Occupying Wall Street

Published: October 16, 2011

Demonstrators fight with policemen during a demonstration of the 'Indignant' group against banking and finance in Rome October 15, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

The ‘Occupy Wall Street movement’ began a little over a month ago, with little fanfare and only a couple of dozen protesters. The movement, such as it was, would have fizzled out and been forgotten were it not for one crucial mistake made by the New York Police Department: they turned violent. The police decided to subdue the protesters with pepper spray and roughed them up a bit. Suddenly, what seemed like nothing more than a get-together of a few extreme left marchers turned into a national movement. Now, apart from the huge protest on Wall Street, mirror movements have sprung up in all the major cities of the US and even in countries as far as Tokyo. The lesson here is simple: the best way to make a protest go away is to ignore it. Give it any attention and the protesters will feed off that. We in Pakistan have been through this before. The violence of May 12, only further bolstered support for the lawyers’ movement. Similarly, the movement against Ayub Khan only picked up steam when he started going after Fatima Jinnah, a sainted figure in Pakistani eyes.

Still, it would be premature to call the ‘Occupy Wall Street movement’ a success. Sheer numbers alone do not constitute achievement. For one, it is hard to know what the demands of this diffuse, leaderless movement are, beyond a general disdain for capitalism. The obvious point of comparison here would be the Boston Tea Party movement, which from the opposite end of the political spectrum, turned its protest into electoral success, moving the Republican Party further to the right, and changing the political debate in the US to one where lowering government spending became the overarching priority. The movement now seeks to turn the focus on the fat cats, who have actually benefited from the recession they caused in the first place. It was the bankers who received the bulk of the bailout money and saw their bonuses rise, while unemployment remained above eight per cent. There is no doubt that protesters have tapped into a rich vein of discontent. What remains to be seen is if that can be channeled into legislative achievement.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2011.

Reader Comments (5)

  • John B
    Oct 17, 2011 - 3:48AM

    Will become a focal point in 2012 Nov elections. As of now it is only a symbolic gathering but middle class, and academia are joining in.

    As long as this protest maintains a non violent flavor, it will make a difference.

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  • Saim Saeed
    Oct 17, 2011 - 5:51AM

    A correction: The Tea Party Movement is a political phenomenon entirely removed from the Boston Tea Party, an unrelated historical event taking place in 1773. The former is the movement about which the editorial speaks.

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  • a r modak
    Oct 17, 2011 - 6:20PM

    about twenty years ago, there was a movie called WALL STREET-in which maverick stockbroker spoke about greed. the now famous quote being GREED IS GOOD.
    it took two decades for americans (and the world) to realise how gluttony has ruined world economies, starting with WARS (IRAQ, WMD, 9/11 etc..), grandiose military budgets, self-enrichment, and so forth.
    chief culprit in all this is the USA, whose involvement in external wars cost lives, loss of infrastructure (IRAN, IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN, SOMALIA, pakistan)
    it is payback time for the USA————their economy in a ruinous mess, Obama’s ratings at an all time low, joblessness at a high………………….

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  • R S JOHAR
    Oct 17, 2011 - 10:59PM

    A movement without a leader is bound to fail. What they need is a leader like Anna Hazare, who are rare and also difficult to find one with such a mass appeal.

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  • sharifL
    Oct 18, 2011 - 5:45PM

    All very well. So the movement now seeks to turn the focus on the fat cats, who have actually benefited from the recession they caused in the first place. But we must remember that democracy is the best system and same can be said of capitalism. It has its shortcomings, but is still far better than anything else in the world.
    In East Germany, there were no jobless, but the quality of production was low, hardly anybody bought their products until the system got bankrupt and failed miserably. So I say, all very well but where is the light behind the tunnel?

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