Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Occupy is Alive; So is History


Political leadership in the West has calcified atop a set of existing facts and trajectory that assure rebellion in one form or another until they are reconciled. In addition to the economic divides between wealth and poverty, employment and unemployment, opportunity and the lack of opportunity, there is a generational divide that has left youth around the world on the outside of economic life.

Left out of the economic statistics is that today’s youth face a fundamentally different circumstance than that of recent generations. The young bear a disproportionate burden in higher rates of unemployment, higher levels of debt and fewer opportunities. In a system where economic power equates with political power, economic exclusion leaves youth and much of the rest of the broader population outside of existing political processes.

Within the prevailing political economy the internal logic is to build systems of political and economic repression rather than to create political, economic and social justice. This can be seen in the level of debt students are expected bear, in increasingly intrusive surveillance, in the militarization of the police, in the unresponsive politics of the mainstream political parties and in the absence of any sustained effort to create jobs for youth and other unemployed.

These conditions were not created by the young or by the multitudes that are likewise on the outside of economic and mainstream political life. They result from decades of ideologically driven policies that assumed that the secular deity of markets removed the need for thought, knowledge, information, and any notion of public life. This ideology supports a predatory economic order that has had disastrous consequences for vast majorities in the West. And yet it still drives economic and political decisions today.

Absent rapid self-correction by political leadership, the conclusion can rightly be drawn that the existing order is incapable of self-correction. In fact, the predominant governing ideology sees unjust social divide as virtue, the driving force behind human achievement. That this is a fundamentally different theory of social life than recent generations themselves experienced seems to have little bearing on the sustained commitment to it. Ideological commitment in spite of evidence to the contrary indicates a calcified political order.

Occupy Wall Street arose from a confluence of conditions that are similar in some ways to broader social movements like the ‘Arab Spring’ and different in others. Economic inequality didn’t become a broad political issue until the lack of economic opportunity for wide swaths of global populations became fact. Enlightened self-interest on the part of economic elites would have them giving a little to keep a lot. That they are choosing the path of repression instead suggests that the political and social divide runs much deeper than a mere difference of opinion.

Current economic conditions provide factual bases for this divide. There are far more unemployed than there are jobs for them. The gentlest count based on government statistics has four unemployed for every one available job. Were every job to be filled, three quarters of those currently unemployed would still be unemployed with no jobs available for them. Most of the jobs that are available don’t pay a living wage and fewer offer benefits by the day. These are obstacles over which no amount of positive thinking, the apparent solution favored by those in power, will prevail.

I leave more of the specifics to others. The point is that while psychology and theories of cyclical social rest and turmoil might have some bearing, there are entirely practical reasons why rebellion is here to stay until these problems are resolved. What this rebellion will look like will be a function of material conditions as they develop and the systemic response to them. To date this response has been discouraging and events unfolding in Egypt add new degrees of pessimism. This written, rebellion is both necessary and life affirming

Last, in New York OWS member Mark Adams was sentenced to 45 days in jail for his participation in the effort to secure a new Occupation space from Trinity Church after Zuccotti Park was cleared. This sentence is a travesty and the charges are overblown and clearly designed to silence OWS. Sympathetic readers can support Mark directly and by participating in OWS activities wherever they are taking place.

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist in New York

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. His book Zen Economics is published by CounterPunch Books.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 28, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Inside the Invisible Government; War, Propaganda, Clinton & Trump
Andrew Levine
The Hillary Era is Coming: Worry!
Gary Leupp
Seven World-Historical Achievements of the Iraq Invasion of 2003
Paul Street
Standing Rock Water-Protectors Waterboarded While the Cleveland Indians Romped
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel: 1984 Everlasting
Michael Brenner
American Foreign Policy in the Post-Trump Era
Luciana Bohne
Crossing the Acheron: Back to Vietnam
Robert Hunziker
The Political Era of Climate Refugees
Stephen Cooper
Alabama’s Last Execution was an Atrocity
Pete Dolack
Work Harder So Speculators Can Get More
Joyce Nelson
Canadians Launch Constitutional Challenge Against CETA
John Laforge
US Uranium Weapons Have Been Used in Syria
Paul Edwards
The Vision Thing ’16
Arshad Khan
Hillary, Trump and Sartre: How Existentialism Disrobes the Major Presidential Candidates
Peter Lee
It’s ON! Between Duterte and America
Joseph Grosso
Starchitects in the City: Vanity Fair and Gentrification
Patrick Carr
Economic Racial Disparity in North Carolina
David Swanson
Public vs. Media on War
Chris Gilbert
Demo Derby in Venezuela: The Left’s New Freewheeling Politics
Binoy Kampmark
Nobel Confusion: Ramos-Horta, Trump and World Disorder
Stephen Cooper
Alabama’s Last Execution Was an Atrocity
Binoy Kampmark
Nobel Confusion: Ramos-Horta, Trump and World Disorder
Russell Mokhiber
Lucifer’s Banker: Bradley Birkenfeld on Corporate Crime in America
Ron Jacobs
Death to the Fascist Insect! The SLA and the Cops
Cesar Chelala
Embargo on Cuba is an Embarrassment for the United States
Jack Smith
And the Winner Is….
Ken Knabb
Beyond Voting: the Limits of Electoral Politics
Matt Peppe
An Alternate Narrative on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
James Rothenberg
Water Under the Bridge
Louis Yako
Remembering Rasul Gamzatov: The Poet of the People
Brian Cloughley
The US, NATO and the Pope
Louis Proyect
The Outsider-Insider: Isaac Babel’s Big Mistake
Martin Billheimer
Now and Then, Ancient Sorceries
October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?
Shamus Cooke
Stopping Hillary’s Coming War on Syria
Jan Oberg
Security Politics and the Closing of the Open Society
Ramzy Baroud
The War on UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque is Palestinian and East Jerusalem is Illegally Occupied
Colin Todhunter
Lower Yields and Agropoisons: What is the Point of GM Mustard in India?
Norman Pollack
The Election: Does It Matter Who Wins?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Political and Cultural Richness of Kashmiriyat