Sunday, October 02, 2011

Rocking the Cradle of Power

Outside in the square
they’re startin’ somethin’
that’s gonna tear the catgut
outta your stinkin’ rackets!
. . . The people of this town
are findin’ out what it’s all about.
They’re growin’ up!
And when everybody gets together
like [they’re] getting’ together tonight,
where are you then?
. . . When the storm breaks,
the cradle will fall!

– The character of Larry Foreman
in Marc Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock (1937)

I’ve been following with great interest events in New York and elsewhere as the movement opposing the corporate plundering of people and the environment continues to grow. What an amazing and hopeful development in human consciousness we’re witnessing.

To be sure, the “occupation of Wall Street” is not an isolated event. Rather, it’s connected to the
escalating battle against genetically mutilated crops, the growing resistance to corporate control of the Internet, and the recent democratic uprisings we've witnessed in places as diverse as Egypt and Wisconsin.

Following are thoughts on this growing movement excerpted from a variety of sources. I find these quotes particularly insightful and inspiring, and some of them provide helpful background information to what we’re currently witnessing unfolding across the U.S. – including Minnesota.


More than a week ago, a small band of peaceful protesters descended on Zuccotti Park (now Liberty Park) in New York City, not far from Wall Street. They dubbed their little movement “Occupy Wall Street.” And, on the first weekend, starting Sept. 17, they had quite a number of people join them in marches and speeches that essentially claimed the 99% of Americans who aren’t the 1% of uber-rich are disenfranchised – and have critical needs related to unemployment, cost of living, and a range of other social issues that are either being ignored outright or largely swept under the rug by our finance-focused government.

These young people, accompanied by like-minded Xers and a few Boomers, didn’t get much coverage to start. (I doubt any authentic movement, at the outset, ever does.) The media that did arrive briefly aired the same complaint: “They are a loosely organized group of disaffected youth who are more like hippies and have no real goal,” they yawned. “Nothing to see here, but we’ve done our job by ‘covering’ it in our blogs,” they seemed to say to New Yorkers and anyone outside the Big Apple paying attention. “This too shall pass.”

The only problem is, it hasn’t. And I suspect after this weekend, it isn’t going to.

– Lisa Romero
What the Media Aren't Telling You About American Protests
September 26, 2011

The primary focus [of the Wall Street occupation] is on corporations, the wealthy and income distribution.

The objective, as protester Mike Luciano from Pennsylvania puts it, is "taking the big cats down, bringing down Wall Street, changing how the government works and the dirty deals are done."

– Jeff Brady
Wall Street Protesters In It for the Long Haul
National Public Radio
October 2, 2011

As police arrested hundreds of protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, more demonstrations began to spring up across the U.S. In Los Angeles, protesters gathered in front of City Hall and danced on buses with "peace" emblazoned on the side. A smaller protest was held in Chicago's financial district where protesters held placards demanding “Jobs Not Cuts”. Protesters also turned out in Denver, gathering downtown before marching into the city chanting, “Occupy the streets.” All the protests were inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement which has seen hundreds of people camping out near the financial district in New York City and conducting marches calling for an end to home foreclosures and high unemployment.

– Alastair Good
Occupy Wall Street Protests Spread Across U.S.
The Telegraph (U.K.)
October 2, 2011

. . . [T]he crisis of American democracy did not start with the financial collapse. For at least 30 years, the system has been rigged by the wealthy and privileged to acquire more wealth and privilege. At this point, 400 families control more wealth than 180 million Americans.

This great wealth divergence has resulted in an unjust and dangerous concentration of economic and political power in the hands of the few. It has pushed millions – especially the rising generation and communities of color – into the shadows of our society. The middle class continues to shrink, and the ranks of the poor have swelled. The political elite has failed to take the necessary steps to provide opportunity to the majority of Americans.

A movement was born after Madison, Wisconsin, to oppose these injustices. It has now spread . . .

The occupation is a revival of a proud tradition of authentic, people-powered movements that have been dormant – and that we need now more than ever. It is building into the kind of massive public demonstrations – like those in Egypt, Madison, and Santiago – that can shake the foundation of a system of power that has lost sight of the public good.

Now is our time to choose. Will we keep rewarding those whose financial manipulations have brought us to ruin? Or will we stand with those whose democratic innovations are breathing life into our finest ideals? Both groups are within blocks of each other in downtown Manhattan.

