Many of the Occupy Wall Street protesters' signs are clever: "Free Tampons to Stop Economic Bleeding; "One Day, the Poor Will Have Nothing to Eat But the Rich. Some are vague: "Remember: We Are Worth More than Money". Others are not quite on point: "Stop Greed, not Weed"; "Justice for Troy Davis". But what is the point? What is it the occupiers are after? It's clear, as the OWS movement spreads from city to city worldwide, that people are unhappy with the current state of the economy, and the disparity between the uber-wealthy and the rest of us. What's not clear is what the protesters would like done about it.
Despite the spluttering accusations of many conservatives, the vast majority of the protesters are not Socialist, Communist, or anarchist. Nor are they drugged-out, unwashed, inconsiderate rabble-rousers. Of course there are a few fringe opportunists who will take advantage of a crowd to push their own agendas, but they are generally distinguishable from the rest of the participants. And as for the clutter and trash, keep in mind that peaceful assembly is a Constitutional right, not "peaceful assembly as long as you don't litter". Should everyone pick up after themselves? Sure, but if your biggest complaint about OWS is that the protesters leave trash behind, you really need a hobby.
One way that the movement sometimes appears to have shot itself in the foot is by insisting on being leaderless. When consensus is needed for any and all action to be taken, the risk is high that not much gets done, including the setting of objectives. While I understand that every protester is out there for his or her own reasons, conventional wisdom would say that the movement should speak with one voice. Otherwise, the protests wind up looking like a jumbled mess. The New York City General Assembly (www.nycga.net) has made a valiant attempt to organize OWS, if not completely unify its voice. The assembly has put together a list of the wrongs committed by large corporations and their cronies, and has indicated that the movement is an attempt to convince elected officials to right those wrongs, or to elect officials who will. The assembly has made it clear that capitalism is not the enemy, nor is socialism the desired solution. But because it is not the "leader" of OWS, the message getting out to the general public is still a bit garbled.
I can only speak for myself when I say that "end corporate greed" largely means eliminating corporate and executive tax loopholes, and insisting on fair compensation for workers when compared to executives' pay and perks. It does NOT mean Robin-hood style redistribution of wealth. I'm very happy for people - and corporations - who are successful and make lots of money. I just don't think they should be able to maneuver their assets such that they pay a lower income tax rate than the 99%, or in the case of corporations, avoid paying any income tax at all on large chunks of their profits. I don't think that CEOs should receive huge bonuses or golden parachutes while line workers are having their benefits cut. And I don't think that banks should refuse to modify a home loan, and then proceed with foreclosure on a homeowner trying to make ends meet.
But as I said, I only can speak for myself. And as I mentioned above, among our Constitutional rights is the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. Meaning that OWS has no right to mold the opinions of its participants into a single mission statement, even if it tried. It can't remove the outliers who muddy the message by claiming that capitalism is the ruin of the country. The very rights that make the movement possible may prevent it from becoming a solidified platform. This has been a source of frustration to me. I thought to myself "Okay, you're a movement. You're loud, you make the news, you have people's attention. But now that you have that attention, can you tell us what exactly you are moving towards?" But recently, in fact, during the course of drafting this blog, I have changed my mind somewhat. The point of OWS may not be specific demands. The point of OWS may simply be that many of us are mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. And I'm guessing there are many more who are not marching, and who will never march, but agree with the charges put forth by the protestors against the "1%", and express their opinions with their pocketbooks and their ballots. The point of OWS may be that when an egregious injustice is being committed, whether against an individual or an entire country, ultimately people are going to get PISSED OFF. And when 99% of the people are PISSED OFF, something has to change.