Oct 7, 2011

Wall Street protest

While my body (and romantic heart) are about to go on a 3-day Saltspring Island getaway with my beautiful wife, my activist brain and soul are down on Wall Street, marching in solidarity with a nation waking up and taking action against the ever-increasing corporate control of our society. At the G8/G20 protests last year we tried to engage or confront the governments, but it is perhaps speaking more to the base of power to go straight to the corporate sector.

What follows below is the first official, collective statement of the protesters in Zuccotti Park. While I agree with pretty much every statement and do believe they're identifying key pieces of the puzzle, I'm disturbed by the focus on "THEY." Corporations only have the power that WE give to them. Every time we shop, vote, select a media source, accept a job, hit a cash machine, sign up for flight miles on our corporate visa card, even choose an internet browser, we are not just giving THEM power; we are part of that energy. Let's first face up to where WE are in those THEY statements below, then let some solutions flow.

The protests are great and I truly wish I was there (instead of being "virtually there" through Avaaz), but the huge societal change that is needed will only really come when we are ready to invest all of our resources and energy, establish and meet all of our needs, and derive all of our Joy through ethical means. Which in my mind pretty much means local, organic, people you know and trust, small businesses who responsibly reinvest your money in your community: ie, not corporations.

Anyways, here's what our sisters and brothers down on Wall Street have come together to say (with my devil's advocate WE responsibility statements following in italics; "WE" meaning the majority of Canadian/American citizens, and, let's face it, a lot of us imperfect activists too - I went to Walmart yesterday):

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

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. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
WE chose to buy larger and larger houses, ignoring how it pushed us beyond our financial limits.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
WE still shop and invest there.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one's skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
WE still shop there.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
WE still balk at the cost of organic food at the local farmers' market - "i'd eat local and organic, but it's too expensive."

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
WE still wear make-up.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
WE still wear nike shoes.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
WE vote for governments who reduce funding to educational institutes, making them more dependent on corporations.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
WE still buy from them.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
All of these "they" statements are de-facto treating corporations as people, not recognizing the human beings behind them and our connection to them.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
WE vote for governments with a "lower-taxes" platform, ignoring the cuts that it will necessitate.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
WE use credit cards and sign up for flight miles and hang out on facebook and google and willingly give away or sell our privacy.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
WE still make CNN and Fox the most-watched news sources.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
WE still buy products from those same companies.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
WE just voted stephen harper back into power, and quite possibly will return george bush's party to power.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
WE still vote for those politicians.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
WE still drive much larger vehicles than most places in the world, and still don't fork out the extra money for biodiesel or electric cars.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
WE still rely on the conventional western medical system.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
BP still sells its products here.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
WE choose not to adequately use alternative media sources to find the truth out for ourselves.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
WE just gave majority power to a prime minister who wants to increase penal institutions.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
WE buy non-fair-trade products.

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
WE still support the military.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.
We still support the military.

To the people of the world, We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!


  1. ABSOLUTELY an AMAZING post Rick!! I could not agree with you more!! There are two sides to this story and I love you reminded us of our responsibility in giving the power to the corporations in the first place.

    Every dollar is a vote!

  2. This post rocks my world. While I sympathize with the horror people must feel to lose their homes in foreclosures, and I do understand how it feels to be just one person trying to plant my feet in local business and eat from the local soil... it does bug me how much the Wall Street protests (and the echoes here in Victoria) smack of "victimism" (ooh a new word). The voices are implying that the 99% are hapless victims of evil overlords, but we have all sewn many stitches in our economic straitjackets.