A few uncontroversial observations:
- Between pollution, resource consumption, and population growth, human civilization is approaching collapse and, potentially, the extinction of our species.
- The US (and world) is more-or-less controlled by business interests, mostly in the form of corporations.
- Wealth distribution is uneven to an extent which cannot be accounted for by merit or productivity.
These are the facts. Everyone knows them, though we may disagree on the details. Against the backdrop of this grim picture, Occupy Wall Street (and movements like it around the world) is the first and best hope my generation has to change our society from one of suicidal exploitation to one of sustainable justice. OWS, in other words, is our best shot at revolution.
Why does this matter? As I write this, I spend about half my income on rent for a tiny basement apartment with my partner. I either buy groceries (occasionally rotting) from a supermarket which liquidates surplus stock from higher-end supermarkets or get my groceries (usually rotting) from the food bank. I commute on a second-hand bicycle I’ve taught myself to maintain; so far I haven’t had a serious accident, which is good, since I cannot afford health insurance.
I’m neither unique nor particularly hard-pressed; anyone who’s looked at a line graph of American wealth- or income-distribution knows that our society is essentially an aristocracy presiding over a vast ocean of serfs. But I am tired: tired of watching genius predators assume power under the banner of populism, tired of endless wars on brown foreigners and black neighbors, tired of watching my grandchildren’s world burn one gallon at a time.
Like my peers I’m tired and angry and, critically, finding myself with less and less to lose. As an increasing number of us find ourselves scrambling for dead-end jobs, bartering with creditors, deferring medical care as a luxury, and living in overpriced shoe-boxes (or under bridges) while countless homes stand empty, our incentives to collaborate with the status quo decline while our incentives to create trouble grow. Not that the incentives toward passivity are anything to sneeze at: militarized police, ballooning prisons, and a national security apparatus that puts dystopians to shame are all searching with open arms for dissidents to embrace. Yet despite the threats made by the 1%’s defenders, a swelling tide of my fellow citizens is realizing that as individuals and as a society, it’s Do-or-Die time. Either we stand together and change the system, or we each die a slow death in our credit-financed apartments. Either we take a stand, or we cooperate in our own demise. Under a system whose function is to redistribute wealth from the many to the few, there is no neutral ground.
I believe that Occupy Wall Street is our first, best hope for change. I believe that despite living in a social system designed to stifle civic engagement, we are numerous, smart, and desperate enough to challenge the economic organization of our country. Precedents for successful revolution are too numerous for anyone to seriously suggest that change is impossible: the Paris Commune, the Freedom Riders, the People’s Power Revolution, Solidarity–and, of course, the American Revolution. Like our forebears, we hold the power to fight for and win a better world. We can change plutocratic economic and political structures which punish poverty. We can end the sacrifice of human lives to corporate balance sheets. We can Occupy Wall Street.