On Saturday in New York City, the progressive Arab Spring-styled political movement #OccupyWallStreet stormed the Brooklyn Bridge. From their camp in Zuccotti Park, just two blocks away from Wall Street, thousands swarmed the iconic bridge, blocking traffic and leading to an astonishing 700 arrests.
But don’t think the group is storming the battlements of the American establishment.
The Brooklyn Bridge incident was just another instance in the movement’s short life that makes little sense.
Occupy Wall Street may be modeled after the Egyptian “Day of Rage” which set in motion the toppling of an authoritarian regime, but this American brand of revolution currently lacks any of the appropriate focus to be meaningful. Occupy Wall Street is going national, with offshoots popping up in Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, and even Puerto Rico. But while the movement is fueled by nation-wide anger at government, and seems to be a strong outlet to demand change in America, Occupy Wall Street is proving to be more folk circus than rally. The movement must form a clear mission with legitimate policy solutions; else it will remain only a faltering mob. Further, the mission should be inclusive of both liberals and conservatives. Finally, this vision should be voiced by a single leader.
Founded by Canadian anti-consumerist group Adbusters, the Occupy Wall Street movement has for weeks demonstrated over corporate influences in politics and the persistent unemployment rate among young people. But their demands are scattered. Protesters rally for whatever is on their mind: justice for financial abuses, change in government leadership, an end to war, a push away from strict free market economics, demands for universal health care, more jobs, less government influence, and an end to “police brutality.”
The movement must hone their demands. To gain real momentum Occupy Wall Street’s goal must seek to affect some sort of specific policy. With their base of young people, a strong mission under which many can rally behind is a demand for government to have a heavier focus on employment for young people. The movement could also focus all of their energies on financial reform.
A singular mission would help the group move beyond its über liberal base. These protests can be seen as analogous to Tea Party protests against taxes and big government. Appealing to conservatives would help expand the reach of the movement. A movement which encompasses varying ideologies would be more able to pressure leadership.
Much like the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street broadly questions the government’s role in the economy and society (see their demands against corporate bailouts and police brutality). A partnership on some issues with the Tea Party could add leverage to the movement.
A leader is needed. It has been an anomaly of the Arab Spring that movements in each individual country has been led by large groups rather than single leaders. The American brand must change that. In our celebrity-focused culture, a single leader would help guide media coverage, and would provide a rallying voice people could identify with.
As winter approaches, the movement’s rage will likely quickly cool if it remains scattered and unfocused. It is hard to imagine the tent camps of Zuccotti Park making it through a New York snow storm. This movement is no Valley Forge and has none of the political will to keep the revolutionary fire hot.
Change must come quickly if the movement seeks to actually occupy and hold Wall Street. With their finger on the pulse of national opinion, the movmement provides a unique outlet for citizens to demand something better from government.
The movement must figure out what that something is.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons