Skeptics of the Occupy movement ask what they’re really protesting about and what they’re trying to accomplish. Most of the Occupy movement grievances are a byproduct of a dysfunctional system. I understand that changing the political system is like moving a mountain with a shovel; there are just too many people who benefit from the system, including politicians.
Politicians are part of the 1 percent. Do we honestly expect them to fundamentally change the political structure that they so greatly benefit from? To replace the old guard with the new is just changing who the beneficiaries are and doesn’t correct the fundamental problem.
This is not to say that politicians at all levels are complicit, but most have no incentive to change the rules. They are playing the game with the cards that are dealt and they have become proficient at it. And it becomes more and more difficult to not conform to the prevailing ideology of the fraternity as politicians attempt to move up in the political hierarchy. They may have started out with high aspirations, but most eventually succumb to the system that rewards patronage over public service.
The Occupy participants have many grievances, all of which are important, but the big picture must remain the principle objective. That objective, to me, is to change the economic/political system so it reflects the needs of the majority. You can’t have social justice without economic justice, and groups like Citizens United control the politicians who make the economic rules that govern our lives. The political system is unwilling and unable to protect the economic and social rights of the majority. The Occupy movement is attempting to bring fairness and justice to a system that is corrupt and economically rigged to benefit the few.
This is not an indictment of business or the free market. It is not asking for equal outcomes, only equal opportunities. It is not asking for a redistribution of wealth, but a stop to the obscene growth of wealth by the 1 percent. The 99 percent actually includes businesses that can’t compete against the “Walmarts” of the world. The movement should be appealing to many segments of society: small business, labor, veterans, seniors and minorities. The Occupy movement is trying to convey an idea that we are all together, with different but important stakes. With few exceptions we are all threatened by present circumstances.
To expect the present system to deliver reform that will meet the needs of the 99 percent is ludicrous. It is up to the Occupy movement to insist on fundamental change, and not just cosmetic appeasement, first through raising awareness and then demanding that we conduct political business in a different way. Rhetoric will no longer do; significant changes are required. We must address the central problem, which is the political system itself. We should demand nothing less than a complete publicly funded system. This would level the playing field and let politicians concentrate on substantive issues and ideas rather than raising money. This would solve most of the Occupy movement’s concerns and stop the necessity to always vote for the lesser of two evils.
Fundamental change can feel uncomfortable, unfamiliar, scary, risky and painful, but the alternative is complete dominance by those who have little regard for the well-being of ordinary citizens. Our political system must be required to represent the general public and not just narrow special interest groups. We need a political system with transparency. When greed and money become the sole criteria for success; the public is in great peril. The path we are going down will only get worse and we are running out of time. For more information about the Occupy movement, visit OccupyLongmont.blogspot.com.