From Arab Spring to American Fall
The leaves have come off the Arab Spring, and now we see, perhaps, the colors of an American Fall. The people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria are still poor, still hungry, still imprisoned, tortured and dying despite their revolutions begun this spring. Now, in the fall, in numbers and diversity not seen since the Vietnam War era, American people are in the streets, railing against their economic overlords. Walking like Egyptians (in the phrase coined by supporters of Wisconsin public-employee unions). To what end?
For many, the first question that comes to mind is, Why now? (Although many of us have been asking, Why not five or ten years ago? Where have they been?) It is the same question asked about Tunisia, Egypt and the rest; their people had endured oppression and poverty for decades. What touched them off just now?
For the Arab countries and now for America, the answers offered by pundits and politicians have been unsatisfactory. Tunisia’s dictator did not fall because an oppressed merchant set himself on fire, any more than the sun came up this morning because a rooster crowed. Egypt did not rise because of its longing for democracy, any more than terrorists attack because they hate our freedom. People go into the streets when they are hungry, and they have lost hope.
So why Occupy Wall Street, and why now?
First, let’s back up and see where this thing came from. “Occupy Wall Street” is the name of the demonstration in the financial district of New York City that started on September 17. The impetus was apparently a call from a Canadian (!) group called Adbusters urging people to go to Wall Street to demand separation of money from politics. The idea went viral on the Internet and gathered adherents like lint.
The different folks who showed up at Zuccotti Park (predictably, named for a super-rich real-estate developer) had many different strokes. Some condemned the disparity between rich and poor; some the greed and corruption of the big corporations and investment banks; some, globalization; others, the lack of regulation of financial institutions., Some advocated taxing the rich, strengthening the social safety net, investing in infrastructure; and on, and on. ON the first Saturday there were about a thousand of them there, in what they insisted on calling “Liberty Park,” and 200 spent the night. more