.

“What’s your name, and what do you stand for?”

Without artifice I formulated one when I was about eight years old, by writing my name on the inside of my “Good News” Bible and by making and gluing next to it a sticker which read: “Be Nice” – my take on things, in two words. I’ve since lapsed into agnosticism, through self-education and my own observations of the cosmic rotisserie, and I avoid pitches because I don’t like talking in absolutes.

But most of us still want pitches, and everybody’s asking what the Occupy Wall Street movement stands for. What’s its pitch?

Many have described it as a leftist movement, suggesting a riotous superfluity of socialists and communists, but the people on the ground belie the tag. It’s more accurately described as a demonstration of humans instinctively and collectively responding to feelings of all not being well, of things being awry, in much the same way as white blood cells react and combine to try to rid the human system of infection.

While labels may help critics and reporters they seldom enhance our understanding of human thoughts and emotions. Sometimes it’s easier to say what something is by working backwards, by asking what it isn’t, so let’s try that with Occupy Wall Street.

It’s not a movement which operates as the tool of the executive or serves a political party. It doesn’t mislead parliament, obstruct Freedom of Information requests, deny the existence of documents or hide behind “cabinet in confidence” because it’s politically desirable.

It has world-famous speakers but no costly Speakers Bureau. All voices are heard and all opinions are respected. Talk is cheap but the tone is earnest and not nasty.

It’s not spruiking violence or using violence against its opposition. It’s not arming brutal regimes. It doesn’t have a paramilitary arm. It’s not engaging in extrajudicial killings. It’s not bugging phones. No-one is encouraging wars, and not just because their household budgets don’t extend to splurges like a US $US30,000 MI17 chopper flight from Kabul to Kandahar and return.

It’s encouraging unity rather than discrimination on any basis. It’s not singling out minority groups. It’s not fascist or nationalist. There is no sub-culture of people who are anti-immigration or anti-another nation, nor are they, as Roy once put it, anti-jazz.

It’s not trying to develop and impose patriarchal policies for members of the oldest continuous living culture on earth, or allowing them to die in the back of a security van.

Its members hold general assemblies, not National Prayer Breakfasts. It’s not a power clique formed for the sole purpose of obtaining and maintaining personal power. It’s not secretive or undemocratic, and doesn’t try to shut down debate. It’s not encouraging the convergence of power, but rather its dissemination. Its leaders aren’t ravenously self-interested, chasing pay increases and perks that are out of step with community expectations.

Its voting isn’t done behind closed doors. It’s determined the old fashioned way, by everyone raising a hand, and everyone including the poor, the unemployed, the elderly and the disabled have an equal say in decisions.

Its members aren’t being investigated for their involvement in rendition and torture, and there are no appointments of alleged war criminals to positions of power and influence. It isn’t attempting to target the leaders of tomorrow via foundations and fellowships allegedly seeking a better world but with a board that includes the perpetrators of pre-emptive wars.

It’s not producing propaganda films mythologising and glorifying itself, setting up websites calling for donations, adopting clever business systems for recruiting the gullible or engaging in succession planning for a favoured economic model through the indoctrination of young and impressionable minds.

It’s not swiftly shovelling money into off-shore tax havens and undermining its country’s tax base while simultaneously balking at any suggestion of philanthropy.

It’s not afraid to state its moral position in plain language, or speak out against injustice. Pastor Martin Niemöller’s words still resonate there today. So do signs in support of Private Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, not because of what they have or haven’t done but because of the injustices they have come to represent.

It’s not selling off assets, or doing other things the majority don’t want, on the back of a claimed mandate that really involved a vote for either side of a political duopoly that produces equally undesirable options.

The politics of frustration has been displaced by popular action, and at the very least the Occupy Wall Street movement is in the avant-garde of a renaissance in political and economic thinking. Economists and academics are examining the foundational blocks of our current system. Can global markets, states and democracy co-exist? What is corruption? What financial models best reflect the real costs of production? Do speculative electronic blips represent real investment? Why is a person 15 years and over who works for one hour a week defined as employed? When people have had enough and start to think and ask and act together, they develop a combined momentum.

Occupy Wall Street is a movement of the people. Its language is humanity, and the language of humanity is timeless.

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