– Van Jones and Max Berger
Wall Street: Which Side Are You On?
October 1, 2011

We’re talking about raising political consciousness, so it spills over; all parts of the country so people can begin to see what’s going on through a different set of lens. And then you begin to highlight what the more detailed demands would be, because in the end we’re really talking about what Martin King would call a revolution; a transfer of power from oligarchs to every day people of all colors, and that is a step-by-step process. It’s a democratic process, it’s a non-violent process, but it is a revolution, because these oligarchs have been transferring wealth from poor and working people at a very intense rate in the last 30 years, and getting away with it, and then still smiling in our faces and telling us it’s our fault. That’s a lie, and this beautiful group is a testimony to that being a lie. When you get the makings of a U.S. autumn responding to the Arab Spring, and is growing and growing – I hope it spills over to San Francisco and Chicago and Miami and Phoenix, Arizona, with our brown brothers and sisters, hits our poor white brothers and sisters in Appalachia – so it begins to coalesce. And I tell you, it is sublime to see all the different colors, all the different genders, all the different sexual orientations and different cultures, all together . . .

– Cornel West
Cornel West on Occupy Wall Street
Democracy Now!
September 29, 2011

It is heartening to see the movement against corporate greed growing and spreading across America. I’ve seen nurse-led protests in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street and all across America over the past few months where there was no shortage of authenticity. You can read about how the current Wall Street occupation folks acknowledge the earlier nurses’ Wall Street protest. And surely many seeds of discontent were sown in the largely unreported protests in Madison this winter and spring.

Before that, Americans rose up in protest all over the place – yet only right-wing, ultra-conservative group got much coverage and that coverage changed the entire political reality. We can learn from that.

For any one of the greed-mongers and exploiters of the poor or working class, there are hundreds of people who have been harmed at their hands. Crimes against humanity are being committed in America. Savings have been stolen outright. Homes have been taken without legal process. Workers have had their rights actively squashed and seen CEOs revel in the exercise of raw power to harm people. And justice will have its day.

– Donna Smith
Keep It Simple, Keep It Real
October 2, 2011

While the USCCB [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops] is asking American Catholics to join them in protecting their religious freedom to influence the federal government against gay marriage and mandatory birth control coverage, another movement inspired by Catholic and Christian thinkers like Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, is taking place across the country. This second movement is not a corporate financed diversion, like the Tea Party or the “culture wars,” it’s a real deal. “Occupy Wall Street” is getting to the heart of the matter of what really threatens not just western civilization, but all of civilization. It’s not gay marriage and it's not birth control. It’s corporate oligarchy.

– Colleen Kochivar-Baker
Forget The Tea Party, 'Occupy Wall Street' Is The Real Deal
Enlightened Catholicism
October 2, 2011

And finally, Buffy Sainte-Marie really says (or rather, sings) it all . . .

I never saw so many business suits
Never knew a dollar sign could look so cute
Never knew a junkie with a money jones
They singing Who’s sellin’ Park Place?
Who’s buying Boardwalk?

These old men they make their dirty deals
Go in the back room and see what they can steal
Talk about your beautiful for spacious skies
It’s about uranium; it’s about the water rights

Got Mother Nature on a luncheon plate
They carve her up and call it real estate
Want all the resources and all of the land
They make a war over it; blow things up for it

The reservation out at Poverty Row
There’s something cooking and the lights are low
Somebody trying to save our mother earth
I’m gonna help ’em to save it and sing it and pray it, singing . . .

No, no Keshagesh, you can’t do that no more!

Old Columbus he was looking good
When he got lost in our neighborhood
Garden of Eden right before his eyes
Now it’s all spyware; now it’s all income tax

Old Brother Midas looking hungry today
What he can’t buy he’ll get some other way
Send in the troopers in the natives resist
Old, old story boys; that’s how ya do it, boys

Look at these people, Lord, they’re on a roll
Got to have it all; got to have complete control
Want all the resources and all of the land
They break the law for it; blow things up for it

While all our champions are off in the war
Their final rip-off here at home is on
Mister Greed, I think your time has come
I’m gonna sing it and pray it and live it and say it, singing . . .

No, no Keshagesh, you can’t do that no more!

– Buffy Sainte Marie
"No, No Keshagesh"
(from her 2009 album, Running for the Drum

Recommended Off-site Links:
Declaration of the Occupation of New York City
We Are the 99 Percent
Confronting Corporate Globalization – Michael Bayly (Faces of Resistance: Images and Stories of Progressive Activism at the Turn of the Millennium, 1997-2006).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – October 1, 2011
Across America, “the Giant is Awake”
At the Minnesota Capitol, a Show of Solidarity for Workers' Rights in Wisconsin and Beyond
In a Blow to Democracy, U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Corporate Personhood
Capitalism on Trial
John Pilger on Resisting Empire
John le Carré’s Dark Suspicions
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Singing It and Praying It; Living It and Saying It
A Lose/Lose Situation

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