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Calling loudly for change

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Protesters are the most visible sign of broad discontent

By Sherry Robinson

It’s no coincidence that the big banks backed away from new debit card fees.
The Occupy Wall Street protesters are just one manifestation of broad discontent.
The Occupy phenomenon is fascinating on several levels.
Journalists write every day about wrongs and injustice, hoping that somebody will care enough (or be embarrassed enough by the glare of publicity) to do something.
We’ve seen the poor catalogued in increasing numbers, and we know food banks and nonprofits are scrambling to care for them.
We also know – and Warren Buffett confirms – that the wealthy get a pretty good shake, taxwise.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being rich. We still applaud the self-made man or woman. We still celebrate success.
Most of us understand that profitable businesses provide paychecks.
This is about imbalance – too much in the hands of too few. Their slogan, “We are the 99 percent,” says it all.
For the last 20 years, according to polls by the Pew Research Center, a large majority of respondents agree that in the United States, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
These aren’t protesters – they’re randomly chosen citizens. The polls also show people “see government policies as catering to the rich and powerful.”
A new Pew Research Center report “shows large majorities saying that while the government does not do enough for both the middle class and poor people, two in three think it does too much for the wealthy.”
Like our bone-dry forests, this discontent burst into flames in dry economic times, which makes the differences more acute.
The polls also showed disapproval of bailouts and rescues of homeowners who bought houses they couldn’t afford.
People see the Republican Party catering to the rich, according to polls, and President Obama doing little to help the poor.
Critics and media demand that Occupy get an agenda.
They have an agenda. Remember the character in the 1976 movie “Network” who stuck his head out the window and shouted, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!”
What’s wrong with standing up and saying something is wrong here?
There have also been calls for leaders and talking points, and political opportunists are trying to figure out how to get in front of the parade.
 But as soon as they have an organization and leaders and demands, they become one more cog in the political process. Like the Tea Party.
The Occupy movement is also fascinating in creating something like our own Arab Spring – fascinating that Americans, who are usually the ones with all the ideas, took a page from another movement.
And fascinating that, like the Arab Spring, this too is sustained by cell phones, Facebook and Twitter. The protest is as much on the Net as it is on Wall Street.
In this way, Occupy is also a slap at Big Media, which ignored and downplayed the protests for weeks; by the time they got serious coverage, there were thousands demonstrating in 78 countries.
Andrea Quijada, executive director of the New Mexico-based Media Literacy Project, wrote: “Without the Internet, I would not have seen the video of Betty Yu and Carlos Pareja, who recently organized a media justice talk in Zucotti Park.
“At the site of Occupy Wall Street, Betty and Carlos discussed the corporate media’s early blackout of the movement and how grassroots activists and organizers employed independent media and social media to mobilize thousands in New York City.”
Many will attach their own cause to the protests. To Quijada, the Occupy protest and Arab Spring underscore the need for a free and open Internet and argue against the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, but that’s another issue for another day.
Unlike Arab Spring, nobody has demanded the overthrow of government, but they – we – want to see some big changes.

Sherry Robinson
© 2011 New Mexico
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