Two months into the Occupy Wall Street movement and if it doesn’t unravel because of the chaos and violence, it will when the cold winter weather sets in. But that doesn’t mean the energy behind it has to chill too. It’s great timing, actually, because like anything else, if the Occupy movement is to survive, it must adapt.
Occupy Wall Street did accomplish one major goal: raising awareness about the financial disparity and unfairness of tax laws in this country. Through their persistence, Occupiers managed to force their issue into the mainstream media. But they weren’t as successful in moving past the “Here we are” stage.
The OWS movement needs a strategy, and should follow the lead of the Move Your Money and Bank Transfer Day campaigns, which targeted their energy and produced tangible results. On Bank Transfer Day, Saturday, Nov. 3, NPR reported that 65,000 new accounts were opened at credit unions and small banks nationwide. That’s a pretty respectable number. One credit union reported that had more new accounts opened on that one day than it typically does in an entire year. It was a great first step.
Inspired by this, I tried to start my own Facebook movement: “Bring Black Friday Home.” My pitch was to send a message to Wall Street by boycotting big chain stores and occupying local businesses only. I was hoping it would go viral, but last time I looked, only 16 people had joined. Back to the medium I’m more successful with — good old newsprint.
Civil disobedience and protests are all well and good, certainly cathartic and (once in a while) effective, even. But the reality is that in our capitalistic society, average people have little chance of making an impact on Wall Street and huge corporations. The CEOs are just laughing at us, guys. The only way we can slap that smirk from their faces is to work together, like ants and bees swarming over an animal and stinging all at once. One sting won’t do anything to the corporate beast. A thousand simultaneous stings could be lethal. So, let’s sting ‘em on Black Friday just to send a message and also because we really need some practice at working together.
Unless you live in a cave, you know that the chain stores are already trying to seduce us into participating in the Black Friday madness. Don’t be lured in. Don’t sleep on a sidewalk all night and risk being trampled by a throng of melonheads just to save $50 on a flat-screen TV. Step back from this behavior and examine it, and ask yourself if it’s really sane. Allow the embarrassment and shame to wash over you for a bit as you realize how low you’ve sunk.
There’s no item, no sale, no deal on Earth that would entice me to sleep on a sidewalk all night, short of maybe getting a new car for free. I’m repelled by the “spend spend spend” drone leading up to Christmas. “Only 15 shopping days left!” Really? Is that what it’s all come down to?
You know, the pagans had this holiday right: Yule. And then the Church hijacked Yule and mutated it into Christmas, and once America got hold of it, it became one big gluttonous orgy of consumerism. In its original form, Yule celebrated the changing of the seasonal wheel and the return of lengthening days. Pre-Christian people marked the occasion with holly, mistletoe and evergreen bunting, and gathered around the Yule log fire with friends and family, and maybe exchanged a gift. “A” gift. And most likely, something made or grown and harvested with their own hands. Christmas’ Yule roots were a far cry from our modern day death race to Walmart.
Although the Church attempted to transmute Yule into a celebration of Jesus’ birth to gain control over the Pagan population, Christmas nonetheless had plenty of noble and loving features, even if it is historically and culturally inaccurate. The original focus of honoring Jesus with thankfulness, giving and kindness — all good. Jesus would approve. If love, kindness and generosity are at the core, I’m certain Jesus would be down with that. I suspect that jostling through crowds at 4 a.m. and mowing children down with shopping carts to get first dibs on a $99 PlayStation might raise his eyebrow.
If the Black Friday vibe is any indication, Christmas as we know it isn’t a celebration of Jesus at all anymore. It’s ironically quite the opposite — a celebration of one of the Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony. Gluttony isn’t always about food. (Please refer to the original issue that sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement in the first place.)
So, don’t just fall pray to the lure of gluttonous consumerism. Stop and think before you spend on Black Friday. Maybe you want to send a message to Wall Street. Maybe you object to the contamination of Christmas or Yule, and think the holiday should mean more than a credit card bill. Or maybe you realize that the shopping feeding frenzy is a ridiculous way to spend one-fourth of your holiday weekend. Pick one. Any one will do.
If you distill one thing from my little diatribe, let it be this: Your wallet is your weapon. Be more aware of where you spend your money and how it’s used after you spend it. Who makes the product? An American factory worker in Indiana, or a 12-year-old in China making 50 cents a day? At the very, very least, spend your money on products made in America. Don’t participate in the outsourcing of jobs. Outsourcing is another way Wall Street corporations turn us into financial slaves.
Don’t be a turkey this Thanksgiving. Boycott Black Friday or bring it home. Take your game piece off the board. Occupy Wall Street by Occupying Main Street.