Mason Learns

The Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street and the Future of Democracy

Article By: Nathan Moore

Photo By|  Fibonacci Blue

Monday, September 17th marks the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. One year ago a small group of protesters poured into the streets of New York to draw attention to income inequality, government corruption, and corporate greed, leading to Occupation movements sprouting up all over the United States and eventually spreading across the entire planet. Although many have questioned Occupy’s impact and have been quick to point to its waning momentum, the Occupy movement accomplished its goal of redirecting the national conversation to focus on issues that have long been excluded from the mainstream political dialogue, such as the worst economic inequality since the Great Depression and the overwhelming and undemocratic force of money in modern politics. On this anniversary it should be remembered that it was the Occupy protesters who delivered the now ubiquitous 1% and 99%  slogans to America, pointing to a very real problem that has still not been meaningfully addressed by either the Democrats or Republicans.

Even if the numbers at the protests have dwindled and the initial energy of the Movement has died down there are still important lessons to draw from Occupy; the most pertinent being their reluctance to support a political candidate. Unlike the Tea Party who rallied behind and elected many politicians, Occupy has never endorsed a candidate nor do they intend to in the foreseeable future. Their reluctance to stand behind the Democrats or Republicans points to the very real fact that many American voters are disillusioned with both parties and are now seeking alternatives like the Green Party, Constitution Party, Libertarians, and Socialists. Beyond exploring alternative party politics, Occupy sought to engage people in the political process on a real and human level. Occupy reflected the idea that true Democracy does not always blossom from a vote, but often requires people to take to the streets and rediscover their shared humanity and common struggle. They nurtured the idea that when reform is no longer possible and the system is rigged for the financial elite, the 99% must come together in solidarity to peacefully fight for a better future for all.

The Occupy Movement, which lit a fire in thousands across the country in 2011, suffered a brutal and callous response from authority figures and politicians alike, but it has not disappeared. Recently a magnificent documentary tracing the origins and future of the Occupy Movement entitled American Autumn: An Occudoc spread across the internet, and in D.C. many Occupiers have splintered off into work groups, most notably, Occupy Our Homes DC, a group who fights against unlawful and inhumane home foreclosures. The anniversary of the Occupy Movement will see many teach-ins, marches, rallies, and protests, but whether or not the anniversary draws out as many people as in 2011 is irrelevant. Occupy succeeded in its mission of drawing America’s attention to real problems that still need real solutions. The Occupiers do not believe these solutions will be found among the Democrats and Republicans. They believe the change the country needs will not come from one man or one party, but from the people, practicing real Democracy; Democracy that is not bought with billions of dollars or represented by a single politician, but lived and breathed by the people, the 99%.

*The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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