Occupy Wall Street declarations: One demand, twenty grievances, lots of consensus

Comparison of the two sets of demands/grievances
published by Occupy Wall Street

by Kimberly Wilder 10/4/2011

The first document I will refer to as the “One Demand Document”
The second document I will refer to as the “Grievances Document”
To see both documents in text, go to my previous post: here.

Up front, I would like to say, that I am offering my thoughts as support and analysis, not as critique. Even where my words seem critical or harsh, I would like to underscore the fact that the work Occupy Wall Street is doing is wonderful, effective, and maybe even miraculous. Since I am currently participating only in the virtual world, I am trying to offer the input of reflection and more tedious analysis, which is easier to do here, from the comfort of my home. Though, on the ground, at Liberty Square/Zucotti Park, is where the most difficult work is happening. And, I hope to visit there at some time, or at least offer material support.

The whole world seems to be asking the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators for their “one demand”. And, much of the world is asking for it in a bossy and condescending way. So, I was so happy when, on Day Five of the occupation, the General Assembly created a list that claimed, poetically, to be “one demand”, but was, in fact, a list of at least 11 demands. Later, on September 29th, the NYC General Assembly, which speaks for Occupy Wall Street, agreed to another document which answers the question, “What is it they want?” or “What is their one demand?”. This document turned the question around again. Instead of demands, it was a list of grievances which hinted at solutions. Instead of one demand, or even eleven demands, there were over twenty demands, presented in the form of pointed grievances.

And, there is another point which should not be lost. The NYC General Assembly has gathered together hundreds of people to these deliberations. And, yet, they are able to created a long list of items agreed to in a consensus manner. It would appear doable for a group of angry, disenfranchised students, workers, residents, and citizens to come up with one issue or demand to agree on. Though, for all of them to find over twenty points of agreement, and all come together to endorse and publish the document, it is an accomplishment of monumental proportions. It’s a consensus miracle!

When I looked at the first “one demand” document and compared it to the second “grievances” document, I came up with three lost items. The items that were stated more clearly in the first document were: putting an end to war; putting an end to poverty; and stating the injustice of arrested colleagues. I hope that in future documents, those items will be re-inserted in unequivocal terms.

So, my harshest comment follows: Could there be a chance, that because the second document did not as specifically demand “ending police intimidation” and did not list the fact that members were arrested, that it affected outcomes on the Brooklyn Bridge? Could it be that groundwork was laid for the arrest of the 700 protesters on October 1st, because the document published on September 30th only referred to the police in terms of freedom of the press, and because it did not refer to colleagues arrested? I am not sure if there is any connection. Though, perhaps there is a connection in the world of background pressure on the system, or with the Karma. So, I think in the future, in the interest of strategy, luck, and/or karma, all lists of demands should specifically support those colleagues previously arrested.

The first document and the second document also have different approaches to the issue of ending wars. I do acknowledge that both documents have assertions that support peace, and would generally support an end to war. Though, the first document says it simply and forcefully. It says, “Ending war is our one demand”. The second document does not say so clearly that war must be ended. Instead, it points to some of the injustices and background reasons for the current wars. The second document could be read as only being opposed to weapons of mass destruction, and to corporate exploitation of war, not to war itself. Here is the wording:

“They [the corporations] have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas. They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.”

In the interest of comparison, I would also like to note a vocabulary choice. The first document refers to American “imperialism”, while the second document refers to “colonialism”. I wonder if the word choice presents any reflection on trends in the movement, a change in focus, or the people who wrote the two drafts.

Another difference between document one and document two is the use of the word “poverty”. Document one boldly asserts “Ending poverty is our one demand”. Document two does not contain the word poverty. A careful examination shows that document two focuses less on issues of the poor and the most unfortunate, and more on issues of the middle class. The first document demands an end to poverty and joblessness. The second document starts with illegal foreclosures (which happen to people who own homes to begin with), and lists problems such as education debt, cutting workers’ healthcare and pay, and unfair implementation of health insurance. These are important issues. These should be in there. Though, it is of note that between the two versions, they are listed instead of ending poverty.

My guess is that the second document is opening up the door to wider coalitions, with labor unions and the middle class. And, I understand the need to do that in order to create a bigger movement. And, it follows the idea that it is the 99% verses the 1%. Though, I hope that Occupy Wall Street remembers to feature demands for the most poor into their lists of grievances.

When I first heard about the release of another document, I automatically assumed that it was an update to the first document. And, I considered it, in some manner, as a replacement document. Though, I believe that the two documents are very different on a fundamental level. Document one ends with a list of questions to the readers. It is trying to activate regular Americans to think and act. It says,

“You have fought all the wars. You have worked for all the bosses…Have you harvested the fruits of your labor?…Does the future promise you anything?”

Document two is different. It is framed with assertions that the writers and readers must work as individuals to protect their rights. And, it ends with an invitation to join, and an offer of help. It says,

“We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power…To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal. Join us and make your voices heard!”

I wonder if the writers and approvers of the two documents have shifted from activating through anger as a prime message, to inviting to action as a prime message? I believe that there is a need for both angles, because different people are at different places in their activist awakening. I hope (and believe) that some of the people on the ground are still committed to the lofty demands of document one, and to using idealism and anger to motivate those in the public who are sleeping. And, I look forward to the overall Occupy Wall Street movement inviting new people in, and supporting them with knowledge and resources.

I also look forward to more declarations from the New York City General Assembly. And, I hope that each declaration is better than the one before, and, that they never boil it down to only one demand.

_________________________

FAQ and more tags:

Q: What is the one demand of Occupy Wall Street?
A: There is not one demand. They have released two documents that have lists of  demands/grievances.

Q: Has Occupy Wall Street decided on one demand?
A: Somewhere there is a page to vote on one demand. Though, so far, it seems that the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the NYC General Assembly wish to convey a list of many demands.

Q: Why are they occupying Wall Street?
A: There are a variety of reasons, and areas of concerns. Many of these concerns are expressed in the “One Demand” document issued on Day 5 of the occupation, and the “List of Grievances” document agreed to on September 29th.

Q: What does Occupy Wall Street want?
A: There are a variety of reasons, and areas of concerns. Many of these concerns are expressed in the “One Demand” document issued on Day 5 of the occupation, and the “List of Grievances” document agreed to on September 29th.

2 Responses

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