The “Occupy Wall Street” movement jolts us into important debate around our financial system, the fate of our generation, and how young people should be using our voice to demand change. Whether or not you agree with the goals of the group, the very act of standing up and speaking out about a system fraught with inconsistencies and imbalances must be admired. Let us use this moment as a call to action to not only question our financial system, but our political one as well. And most importantly, let’s remember that as youth we have tremendous power that must be reckoned with. We must be loud and aggressive in demanding and building better communities, a better country and a better world.
Brief history of Occupy Wall Street:
Occupy Wall Street began in late September with the occupation of Liberty Plaza in downtown NYC, and has since spread to other cities like Boston, LA, Chicago, and Washington DC. The group is loose, coordinated by a “General Assembly” which organizes things like direct action, media outreach and park logistics.
The official Declaration of the Occupation of New York City expresses anger over the fact that our system is effectively run by corporations.
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.
The Declaration goes on to express a wide range of frustrations, including corporate bailouts, home foreclosures, student debt, threats to collective bargaining, cruelty against animals, and much more. (Read the full list.)
As Jason Potteger, a 25 year old from Boston, remarks to NPR: “…when I look around to other people in my generation, we’re really uncertain about what the future holds. We want to start families or start our careers or even pay our college loans. What’s happening in this country, it’s becoming painfully clear that this is something that really affects our generation in a big way, and I felt like I really just had to come out.”
This is a movement
There’s been a lot of criticism over the seeming lack of organization of the occupation, including claims that there’s no leadership or coherent set of demands. While this may be true, we need to recognize the strength in this model. General dissatisfaction with our economic system has brought people to this common point, although their paths for getting there have varied. Some have lost homes. Others jobs. Still others face huge debt burdens, with little prospect of work. And others are just pissed that things have gotten to this point. The common thread – firm belief that our system must change – is enough to inspire and motivate people to action. The very fact that the group has already received massive attention from the media and the public is evidence enough that they are a force to be reckoned with. Our politicians must now acknowledge and respond as well.
The issues underlying the occupation have been bubbling for years. Any responsible American who loves his/her country should be asking the tough questions. We should be questioning how our government is responding to the financial crisis, the role of corporations, our tax system, how we’re preparing students to be competitive in the global market… Regardless of where you stand, it is your responsibility to know and question our system.
Ours is perhaps accurately being called the “lost generation”; we are graduating from school with huge loans, and little prospect of finding a job or anything close to financial security. Yet at the same time, we have tremendous power. I dispute claims that we need to “wake up”. We are the most civic-minded and globally-aware generation yet, numbering 100 million strong. Now is the time for us to recognize and use this power, to start conversation and build the world we want to live in.