Occupy

“Occupy embodies a vision of democracy that is fundamentally antagonistic to the management of society as a corporate-controlled space that funds a political system to serve the wealthy, ignore the poor…”

-Greg Ruggiero

Occupy, a short book, is basically a brief study of the Occupy movement written by political activist, Noam Chomsky. The book opens up with an editor’s note by Greg Ruggiero who praises the Occupy movement. In short, he explains Chomsky’s views on the Occupy movement and the promotion of democracy through the movement. He highlights Occupy’s success in the United States of America, expressing that it has positively improved media discussions by bringing national attention to the struggles of the underprivileged. He also goes on to talk about the protest movement; how it has not only helped to highlight the “heartlessness and inhumanity” of the socio-political system, but it also helped unite those “being crushed” under that very system. Their unity, at times like this, is applauded and praised greatly.

He also suggests causes for the movement’s success, and explains the manner in which people protest. He says, for example, booing isn’t enough for the people. He says “people are waking up and coming out” by blocking bridges, shutting down ports, marching in the streets, forming groups, and creating their own media. They are “finally speaking up, finally being heard.” With an end to this editorial note, Ruggiero stresses that to overturn any injustice, people should act as “citizens, and not as politicians.” He says that whining about it isn’t enough; people should work, act, organize and riot if necessary “to bring their situation to the attention of people in power.”

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The concept of 1% vs. 99% has also risen. It basically means that the elite who are controlling the US economy are not more than 1% and the other 99% are oppressed and they need justice and equality.

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Chomsky’s Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture, given on October 22, 2011 to Occupy Boston in Dewey Square, follows the editor’s note. Chomsky begins stating that if Howard Zinn had been alive, Occupy Boston might have been a dream come true for him. He says he was reminded of his “call to focus our attention on the countless small actions of unknown people that are the foundation for those great movements that ultimately enter the historical record without the countless small actions of unknown people that created them.” That sounds a bit confusing, I have to admit. Basically, Chomsky says that Zinn wanted us to praise those people who carried such movements and actions that have made a mark on our history, whose identities were overlooked in the process. Chomsky believes that the timing of this lecture could not have been more perfect as it’s taking place in the heart of “countless small actions of unknown people who are rising.”

Chomsky contrasts the hope of the working classes in the Great Depression with the pessimism in the recession at that time, while discussing the changes that have occurred to the US economy since the 1970s. He says the changes have occurred due to de-industrialization, de-development and the increase in wealth of the financial sector. He also stresses that the change was partly because of the development of high-tech economy, mainly computers, the Internet and the IT revolution.

Chomsky makes reference to both Alan Greenspan and Citigroup as being corrupt in their fields and makes remarks that the political parties had come under the increasing control of the corporate sector, and how both Adam Smith and David Ricardo foresaw the situation. He goes on to stress the importance of worker sit-ins and takeovers that can ultimately help “democratizing the US economy.” Chomsky also discusses the threat posed by nuclear war and environmental catastrophe, which he fears is being worsened by the capitalist system.

He mentions the false impression that the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution provides the people. Which is that “no person shall be deprived” of rights “without due process of law.” Here, Chomsky reveals that by “person” the Founding Fathers did not actually mean “person.” He says that if there were a group of people that were not considered to be “persons” then this law would not apply to them. By this, he means the enslaved population- the Black community. However, he says that this inhumanity was somewhat rectified over the years.

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A question from a member of the audience at the Occupy Boston asked Chomsky to provide his views on how to summon the American public to this kind of change, and he replied by saying that the only way to activate such response is “by going out and joining them.” He recommends going to places where the people are, whether it be churches, clubs, schools, unions, etc. He advises getting involved with them and creating a sense of consciousness among them.

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In his opinion, the most exciting aspect of the Occupy movement is “the construction of the associations, bonds, link- ages and networks that are taking place all over.”

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