Ten years ago there was a movement that started on the doorstep of the New York stock exchange and, within months, it swept the globe. There were “Occupy” encampments in nearly every public park of every major city on the planet. Millions of people were engaged in the cause and the protests were massive. According to Wikipedia, the first protest to receive widespread attention was in New York City’s Zuccotti Park on September 17th, 2011. By October 9th, Occupy protests were happening in over 951 cities across 82 countries.
How Did it Start?
To answer this, we need to go back a few years to the bank bail-outs of 2008. Due to gross mismanagement, most banks and lending institutions were in big trouble. They were weeks away from imminent collapse. This would have resulted in a massive ripple in the global economy, affecting many lives. So how was this crisis averted? In the usual manner; the governments bailed them out using taxpayers’ money. Were any bankers held accountable for their incompetence? Of course not. Not one banker went to jail…..except for in one country; Iceland.
Meanwhile, between 2007 and 2010 a massive multi-national housing bubble had burst and left many in default of their mortgages. This triggered a drop in economic velocity that would be felt by average families and small business owners everywhere. Instead of bailing out the taxpayer, governments chose to save the corporations that caused the crisis to begin with. The middle class was pissed. The atmosphere was tense, like a pile of dry kindling waiting for a spark. That spark came from a small rebel media magazine from Vancouver, Canada called Adbusters. They had one demand; bring a tent.
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What started in Zuccotti Park spread like wildfire. Millions of people from all over the world brought their tents to their parks in their cities and they united together to protest against corporate influence on democracy, wealth disparity, and the absence of legal repercussions behind the recent global financial crisis.
I remember thinking to myself “This is it. This is what I have been waiting for. The world is finally going to change.” There was such enthusiasm; we all believed we had the power to make something happen. So many beautiful people; so many good intentions:
So What Changed?
Nothing. After months of occupying parks around the world, all of the camps were eventually taken by force. Those who didn’t comply were arrested or forcibly removed. The government gave lip service; Wall Street didn’t care. The movement was marginalized and soon after it fizzled out. Zero lessons learned; zero fucks given.
My thoughts about peaceful protest and civil disobedience have evolved dramatically having gone through two global events of this nature in my lifetime. I am living through the second one as I write this article. What recourse do we have when we petition our elected officials, our law enforcement, and our judiciary to deliver justice to the people and are broadly ignored, dismissed, and intimidated?
Democracy has been replaced by a massive corporatocracy that now controls every aspect of our lives. We were warned about this in Huxley’s novel, “Brave New World“. Where peaceful protesting was once a powerful tool in the arsenal of the people, it has proven to be highly ineffective in recent times. And what do you think happens when people don’t feel like they have a voice? There are only so many ways a person can respond. And if freedom is number one on your priority list, there is only one way to respond. You’ve got to join the club.