Common Threads: We Are Not Alone


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We’re at a curious moment in this remarkable movement. Has there ever been one so widespread that has not yet made demands? Yet at the same time, Occupy Wall Street has accomplished something that takes other movements years. It has crystallized a sense of outrage — and made clear that this outrage is shared by tens of millions.

Tahrir Square, Egypt

I think about other moments in my lifetime when it suddenly became thrillingly clear that millions of people felt the same way. One was in the late 1960s, when huge crowds poured into the streets, again and again, opposing America’s war in Vietnam. It took years more to stop that war, and an appalling amount of bloodshed by the Vietnamese. But something changed after those demonstrations began. All of us who had vowed never to fight in Vietnam looked up and down the long lines of fellow marchers and knew we were not alone.

Another exhilarating moment came in East Germany in the fall of 1989. Wanting the freedom to travel, to read and speak as they chose, and to be rid of constant surveillance and threats by the secret police, thousands of people began massing one Monday evening in a public square in Leipzig. Quickly the Monday demonstrations spread to other cities, and the crowds grew to tens of thousands. Within two months it became hundreds of thousands, and the Berlin Wall came down.

Don’t imagine, though, that real change will happen so quickly here. We are up against a system of deeply rooted, widening inequality that is a veritable Berlin Wall of corporate power. I think our progress, our pattern of defeats and advances, will be more like that of another movement.

Roll the clock back about 220 years. Up through the late 1700s, most people in Britain accepted slavery as unthinkingly as most Americans until now have accepted the rule of giant corporations. British ships dominated the Atlantic slave trade, and on occasion reaped hedge-fund-sized returns: a single voyage by the Hawke of Liverpool in 1780 made a 147% profit. Some half million slaves toiled 12-hour days on the lucrative sugar plantations of the British West Indies. The profits from their labor built many a mansion in London’s most exclusive neighborhoods, and country estates whose grandeur rivals anything in the Hamptons today. Jamaican sugar mogul William Beckford could afford to hire Mozart to give his son piano lessons.

Yet this was an era when the French and American Revolutions put new ideas about human equality into the air. When a brilliantly organized antislavery movement began in London in 1787, it quickly found a following. As often happens, the grassroots outpaced headquarters, and, unorganized by anyone except a couple of pamphlets suggesting the idea, by 1792 at least 400,000 people in the British Isles were refusing to eat slave-grown sugar. It was the largest consumer boycott the world had yet seen — and one of those moments when people who cared deeply about something looked around and saw they were not alone.

Sugar planters and their lobbyists were as taken by surprise as Wall Street was when people began pouring into Liberty Square in September. They fulminated, they issued counter-pamphlets, they claimed that ending slavery would throw thousands of Britons out of work. And for a time they prevailed. But in the end the antislavery activists won. They discovered the strength of their numbers through the sugar boycott, through vast petition campaigns, and, in later years, in mass meetings. In 1807 they succeeded in abolishing the British slave trade. Stimulated by news of the ongoing movement, a series of ever-larger slave revolts broke out in the British West Indies, and in 1838 British Empire slavery came to an end — a full quarter century before that happened in the United States.

In combating entrenched power of a different sort—a system with obscene profits for the 1% and hardship and a downward slide for many of the rest—I think we’re now at about 1792 in this process. We have a long way to go. But we know we’re not alone.


This article was published in our fifth print issue on November 18, 2011.

This post is also available in: Spanish


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  • Uriel

    Very thoughtful article

  • Steve

    Indeed. And the Abolitionists didn’t have the Internet.

  • http://twitter.com/Kishin_D Jonathan S

    Moar newz pleez. There’s so much that’s happened, and I’d love to be able to read it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-William-Majkowski/1507188872 Adam William Majkowski

    The only significant change that came about in the 1960′s was the civil rights bill. This did not come about due to non-violent protests. It came from black people who subscribed to the Malcolm X way of thinking. The By Any Means Necessary way. Non-violent until there is no other option than to defend one self. We are at that stage. The stock market needs to be swarmed and shut down. The stolen wealth hoarded there, shared among all the needy citizens. Shared properly so every person can buy a home and invest in a small business. Every person can have peace of mind to not worry about disability or natural disaster. Ever. Shut it down like we had to tear down that wall. Let’s put our bodies on the line, and this time, refuse to be arrested. It is freedom or death, just like in 1775 when the marines were born. No one held a cardboard sign in 1775. No signs. Just flags, guns, and guts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hellmut.paradis Hellmut Paradis

