On 17 September 2011, the first of thousands of protestors set up home in Manhattan’s Financial District in New York City. They pitched tents, displayed protest signs, and completely occupied the area. The movement has since spread worldwide, and over 1,500 cities have active occupied sites. Accordingly, In Unison took a trip down to the Occupy Auckland site to explore exactly what was going on.
The Occupy Wall Street Movement is intended as an attempt to “fight back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations…and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.” – OccupyWallStreet.org
But what does all of this mean?
The mission of the occupiers is to create an international voice for western civilization citizens who work hard for very little return. There is a general feeling of discontent among the working/middle class that stems from an extreme allocation of global wealth and power to a mere 1% of our population. Hence the recurring reference to “We are the 99%”.
I asked a few of the Occupy Aucklanders exactly why they were there:
Occupiers worldwide are uniting under the title of “the 99%”, but who exactly are these people?
In order to understand who the 99% are, it is important to first understand who comprises the adversary 1%. This portion of the population is determined by a minimum household annual income of just over half a million USD. The sociological make-up of this fraction of the population strongly consists of: corporate executives and those in financial, law and medical professions. It's not just the monetary figures that are troubling. The 1% have a giant amount of power over politics, media, and the financial status of the world. An article by Robert Greenwald explains,
"The deceptive, backhanded practices of the financial industry played a major part in the recent financial meltdown, and numerous defense contractors have made a killing (literally) by lobbying for more and more weapons spending. In all, the top 1% have seen their incomes rise 275% in the last three decades -- a period in which the tax burden has shifted from wealth to work and financiers have exploited increasingly weak regulations and even weaker enforcement."
The general concern is that the inequity of wealth and power between these 6,000 people (the 1%) and the rest of the world is wildly outbalanced.
The 99% are fighting for a more just and balanced system of wealth distribution and equal opportunity. The message they seek to communicate stresses the extremity of this imbalance, and how the big business sector has absorbed far too much global power.
The 99% are represented by a “people’s assembly”, which is defined as: “a non-binding consensus based collective decision making tool”. Put plainly, the 99% are a leaderless movement that stress the importance of mass consensus. The reason for the use of a people’s assembly is to exemplify the strength and magnitude of a true democracy. They are using tactics to reiterate the core of what a democracy is supposed to look like—power of the people.
On my trip through the Occupy Auckland site, I was curious to see how the occupiers were expressing their grievances and what initiatives were being taken to work towards a solution. What I found were a few very passionate people who had a strong voice behind the movement. Many of the occupiers seemed to be floating around entranced by the thoughts of a hypothetical revolution. For information regarding the Auckland specific Occupy grievances, CLICK HERE
There was a group of students from Auckland Uni who had organised their own tent and lounge within the occupy site. They had interesting perspectives on the future of students, tertiary structure, loans, and other related issues. An impromptu lecture was held in discussion of these topics when I visited. They invited me into their lecture and allowed the following conversation to be filmed:
If you're interested in watching more of this conversation, log onto the In Unison Mag channel on Youtube
Occupy Wall Street has certainly caused a major stir worldwide. The movement is given a voice to “the underdog” which turns out to be comprised of billions of hardworking citizens. Occupying spaces has created a buzz around New Zealand, the United States, and the world. The deciding factor of this movement will be determined by how the people direct the hype and attention. Occupying public spaces forever will not actually solve the problems at hand. Accordingly-- the next step in this global movement is vital. Now that the 99% has the world’s attention—what will they do with it?