The alternative vision is America as a land of equal opportunity, with no special privileges for anybody on account of how much money they have, whether in terms of election-buying, lobbying power, immunity from prosecution, bailout protection against financial failure or preferential tax rates. If you want “specific demands,” a list can be inferred from this vision with ease: e.g. a ruling that corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech; re-regulation of rogue industries like the financial sector; government policies that reverse the decades-long concentration of wealth and income in the United States; and prosecution of corporate wrongdoers, to name a few.
There is nothing new about this vision, or these demands. We have seen them before on editorial pages and blogs, in books and television commentaries, and in other scattered protests that have occurred around the country from time to time. What does seem to be new, and effective, about the Occupy movement, is the extent to which it is not only a protest but an exercise in community building. As more and more people convene, at least for a few days, on “occupied” territory, the many previously disparate groups that have had this vision, and made these demands, are being drawn together in a vast force from which all can draw strength.
Take another look at the first sentence of the declaration: “As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members.” It is this cooperation that is visibly being forged at the venues being occupied, and with it, for the first time, groups that have been fighting scattered rearguard actions against forces of money and power that have seemed insurmountable are gaining the sense that no, they are not outmatched after all. They are the 99%.
To be sure, specific actions must ensue if this newly energized community is to attain its goals. Such actions can be local as well as national. The fight for home rule, which allows local residents rather than a partnership of state and business determine how our land is used, is perhaps the clearest local attempt to “occupy” our own territory. In fact, Monday’s public hearing on Tusten’s zoning rewrite, much of which focused on this issue, amounted to a mini-Occupation of Tusten. To hear it, visit www.tusten.org.