Tuesday, October 18, 2011

OWS: Do They Know Their Own Strength?

Occupy Wall Street. What a great slogan! And now it's spreading throughout the world -- finally the long overdue uprising of the 99% over the tyranny of the 1% is beginning. And -- finally -- thanks to the drama of these potentially revolutionary events, the mainstream media has awakened, after a long slumber, to engage in meaningful discussion and debate over the pressing issue of inequality and its implications for the future of democracy. I haven't written about this striking development until now not because I don't think it important, but because I felt I had little of substance to add to what is already being written in so many venues everywhere one turns. At long last!

The reason I'm writing now is because an odd and troubling thought has occurred to me and I'm not sure what to make of it. The world is now wondering what the next step is going to be. Will the demonstrators finally be able to agree on a set of "demands"? Will they form a third party? Will they become a political pressure group along the lines of the Tea Party? Or will the whole thing simply evaporate once cold weather sets in?

And it's occurred to me that these demonstrators are right now in a unique position of strength that they may not recognize. They are, very surprisingly, in a position to do something truly revolutionary that would have an impact far beyond anything we've seen in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya. All over the world hordes of angry demonstrators are, literally, occupying important financial centers, hubs of power and influence that control the destiny of literally every person on Earth. Their presence in these particular locations has up to now been seen as largely symbolic. But it is also strategic. Because, thanks to the large numbers of participants, Occupy Wall Street could easily morph into SHUT DOWN Wall Street.

I hesitate to bring this up, because I have no idea what the consequences would be. But at the same time I feel it necessary to wake the protesters up to the real nature of their power, should they decide to wield it. If they choose to, these demonstrators could block entry to the doors of, for example, Chase Manhattan Bank, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, even the stock exchange itself. Not to mention financial centers in every major city on Earth. And in so doing they have the potential to actually bring the financial system of the entire world to a grinding halt.

Think of it. The storming of the Bastille. The storming of the Winter Palace.  An event of comparable if not greater magnitude lies within the realm of possibility. Yet, unlike these bloody events, the shutdown of the financial system need not be accompanied by violence. (Not, at least, on the part of the demonstrators. What the police might do is another matter.)

Am I advocating such a move? Not really. Though often I write as though I know-it-all, actually I don't know all that much. The results of such an action would be unpredictable and could be disastrous. On the other hand, it could lead to a revolution of exactly the sort the world desperately needs. And anything less than this might ultimately lead nowhere, with all the energy and all the righteous indignation fizzling out in the face of the enormous economic and political power of the elites, who will fight to the last soldier, policeman and politician to hang on to their money and power.

I really don't know where I stand on this matter. But I do think it important that the new and very hopeful Occupy Wall Street movement understand that it's in a stronger position than it might think, and holds a very powerful bargaining chip against those who might think they can easily intimidate and disperse it.
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