    WE THE OVERCOMING PEOPLE
    REVOLT OF YOUTH #15oct.
    We 99 % are very potent:
    We the People of the world, we are 99 per cent,
    We occupy Wall Street & pitch the parks with a tent.
    Revolt of Youth with STUDENT BURNS, UNI BURNS & COUNTRY BURNS,
    The harvest is ripe to bring it in, but who will it earns.
    Tree years before Prophet T.B. Joshua have seen this people crying on the street now in US & global soon,
    The limit of money brings the High Noon,
    #15oct: „We are against 1 % “
    Who are this One per Cent?
    Look on to the 1 $ bill,
    You can see the Freemason Logo still:
    On the top oft this US 1$ pyramid,
    There are a handful persons straight, on this rich side:
    10 % of the people have 90% of all money.
    The other side, this is not fair: 10% of the money belongs to 90% slaves or business monkey.
    Who are the Wall Street speculators and the evil spirit half,
    To „Dance Around The Golden Calf“
    Fake idols & the Main Street honour they,
    With bonus cash & much mon’ey
    For all men without the New Birth!
    Is the beast the 3rd:
    The Revelation 17th:1f f: „Of the US Business Antichrist:
    Is the Prostitute and the Wall Street Red Beast,
    Who sits on oceans many,
    And her shameless ways to earn much money & Penny,
    Are like wine,
    That has made everyone men without the New Birth,
    Drunk on earth!“
    Every king on earth has slept with her.
    Her name was written there:
    „I AM THE GREAT CITY OF THE WALL -
    STREET-BABYLON, THE MAIN STREET OF ALL,
    THE MOTHER OF EVERY IMMORAL:
    WITH SEX, DRUGS & SATAN IN THE WALL STREET CITY
    A FILTHY THING ON EARTH- BE SITTING PRETTY?“
    This Prostitute was drunk on the blood of the God’s people like us,
    Who had given their lives for Jesus!
    Johannes was so amazed about this Christian:
    About „Changing lives & nations & the world with „Yes, we can!“
    I will explain the mystery about this dressed women,
    In purple scarlet robes, held gold cup
    And about the Wall Street Beast World Coup!
    The coup de grace of the Beast Wall Street
    The solution is Jesus Christ: „The Way, God’s Street“:
    This is the Way to God and the Red Beast to beat.
    Jesus said in His word: „I am the Beginning and the End of the world rest!“:
    His Street on Earth is the Best!
    His word asked: For what you are NEW BORN for?
    For what you are LIVE for?
    And for what you are die for?
    You can exterminate yourself,
    But you can’t not save your life by yourself!
    Is your best friend Jesus?
    He dies for you, abba he rises up for you and is alive in us!
    He is alive, He lives real!
    We are His people, if you make this deal:
    Say only yes to Him and „Be My Lord“, that is all.
    This is the New Birth into God’s Universe for your life all!
    The trip of immortality,
    Becomes reality.
    It’s a real transformation,
    For your new identification,
    Up to God’s heaven passport station.
    God loves you, before you know Him!
    Only the Kingdom of God,
    Is the money commode,
    Can replace the capitalism,
    Without every terrorism.
    To heal the marriage between capitalism & democracy,
    If you look to China is crazy:
    The 2nd marriage is adultery,
    Please God, let it not be,
    Between capitalism & communism is perverse, if you can see.
    In the common property.
    Change, Yes with Jesus we can:
    „I will be with you always as your best friend & fan
    To the End of the World beginning with the US word mighty nationalism,
    With the of the monkey business Wall Street world capitalism,
    This is only the beginning, not the End of the World
    The Holy Spirit of the living sword.
    We have the word, it’s eternal & never ending,
    All things are possible when God’ his word spending
    With faith we are the OVERCOME of this world,
    His Love is the Holy Spirit word,
    For the free community JESUS KINGDOM on earth.
    To do what no ears, no eyes and no heart had never birth!

