Pardon me, but what is this “Occupy Wall Street” stuff all about?
Downtrodden people have been showing up every day in mass numbers for a month now, shouting up towards the windows of Fortune 500 skyscrapers, getting arrested in mass numbers, and blocking up traffic. Argh. That traffic part sucks since I venture into Manhattan nearly every day. I digress.
Hip-Hop celebrities are showing up, too, in the crowds on Wall Street and along the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade. Lupe Fiasco. Give him a pass – he’s into this sort of thing. Stars like Kanye West, wearing a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of chains and reportedly arriving in his Maybach, and Russell Simmons, whose wealth could likely make the lives of several hundred people better in an instant.
From what I can see, there are clearly issues for Lupe, Kanye, Russell, and the little people to chant about – unemployment, the mortgage debacle, and several other broken promises from the American Dream.
And yet, I see no clear list of demands. What are the protestors trying to accomplish? Are they hoping that Mr. Fortune 500 will come down from his plush penthouse suite and do something substantial because of a few supposed “hippies” on the street? Why are they raising money now? Nearly $500,000 has been collected according to the latest reports, but what’s it all for? And who is their leader?
I’m all for a good show of numbers for a good cause. In fact, change might be the only thing that sustains us. But in this case, I have lots of unanswered questions, along with lessons of my own that might lend a hand.
Personally, I believe that any successful revolution includes instilling fear in your oppressor and then listing your demands. I will likely receive e-mail beef for saying this, but, to me, this protest seems to be neither scary nor demanding.
In addition, no disrespect to Mr. West or Mr. Simmons – I truly love you both – but in my mind, an already unclear revolution is not necessarily strengthened by additional face time with already rich superstars acting as if they can still relate to the common man. Lights, cameras, action. Apparently the revolution will be televised (RIP to Gil Scott Heron).
I think the Wall Street Occupiers, and the rest of the “Occupy” campaigners now popping up in financial centers across the world, are copycats. I surmise that the “cool” thing to do in 2011 is to try and wage a revolution.
Recall the London riots and the revolutions in North Africa earlier this year?
Now, those were revolutions. Weapons. Check. Riled up, pissed off, impoverished young people. Check. Governments that weren’t as strong as they thought they were. Check.
But (perhaps thankfully) we Americans aren’t quite that willing to die for our causes. Even if we tried, trust and believe that our National Guard would shut it down. Immediately.
And, even with the economic crisis, we’re still better off than 90 percent of the world, and we know it. For that reason, we don’t usually riot to combat our oppressors. We tend to burn our own neighborhoods down from the self-hatred and frustration of it all, and then go back to life as it was.
So, what would be a more effective way to turn this Occupy Wall Street operation into a real coup? I say, instill fear by hitting Corporate America and the bureaucrats where it hurts – in their wallets and in their imaginations.
Find a way to stop supporting major industries that keep corporate wheels churning. I’m not talking about passing along those spam e-mails that tell everyone not to buy Gas Company X’s gas on Mondays. I’m talking about real revolutionary shut down by creating our own SELF-SUFFICIENCY through entrepreneurism, agriculture, and science.
Hitting Corporate America in their imaginations is where the fear part comes in. Imagine if the influencers in Hip-Hop – the tastemakers and rap icons – all started preaching revolution to impressionable, urban youth? What if they got youth to mobilize, flash-mob style, at places where the good, corporate folks don’t want them to be? What if they were able to articulate their angst in a peaceful, intelligent way that prompted immediate action?
Now that’s scary. That’s revolution.
And, what would a REAL list of demands look like after getting them scared?
- Forgive our past due bills and repair everyone’s credit
- Give our houses back, along with the possibility of new homeownership
- Overlook past student loans and guarantee cost-free secondary educations for all
- Adequate healthcare and social security for our elders
- Passage of an intelligent, far-reaching Jobs Bill
- Forty acres and a mule (maybe not)
All chanting aside…that’s more like it. I remember this model for revolution well from a time when AllHipHop’s CEO Chuck Creekmur, a bunch of our fellow Black students, and myself would – at least once yearly – shut down University of Delaware when we felt like our rights had been egregiously violated.
Our mass, Black, well orchestrated student demonstrations scared the heck out of our white campus administrators. Check. We had shown up where they didn’t want us to be. Check. And we always presented the all-important list of demands (along with a ready-made press conference) to outline why we were upset and how they could fix it in clear and tangible ways. Check. We won every time. Pow!
Really, people, Wall Street can’t shut down. It’s simply not feasible – unless we want all-out anarchy in this country. One day of the markets shutting down would have our global enemies pouncing on us like wolves. All of the picket signs and chanting in the world won’t be able to bring us back from the brink after we’ve shown weakness in the global sphere. And, Wall Street isn’t the only problem. But I do love the spirit of it all.
Real revolution has to go fear then clear demands, along with the ability to sustain ourselves through self-sufficiency in our own communities. In that order.
Now run and Occupy Wall Street with that.
To the (All) Hip-Hop, we won’t stop. Seandra Sims is AllHipHop.com’s Managing Editor. Follow her on Twitter at @seandrasims.