On Occupying Wall Street and Taking Action Locally
A friend of mine who says he is "not a huge fan of Occupy Wall Street" posted this on Facebook: "...I'd advocate an organic approach to the problem. The rich have the power they do because consumers give it to them by the choices they make with their wealth. But if all Americans together chose to withdraw their funds from Bank of America, for example, it would destroy the corporation. If individuals worked together doing things like this, the rich would be at the mercy of the '99%'.”
I agree whole-heartedly with what my friend writes about an organic approach. Another friend of mine posted on her Facebook page, "It took a protest for people to know there are credit unions and local banks? Do you know about home gardening and local farmers yet? Recycling? Barter? DIY? Books?" I think both of my friends make a good point. A lot of the structure we need is already in place; we need for more people to be aware of these alternatives and start using them. I'd add to my friend's list: food co-ops like Sevananda in Atlanta and Life Grocery in Marietta; community radio stations like WRFG 89.3 Atlanta; and indie coffeehouses like Cool Beans on Marietta Square. Support local businesses rather than chains. Download ebooks from the website of an indie bookstore - find one at http://www.indiebound.org/google-ebooks - rather than from Kindle or Nook. Buy fresh food from your local farmer's market instead of cellophane-wrapped frankenfoods at the supermarket.
I think G. K. Chesterton, the English writer who had a huge influence on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and many others, would agree about an organic approach. I'm reading Chesterton's book on economics, The Outline of Sanity (1926), and it is blowing my mind. According to him, capitalism is just as flawed as socialism. He defines capitalism as "that economic condition in which there is a class of capitalists, roughly recognisable and relatively small, in whose possession so much of the capital is concentrated as to necessitate a very large majority of the citizens serving those capitalists for a wage." According to Chesterton, small shopkeepers, craftsmen, co-operative owner-workers, and independent professionals [like me; I'm self-employed] are not capitalists because we're not wage earners. "They are people who work for themselves, not for others; they are people who possess private property - however limited and however precariously - and thus act according to their own reasonable wishes, not according to the demands and whims of a small governing class" (from the publisher's introduction). G. K. Chesterton views both capitalism and socialism as enemies of a truly free market.
I'm not saying we don't need the protests in Occupy Atlanta and other cities around the world. I support them wholeheartedly, and I'm grateful I was present at the general assembly on October 7th when the Atlanta occupation began. As another friend said that night, I feel like I was present at a historic moment. But I do think we can do more than just protest. Yes, let's march on the Bank of America and exercise our constitutional right to protest. But let's also take action by taking our money OUT of Bank of America (and any other megacorporations) and putting it back into our local communities, our local economies, where it belongs.