Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Americans Are Revolting!

Before you effete European types start going on about McDonalds and George W Bush and disgusting fat people, what I mean is they are actually revolting. As in taking to the streets. They have started a movement called Occupy Wall St. Which makes a change, I suppose, from being occupied by Wall St, in the colonial sense.

Occupy Wall St describes itself as a 'leaderless resistance movement... We will no longer tolerate greed and corruption.' Like Spain's Indignados, they believe that democracy has failed them. They have drawn up a rather all-encompassing manifesto which you can read on their facebook page, which ends with the genius line: 'these grievances are not all-inclusive'.*

The general aim of the protests is to highlight how the US is controlled by corporations and the richest 1% of the population. One statistic being bandied around is that 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined, but since the person doing the bandying is Michael Moore, I decided to try and chase the statistic back to a study, which I couldn't. I did however find this, which does more or less point in the same direction, and which is showing figures for 2007 (pre-bust) so god only knows what those statistics would look like now.

Statistics are one thing, but if you want to actually understand the protestors' grievances, try this site, We Are the 99 per cent. I'm not ashamed to say the stories on this site reduced me to tears. The circumstances people describe are hair-raising, and make you glad that however bad the economy gets, you are still a European, and cannot be denied health-care on the grounds of 'being ill'. In effect, this is a protest movement about two things: debt and democracy. People are drowning in debt and feel that they have no power to change anything, or to affect the political process, which has become deeply embedded with the interests of an elite.

If anyone doubts that dissent around the ongoing economic disaster in the US is restricted to the usual suspects, have a look at this article. The protests have also spread to other cities like Chicago and Boston, as well as over the border into Canada. Around 700 people have been arrested, and many have complained of police brutality, of which you can find footage on Youtube. If you are interested, you can follow Occupy Wall St on twitter (hashtags #occupywallst or #ows) or facebook. Adbusters has an excellent array of information, if you ignore Laurie Penny. There was an excellent article in the Guardian, by actor Mark Ruffalo, and it has been covered by The Stream.

If you are interested in finding out about protest movements in other countries, I do recommend Al-Jazeera English, which is widely available in the UK (Channel 89 on Freeview) though sadly not in the US. You can get it to live-stream from anywhere, though, and I guarantee that the first time you tune in, your jaw will drop in amazement. (Also, their split screen technique is hilarious: on one side you get a politician saying one thing, on the other you get the reality. Visual sarcasm at its best.)

I will cover this again, depending on what happens, but my knowledge of US politics isn't good enough to attempt in-depth analysis. I just thought people would be interested in some info so that they could keep up with events that aren't being given much space in the mainstream media.
*I actually want a T-shirt that says 'these grievances are not all-inclusive'.

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