The background/introduction to this piece is written by Shameless Arts Editor Ronak Ghorbani.
Last Saturday, people in hundreds of cities across the world held demonstrations under the Occupy Together Banner, a growing global movement for economic justice inspired by Occupy Wall Street.
This is the first time in recent history that people across the world are organizing under the same banner: the globalized capitalist system is unjust and not working for most people in the world. One of the most amazing things about the occupy movement is that non-activists are getting involved. A form of collective realization is happening, reflected in the Occupy slogan of “we are the 99%,” meaning that 1% of the population controls the wealth and holds any real power and influence in society. This growing consciousness is positive and necessary for any kind of social change. As Jay Smooth – a YouTube personality who made the well-watched video “How To Tell People They Sound Racist
” – argues in his latest video
about Occupy Wall Street having a class-consciousness is a real threat to big businesses. It is also important to note that while a majority of the global population does fall under the 99%, people are positioned in different locations along the continuum. For example, some people are at the 95% marker, while others are at the 40% marker: there are people who have more access to money, secure jobs, education and life chances than others. In his video, Jay Smooth also picks up on the need for the Occupy movement to be more inclusive but reflects on how at its core the fight against economic injustice is something most people can get behind.
Eighty-two countries — including Spain, Brazil, South Africa, Sweden, Russia, Australia, Mexico, France, Italy, and Germany, to name a few — have formed their own Occupy movements since the start of Occupy Wall Street. Some occupations are very similar to the New York action, such as in Toronto , where people are taking up public space, sleeping in a park, and facilitating political discussions and actions. Meanwhile, some are radically different, such as the general strikes in Greece, where the Occupy banner was taken up as an extension of the country’s already long-existing fight against government austerity measures threatening public service jobs, pensions, and unions.
Although the Occupy movement is working to create open and direct democracy, Jessica Yee points out that there are problems with the use of the word “occupy”: it is not inclusive of Indigenous peoples and it replicates ever-present systems of oppression. A call has been made to decolonize Wall Street. In the U.S. state of New Mexico, the Occupy Albuquerque general assembly decided to re-name their movement (Un)occupy Albuquerque out of respect for Indigenous peoples.
Steps like this draw attention to the fact that capitalism was established in North America through the process of colonization. The word occupy has a strong and historical meaning globally, as many countries have been colonized and many continue to be occupied through wars, western corporations or, in the case of Palestine, by a state. As Harsha Walia outlines in her article below, it is important to look at this movement and past political movements critically in order to move forward in ways that address the experiences and concerns of as many of the 99% as possible.
This piece by guest blogger Harsha Walia originally appeared on rabble.ca and Racialicious.
I wish I could start with the ritualistic “I love you” for the Occupy Movement. To be honest, it has been a space of turmoil for me. But also one of virulent optimism. What I outline below are not criticisms. I am inspired that the dynamic of the movement thus far has been organic, so that all those who choose to participate are collectively responsible for its evolution. To everyone – I offer my deepest respect.
I am writing today with Grace Lee Boggs in mind:
The coming struggle is a political struggle to take political power out of the hands of the few and put it into the hands of the many. But in order to get this power into the hands of the many, it will be necessary for the many not only to fight the powerful few but to fight and clash among themselves as well.
This may sound counter-productive, but I find it a poignant reminder that, in our state of elation, we cannot under-estimate the difficult terrain ahead. I look forward to the processes that will further these conversations.
Occupations on Occupied Land
One of the broad principles in a working statement of unity (yet to be formally adopted) of Occupy Vancouver thus far includes an acknowledgement of unceded Coast Salish territories. There has been opposition to this as being “divisive” and “focusing on First Nations issues.” I would argue that acknowledging Indigenous lands is a necessary and critical starting point for two primary reasons.