Do We Need Demands?

Derek Joe Tennant, 16 October 2011
Now that the Occupy Wall Street movement has lasted long enough to warrant attention from the mainstream media, we who have actually taken to the streets as part of the protest are subjected to articles, interview requests, and even inquiries from family and friends questioning the purpose of the uprising. In particular, we are castigated for not having a particular, charismatic leader, or for not broadcasting an easily dismissed set of demands. Please consider carefully before succumbing to these types of requests.
First, question the concept that we even need “demands”. Demands invariably work within the existing system and lead to compromises where no one has their needs fully met, and the roots that have led to the problem continue to control our lives. The environmental movement is a classic example of how compromise leads down a long road of “agreements” that may have some impact, but allow the fundamental pathology to continue to dominate and control the situation. Our current financial system, fiat money made from debt, and our current economic system, all-powerful corporations that exploit all but a few of us, cannot continue forever. The only “demand” today is to start over, with a new currency of trade and a new focus on people and ecosystems, not corporations. The only “demand” today is for the 99% to rebel against the tyranny of profit-at-any-cost.
Second, it is my fervent hope that we mount a movement that actually comprises the “99%”. Our current crony capitalism is the economic model we want to end. In its place we hope to establish a caring economy, one that creates healthy, caring relationships, healthy, caring families, and healthy, caring communities. The divide between super-rich and everyone else inevitably means that our future, “our” being those of us who consider ourselves to be liberal and/or progressive, is intrinsically bound up with the future of those at the other end of the spectrum. The old politics-as-usual paradigm makes it easy for us to hold the beliefs and comments of “those conservatives, those Tea Partiers” in contempt. But the world we want will be made up of everyone; far right, far left, and all shades in between. Is this even possible?
Of course it is! The original Tea Party formed around the cause of taxation without representation. The modern version began anew with the same call, and quickly morphed into a movement around many issues: towards smaller national government, anti-immigration, and anti-universal health care, for instance. The Tea Party today would be hard pressed to name a single point person, or leader, and finds it difficult to craft a national party platform. But if we are truly the “99%”, then we must ask: “What values do we share as human beings, liberal and conservative, such that we can come together in peace and prosperity?” Can we agree that One World Government will be as detached from the needs of our small community as Wal-Mart is already, and that it would suck our resources away from our local needs and off to some far-distant land? Can we agree that all work is valuable, that we all work hard given the chance, that we all deserve good health, nutritious food, a house that is big enough for our family, and a decent education, all without crushing, life-long debt? Surely we can. It is only necessary to come together around these core issues and to work towards achieving these goals, in order to see the “other” as human, and part of our movement, too.
This new paradigm will require us to work against the assumptions modern American society has pressed into our psyche. We can understand that our value lies not in how much stuff we have managed to store around us, but in how we manage to love others. We can see that violence and domination have no place in a world where our needs are met with enough. We can focus on the myriad opportunities that we have to share our selves and our needs with others, rather than on our differences and the ways we feel compelled to compete with them for resources. We can use the benefits of modern science and technology to make our lives easier and to adequately distribute the food and energy that we need to survive. We can restore our damaged ecosystems, and refrain from further trashing the planet, without the need for ever-increasing debt, by redefining the concepts of work, money, and entitlement.
So where to take this budding movement? It will soon be unrealistic to continue being fined or arrested for camping on public property. It will be harder to attract large numbers of campers as our winter weather turns nasty. Can we find creative ways to express our needs? Here are suggestions from an article posted at,_work_and_play
“Hypothetically, the movement could:
• Occupy one of the many troublemaking banks, whether it be Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan or whichever, until it agrees to let people fighting foreclosure stay in their homes and offer meaningful debt forgiveness. Or target a bank whose casino capitalism deals left municipal coffers broke, demanding that they cut indebted cities and counties some slack.
• Occupy a home where a family is fighting eviction. Millions of American homes have been foreclosed upon, and another wave of foreclosure is now upon us.
• Occupy an exploitative company and demand they stop funding the right-wing U.S. Chamber of Commerce, or link up with a labor struggle like that of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) against Verizon’s attempt to roll back benefits and retirement. Unions across the country are fighting anti-worker lawmakers and businesses that say America can no longer pay decent wages and benefits for a hard day’s work. Occupy Wall Street should join that fight, and ask workers how they can help.
• Occupy a statehouse that is slashing education and welfare funding or, like in Wisconsin, eliminating collective bargaining rights. The mass protests in Madison earlier this year set the tone for today’s occupations.
• Occupy the office of a congressman who refuses to raise taxes on the rich and end the war, or who denies the existence of global warming, or who refuses to take concrete action to create good jobs now.
• Occupy where the 1 percent “live, work and play.” The super rich all belong to country clubs and other exclusive institutions. If the movement is targeting a specific bank, a picket of the CEO’s country club will hit them one place it hurts: their easy comfort amongst high society.”

I hope we can focus on building, rather than destroying or working within the status quo. The collapse of the old way of life need not be catastrophic if we build the new quickly. If we are to truly take a stand for what we believe in; that is, profess through our actions a principle that we hold dear, then how about these “occupations”?
• Occupy a community garden, and create a bicycle-drawn trailer distribution service for produce into the neighborhood around the garden
• Occupy a Community Center and hold a “Reskilling Expo”: a host of classes about skills needed to thrive outside the normal, US dollar-denominated, economy
• Occupy a space on the Internet that offers a time exchange, a way of trading services without money
• Occupy a local school and bring farm-fresh produce for children to taste once a week. Better yet, occupy a school and turn its front lawn into a school garden so the children can learn how to grow their own food and neighbors can watch the garden grow
• Occupy the local Mayor’s office until a comprehensive mental health plan is implemented to aid those people who have become homeless because of their untreated illnesses
• Occupy a university and allow students to hold free classes about the economy, politics, and the military that highlight the pathologies of the old while offering a vision of the caring, sharing future
I hope you have your own ideas of occupations that are positive, that promote change and create new structures and procedures that build the world we all desire. I welcome your comments and dialogue!

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