Opinion | Op-eds

Occupy's power

For the past few weeks, Americans have learned about the instruments their elected magistrates use to cope with peaceful dissent: batons, rubber bullets, gloved fists, and black boots. In a militaristic operation, Liberty Square was violently accosted, as were spaces in Seattle, Oakland, Denver, Portland, and Salt Lake City. The protestors in Los Angeles and Philadelphia now face eviction, while UC Davis students are still smarting from the university’s last show of force. At Barnard, an assembly held by our classmates regarding intolerable financial policies was checked by increased security and eavesdropping officers. The goal wasn’t to disband the meeting—that would have been too heavy-handed—but rather to instill a sense of fear in the participants. Ironically, the only fear I was able to smell was that of the administrators.

And boy, does this fear run deep. Just as the elite in this country deride the Occupiers for being a laughable, disorganized ragtag band of deluded lowlifes, they make sure to turn around and hand their blue-clad lieutenants millions of dollars for “insurance.” I can’t recall the last time the small-government right-wing populism of the Tea Party was run down by riot shields. Then again, isn’t there something about the complaints of the Occupy demonstrators that really singes the cuffs of the propertied class? Why can’t they whine about something innocuous to transnational corporations, like civil liberties or governmental interference? Instead, these degenerates dare ask why, in today’s civilized nations, inflation is held as more important than employment. They ask why the global “race to the bottom” in terms of wage stagnation, austerity, and union-busting is considered commendable. And they ask why the complicit destruction of millions of lives through unregulated speculation is worth $4.76 trillion while the speaking-up of the dispossessed is labeled a “health hazard.” Indeed, what sends shivers down the spines of neoliberals is that they have no viable scapegoat for their most recent failure. The curtains covering the unfettered capitalist colossus have been ripped away, exposing its inherent iniquities for all to gaze upon.

This is what differentiates today’s revolutionary embers from the roaring flame of the New Left that engulfed the United States in the ’60s. The struggle then was focused primarily on social and cultural forms of authoritarianism. While the country steadily grew—more or less—for the benefit of the majority, there were other more obvious targets to face down: Draft-card burners, Freedom Riders, and student radicals organized to subvert cultural norms that suffocated the political rights of one group in favor of another’s. Whether speaking against the Vietnam War, institutionalized segregation, or the tyrannical fist of Soviet communism, activists on the street were the agents of reform.

The Occupiers now go one step further. They challenge the very economic assumptions that have led us down this path. Their search is for economic justice, a particular brand of rights without which the hard-won victories of their predecessors are meaningless. Their message has clearly resonated—already they have seen some success in the battle of ideas. In a country that scorns the idea of “class,” they have firmly implanted the notion of a 99 percent that continues to decay as a 1 percent (and a 0.1 percent in particular) continues to thrive. Moreover, since the movement’s inception, the word “debt” in the media has rapidly been supplanted by the word “jobs.” My real hope is that the Occupy movement evolves from its negatively defined beginnings to effect permanent positive change in the political realm of this country.

The protestors know now what they are up against. In a bid to keep the pillars of its economic rationale from collapsing, the establishment has shown that it is perfectly willing to trash the last “personal freedom” neoconservatives haven’t already torn to shreds. In our supposedly global universities, we have been effectively told that free speech is tolerated as long as it doesn’t seriously question the 1 percent’s underhanded maneuvers. Occupy Columbia must move forward in its goals, undaunted by this slight. If anything, Barnard’s reaction proves that the group’s message is powerful.

The author is a Columbia College first-year. He is a member of Youth for Debate, the International Socialist Organization, and the New York Fencers Club.

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Anonymous posted on

Correct me if I'm wrong but Tea Party activists never decided to turn public and private spaces (Let's not forget that Zuccotti Park, otherwise known as 'Liberty' Park is privately owned) into their own squatters village for two months. If they did then I'm sure the police would have treated them similarly but it is completely illogical to compare law enforcement's response to both movements on a one-to-one basis. 

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Anonymous posted on

The Tea Party protesters do however often bring loaded firearms to their rallies in show of their 2nd amendment rights. This is quite illegal, yet Tea party protesters are rarely arrested, and never faced with police brutality. In the same way, Occupy protesters are expressing their 1st amendment rights in a peaceful manner, but the response is quite different. To look at mere illegality is foolishly naive.

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Anonymous posted on

"show of their 2nd amendment rights. This is quite illegal"

I hope you realize the absurdity of this non sequitur.

Anyway, all this goes to show is why OWS is bound to crater. When the left tries their hand at "revolution", they bring yoga mats. When the right does, we bring guns.

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