Occupy: you can’t evict an idea

From Open Democracy: http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ruth-rosen/occupy-you-can%E2%80%99t-evict-idea

Ruth Rosen,
12 December 2011
The Occupy movement has changed the national conversation in America, and challenged the rightward tilt of the political landscape with its clear message that wealth inequality is incompatible with democracy, says Ruth Rosen

As snowstorms and freezing rain announce the arrival of winter, it’s hard to remember that the Occupy Wall Street movement emerged just a few months ago, in September. Enraged by the government bailout of Wall Street, but not of those who had lost their jobs and homes, angry at the rise of university tuition, frightened by the precarious decline of the middle class, several generations—not only the young— began a movement that quickly spread from Zuccotti park in New York across the nation. “We are the 99%,” they chanted, until it became the slogan of the movement. The 1%, they explained, owned as much wealth as the rest of the population.

Now that the police have dispersed most of the encampments, often with gratuitous and unnecessary cruelty, many protesters are asking, “What next?”  The answer to that question is unclear and will unfold in time, but now is a good time to pause and assess how the Occupy movement has affected American political culture.

Many of these changes are hidden in plain sight.  The Occupy movement, for example, has eclipsed the media’s obsessive coverage of the right-wing Tea Party. The difference between these movements has also become clearer.  While the Tea Party blames the government for the current economic crisis, the Occupy movement has identified corporate greed and the financial industry as the real thieves of Americans’ lives.

The emphasis on wealth inequality has also made it possible to discuss class in a society in which the much of the middle class has considered itself potential members of the wealthy.  As they have lost their jobs and homes, the middle class has come see itself as part of the 99%, rather than as potential members of the 1%.  The taboo on discussing the struggles of the poor and the economic insecurity of the middle class has faded. The Occupy movement has allowed people to discuss the privileges of the rich in a nation that has long viewed “class warfare” as a treasonous idea.

Continue reading at:   http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ruth-rosen/occupy-you-can%E2%80%99t-evict-idea

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