    Deacon Stephanus
    Impressum:
    Mein ©Blog:http://paradis.meinekleine.at with Heaven&Jesus-SkyLink als VÖGB- Pamphlet-Lyriker & Freier Künstler
    MyPoemsToTheStarliteCafe-Gedichte-Schreiber: http://www.thestarlitecafe.com
    Meine Facebook-Meine Veröffentlichungen sind als freier Akademiker & freier SCOAN Poet & Schriftsteller frei & jedem zugänglich, aber decken sich nicht immer mit der freien Meinung jedes Einzelnen meiner Facebook Freunde, s.a.:
    Meine privat empfohlenen Veranstaltungen sind ebenso frei, so wie jeder Besuch im frei zugänglichen http://www.emmanuel.tv & in der Arena of Liberty http://www.scoan.org: Synagoge, Kirche Aller Nationen, Austriateam@hotmail.com, SCOAN in Villach, Trattengasse 42, Free Service with God’s Spirit: Gottes Dienst So.10h30, Freie Wort Lehre Do.19h alles immer frei ist: “Denn wir in der SCOAN empfangen alles umsonst und geben alles umsonst weiter!” (Overseer & Prophet T.B. Josha).f:15.10.11

  • Greg Ohlemacher

    Petition Campaigns now that is a great consensus based way to get some solid ideas on paper. What if GA’s across the country started drafting petitions based on there best consensus crafted ideas, and then circulated them to each other and the world via this website?

  • Chrisbrenn

    Gives me hope. Thank you.

  • Upnath

    u r not alone..u r not alone..o..deep in my heart i do believe we shall overcome one day…

  • Nono

    Barack Obama you are not president you are murderer and criminal and thief
    you are killing – usa – young men and innocents people just for stealing money and oil from arabic countries shame on you

  • Nono

    Barack Obama you are not president you are murderer and criminal and thief
    you are killing – usa – young men and innocents people just for stealing money and oil from arabic countries shame on you

  • Anonymous

    I beg to disagree. Any in depth historical analysis reveals that slavery ended due to the end of mercantilism. For example, Eric Williams argued against the orthodox historical account of the abolition of slavery due to humanitarian efforts. He said “The very vested interests which had been built up by the slave system now turned and destroyed that system. The humanitarians, in attacking the system in its weakest and most indefensible spot, spoke a language that the masses could understand. They could never have succeeded a hundred years before when every important capitalist interest was on the side of the colonial system. “It was an arduous hill to climb,” sang Wordsworth in praise of Clarkson. The top would never have been reached but for the defection of the capitalists from the ranks of the slave-owners and slave traders. The West Indians, pampered and petted and spoiled for a century and a half, made the mistake of elevating into a law of nature what was actually only a law of mercantilism” (Williams, Eric. 1994. Capitalism and Slavery. The University of North Carolina Press, October 14)

  • Jung

    I beg to disagree. Any in depth historical analysis reveals that slavery ended due to the end of mercantilism. For example, Eric Williams argued against the orthodox historical account of the abolition of slavery due to humanitarian efforts. He said “The very vested interests which had been built up by the slave system now turned and destroyed that system. The humanitarians, in attacking the system in its weakest and most indefensible spot, spoke a language that the masses could understand. They could never have succeeded a hundred years before when every important capitalist interest was on the side of the colonial system. “It was an arduous hill to climb,” sang Wordsworth in praise of Clarkson. The top would never have been reached but for the defection of the capitalists from the ranks of the slave-owners and slave traders. The West Indians, pampered and petted and spoiled for a century and a half, made the mistake of elevating into a law of nature what was actually only a law of mercantilism” (Williams, Eric. 1994. Capitalism and Slavery. The University of North Carolina Press, October 14)

  • Loran Broughton

    I would like to know how people feel about any political party calling for cutbacks on the so called entitlements for lower income people,when in fact the working people are being taxed to help the country as best they can. Entitlements like social security and medicare are paid all through working life. How do these so called politicians justify taking extravagant vacations on tax payer money. It seems to me these part time public servants making 150,000 plus their own careers should be able to afford to pay for their own fun. Most of the people I know have to pay for their own and most aren’t able to go for a weekend or even a decent evening because of lack of jobs and security. They are too busy saying that the rich put money into the economy to create jobs,but since the most hated president in history got rid of the millionaire tax codes there has been no job creation at all. I have several other issues of interest concerning govt. spending including veterans hospitals that have no logical sense that I would love to talk to somebody with organizational skills to help format a formal and factual process to explain to a powerful public speaking appeal just to discuss some of the things I see at the V.A. that would save tax money and get better treatment to our veterans as I am a disable veteran involved with the V.A. for over 20 plus yrs in the system.