The Goals of Occupy Wall Street

I have become increasingly annoyed by the rhetorical line that the goals of Occupy Wall Street are unclear. Mainstream media outlets have been pushing this line from the beginning and many regular people have picked it up as their position. What these media outlets really mean is that protesters at occupations have not written up a press release with explicit goals. This is the only thing that journalists can parse and comprehend.

For those of us who can look at a set of slogans, arguments, and ideas and actually piece them together ourselves, the complaints have been clear from the very beginning. The protests are about economic inequality and undemocratic governance. Almost everything coming out of the occupations can easily be placed into one of those two categories or both.

The Wall Street venue points clearly to that. It is the epicenter of economic inequality and the epicenter of undemocratic political corruption. The now-famous “we are the 99% slogan” is an objection to the massive economic wealth controlled by 1% of the population. But, it is also clearly — and perhaps more obviously — a point about democracy. What kind of democracy is it that 1% of the population receives more political attention and government aid than the other 99%?

You could go on and on through just about everything that has been said or recorded at these protests, and you would see it time and time again: protesters are angry at rising inequality and the perception that government does not work for the majority of the people.

Now solutions to these big problems are hugely complicated. Would anyone seriously say that they have a five-point plan to eliminate unjust economic inequality or put the government back on a democratic path? Probably not. But what you would expect people to do is have a multitude of ideas, and that is what you are seeing. That perhaps is what has genuinely confused some. Protesters have raised all sorts of issues that they see as contributing to the inequality and non-representative governance that they are upset about. Although they don’t tag those complaints as being under the headings of inequality and non-democratic governance, it does not take too much effort to realize that is what they are about.

Figuring out how to tackle economic inequality and undemocratic governance is not an easy thing to do, and — surprise! — it might take some time to formulate a complete remedy. Hell, maybe even some months. But just because it is not easily done or easily communicated in sound bytes digestible by the press, that does not mean that the fight is without merit or aimless. As protesters struggle in general assemblies to put their ideas together, those who care about the issues they are protesting should not be discouraged by a lack of a complete platform. Instead, they should join those who are equally indignant about the current state of affairs and add their ideas to fix it.