Occupy Wall Street has now drawn the attention of the labor movement, political cognoscente and the White House. It’s an authentic movement, born of genuine financial distress and betrayal, which is why it is resonating with Americans and is sparking protests in cities across America.
But can Zuccotti Park, the occupiers’ camp in lower Manhattan, ever become America’s Tahrir Square?
There’s little doubt Occupy Wall Street speaks to what the overwhelming majority of Americans really want – to put Main Street back on top of Wall Street.
Wall Street bankers have become Americans’ Hosni Mubarak. The bankers’ dictatorship is about limiting credit to borrowers, refusing to renegotiate outrageous mortgages and squandering the wealth of working people in unfathomable and unrepentant acts of greed.
So what would it really take to put Main Street back on top of Wall Street again? Can America have a street revolution against the dictators on Wall Street? Can class warfare against the ruling financial class succeed?
First, the protests have to grow. Cities in every state. Students, the unemployed, foreclosed families of every stripe, coming together in more parks, public squares, open places.
People will have to start telling their real stories at open mikes, with authentic indignation. Never understate the power of human stories to change the world. From Rosa Parks to Ryan White, it’s the only thing that ever has.
And the protests have to stay peaceful. They have to be all about humble people doing their best and unable to keep their homes, get credit, find a job.
To up the anty, there will need to be a mass, collective action in solidarity. On the same day, Americans might refuse to pay their mortgages, or divest from Bank stocks, or take some other risk to remind the bank barons whose money it is and who holds the real power.
Without Main Street’s money and consent, there is no market anymore than there is a government without the consent of governed.
Then a concession will undoubtedly fall from the New York skyline – billions in mortgage relief, or agreement for a financial transaction tax to fund social programs, or some other sign that Chase doesn’t want to be chased and Bank of America cares about its namesake.
It won’t a real redistribution of the 90% of the wealth held by the 1% of Americans, but it might be a beginning.
And that’s what revolutions are after-all. Just like in astronomy, a full turn to a new beginning point, a different balance of power.
Americans know they need that. They know that Wall Street has occupied Washington for too long, and it’s time to turn the tables.
Jamie Court is president of Consumer Watchdog and author of The Progressive's Guide To Raising Hell.