Civic Soapbox
6:00 am
Fri March 30, 2012

Essay: Rebooting the Occupy Movement

On WMRA's occasional series, The Civic Soapbox, Denise Zito shares her thoughts about the Occupy Movement and it's future.

Civic Sopabox listener essays essays represent only the opinion of the writer and do not represent WMRA or any other entity. More essays including opposing views are welcome.  Email essays (around 3 minutes long please) to WMRA "at" JMU "dot" EDU.

"Let’s Reboot Occupy"

I just can’t tell you how disappointed I’ve been with the Occupy Movement.  Brilliantly conceived and perfectly timed, instead of being our very own Arab Spring moment, it’s turned into a nearly failed spectacle.  When the movement first formed, I watched with anticipation as people took responsibility for urging their government forward.  But then things started to fall apart.  Unfortunately, when the movement decided to set up twenty-four hour encampments, they attracted a lot of homeless people and other folks more interested in an outdoor experience than in political action. 

As a result, the group became a fairly inept social service agency instead of a political force for change.

Now don’t get me wrong---I think direct action on behalf of the homeless population is a good thing.  It’s shameful that we have so many people literally living in the streets.  But this diversion strains the point of the Occupy argument.  Occupy was not organized to become another soup kitchen, it’s supposed to be there to bring attention to the mess our officials have made of our economy. 

The movement has suffered from the lack of a charismatic leader and a focused agenda.  It’s now a sideshow instead of a force for the 99%.  By the way—the 99% is a brilliant characterization and could still prove to be the impetus the movement needs to be successful.

Here is my dream for Occupy Wall Street.  First---for goodness sake, OCCUPY WALLSTREET.  There are plenty of people in New York City who would venture to the financial district to voice their displeasure at the meltdown of our economy caused by rank greed.  You don’t need to be there twenty-four hours a day---just be there every single day and make your point.  The people who caused this financial disaster should not continue to be making obscene amounts of money.  Bring crowds every day to stand there with signs.  It wouldn’t be hard to gather this support and make that point. 

And then of course, they should OCCUPY CONGRESS.  During the last depression, the government took action and created the Civilian Conservation Corp that brought us our beautiful national parks.  Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration that gave the unemployed meaningful work in rebuilding public roads and infrastructure as well as funding arts projects.  According to Wikipedia, nearly every U.S. community has a park or a road created during that period.  Infrastructure improvements are the engine to a vibrant economy.  Occupy needs to press for this.  Our current congress blocks every effort to directly fund jobs for our unemployed, in the fear that President Obama will look effective in dealing with our financial crisis and may be easily reelected.

Next, it’s true that there should be local movements everywhere, but here in Charlottesville, the group decided to occupy Lee Park.  Lee Park?  What did Lee Park ever do to offend anyone?   I mean, what’s the point?  Why not occupy a bank or better yet the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and press them to stop pushing that crazy western bypass to nowhere and focus on supporting a local, sustainable community.

If the Occupy Movement wants a meaningful, coherent message, they should make a stink about income disparity and laws that have allowed the enormous difference in the wage structure of the entry level employee versus the CEO.  Corporate giants now earn over 200 times more than their entry level employees.  Fifty years ago, when we had a real middle class, this difference was only about 40 to one.  Congress can and should enact laws to counter this trend and balance income…..it’s called the tax code.

Here’s my point to all you Occupiers and Would-be Occupiers—please focus your message.  And when you do, I’ll see you on the street.

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Civic Sopabox listener essays essays represent only the opinion of the writer and do not represent WMRA or any other entity. More essays including opposing views are welcome.  Email essays (around 3 minutes long please) to WMRA "at" JMU "dot" EDU.

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