Last semester, as the drama of Occupy Wall Street unfolded, I asked my students in my Business Organizations class (about 70 students are in the class) if they were following the movement. Only a few said they were. Some of them had not heard of OWS even though the New York occupation was about a month old at the time I asked. And when I asked if any of them had gone to the park where the Occupiers were camped out, only two students raised their hands. One of the students was Christopher Dekki. After that class, Chris and I had several interesting discussions about the OWS movement. Because I enjoyed hearing his insights, I am posting Chris’ observations about the movement in this post. Chris provides an update on the current status of OWS, and he brings to the discussion his perspective as a young man concerned about our nation’s future. What follows are Chris’ observations.
"Stop Mourning and Cancel the Funeral: Occupy Wall Street Is Alive and Well
By Christopher Dekki
When young people speak, the elite tends to look away. When young people shout, the elite covers it ears hoping the racket eventually stops. When young people take to the streets, the elite comes up with slanderous labels to delegitimize the struggle upon which the youth have embarked. All of this happened as Occupy Wall Street evolved from a mere urban pest buzzing around the ears of the leaders of the corporate-political industrial complex, to a veritable threat: a threat to an undeniably unjust status quo. From the very inception of the movement, those in the government and the corporate media have been utterly flustered by the commotion surrounding OWS. The Washington elite could not seem to muster enough negativity to describe the activists who have taken up the mantle of protest from earlier generations of progressives. In recent months, foolish pundits and conservative politicos derisively declared the OWS movement to be dead after several flummoxed mayors used abhorrent force to push protestors out of the public eye. Although these mayors managed to clear a few tents and take the heat off their embattled city streets, they have not been able to vanquish OWS. The ideas heralded into the political discourse by OWS have managed to infiltrate almost every level of the political realm of the United States. It was the cries of young OWS activists that awakened the long dormant beast that is populist political fervor. So contrary to what so many pundits believe to be absolute truth, OWS is alive, well, and unquestionably pervasive.
A good way to measure the success of OWS is to compare it to its parallel grassroots movement on the right, the Tea Party. The Tea Party was born in what appears to have been a racially charged response to a black man defiantly overcoming all social obstacles to win control of the White House. Although many in the Tea Party claim to be crusading against the excesses of the federal government, there is simply no denying the racial underpinnings of the entire movement. It is doubtful that if Joe Biden were the current president, the Tea Party would be as electrified as it has been over the past two years. Now, compare the establishment of that right wing movement to the birth of OWS. OWS gained strength at a time when the left was technically in control of some aspects of the government. OWS rose up against all sides of the very limited American political spectrum and made a bold and truly authentic statement that certain things simply need to change. So while the Tea Party appears to be a reaction to a so-called “uppity” black man rising to the highest political office in the United States, OWS sprang forth to combat a real threat to our republican system of government: the power and influence of money in politics.
Besides the issues that gave birth to the Tea Party and OWS, the legitimacy of both movements can be measured by their degrees of political independence. While OWS remains free from the control of the Washington establishment, the Tea Party was co-opted by the GOP long ago. This has made the Tea Party vulnerable to the vices that currently poison American politics. OWS was never transformed into a vehicle of the Democratic Party. OWS does not endorse politicians nor does it seek to take sides in partisan struggles. In addition, many within the Democratic Party have been afraid to directly support OWS. Of course, nobody in Washington wants to be branded a “liberal” since that apparently translates into political suicide. So as the Tea Party, through its elected officials in Congress, causes chaos and embarrassment for the country, OWS remains firmly autonomous and staunchly true to its principles.
OWS may have many detractors, but it can take pride in the fact that it has never been a source of political obstruction. It has not helped cause the US credit downgrade. It never helped spur embarrassingly cruel politicians like Allen West into elected office. It has never called for an apocalyptic war on Iran. It stands up to American jingoism and modern economic imperialism. It recognizes the flaws of American capitalism and realizes that corrupt politicians on both sides of the aisle continue to act as surrogates for omnipotent corporate interests. OWS has stepped up to bat and has turned political rhetoric on its head even as the effects of Citizens United take a devastating toll on society. As a result, the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove are free to believe whatever they like. This is not the first time they have turned their backs on reality in order to further their destructive neoconservative agendas. Occupy Wall Street is a viable force in American society it is now the turn of the people to ensure that the American government ceases to be a puppet of the 1% and begins to serve the interests of the 99%."