The past 17th of September, the world experienced almost unknowingly the first taste of the new global protest movement of our time. Initially this was the date marked as the beginning of the Occupy Wall St. movement (now a nationwide phenomenon), however it also served to launch an international campaign of protests in front of local banks and stock exchanges dubbed as ‘Anti-Banks Day’. For the first time, the rising global civil society movement, based on democratic assemblies and structured around an ever-growing network of activists, tested its capacity to rally people worldwide and not only in a national framework. They created task-forces for media strategies, both online and offline, set up independent live-streams and coordinated globally for spreading information. Consequently, the 17th was like an excuse to prepare for the main course on October 15th, which will be the consolidation of this structure, and will set the standard for its future success or failure.

VIDEO 2: Bank of America REFUSES to let #OWSers close their accounts - suits and security guards keep a group of BofA ‘customers’ outside. (Saint Louis, MO - 12 October 2011)

VIDEO 1: Bank of America REFUSES to let a group of #OWSers close their accounts - locks them out of the building and complains to the police (Santa Cruz, CA - 7 October 2011)

Here are the highlights:

  • Of those who had an opinion on the occupation, 54% were favourable to the movement, with only 23% against (25% very favourable and 29% somewhat favourable, compared to 10% somewhat unfavourable and 13% very unfavourable)
  • 86% agree that Wall Street has too much influence in Washington.
  • 79% agree that the income gap in the United States is too large.
  • An amazing 71% agree that financial executives who had a hand in the 2008 crisis should be prosecuted!
  • 68% agree that the rich should pay more in taxes, and 73% agree that we should raise taxes on those who make $1 million or more a year. 74% agree that raising taxes on millionaires would NOT ‘hurt the economic recovery,’ contrary to the Republican panic.
  • Unfortunately, 56% believe that the protest will have little impact on the overall situation, but 30% believe it will have a positive impact.

While we should always be careful not to put too much stock in these polls, this one at least has some good news for those who support #OWS.

KEEP IT UP! People are listening!

Remember, the problem is not corruption or greed, the problem is the system. Beware not only of the enemies, but also of false friends who are already working to dilute this process in the same way that we get coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, [or] ice cream without fat. They will try to make this into a harmless moral protest.
Slavoj Zizek at Open Forum, Occupy Wall Street, October 9. (via domesticterrorism)
Photos from Oct 7th (submission from Noah Berestizhevsky)

The “99%” is not one social body, but many. Some occupiers have presented a narrative in which the “99%” is characterized as a homogenous mass. The faces intended to represent “ordinary people” often look suspiciously like the predominantly white, law-abiding middle-class citizens we’re used to seeing on television programs, even though such people make up a minority of the general population.

It’s a mistake to whitewash over our diversity. Not everyone is waking up to the injustices of capitalism for the first time now; some populations have been targeted by the power structure for years or generations. Middle-class workers who are just now losing their social standing can learn a lot from those who have been on the receiving end of injustice for much longer.

The problem isn’t just a few “bad apples.” The crisis is not the result of the selfishness of a few investment bankers; it is the inevitable consequence of an economic system that rewards cutthroat competition at every level of society. Capitalism is not a static way of life but a dynamic process that consumes everything, transforming the world into profit and wreckage. Now that everything has been fed into the fire, the system is collapsing, leaving even its former beneficiaries out in the cold. The answer is not to revert to some earlier stage of capitalism—to go back to the gold standard, for example; not only is that impossible, those earlier stages didn’t benefit the “99%” either. To get out of this mess, we’ll have to rediscover other ways of relating to each other and the world around us.


I wanted to take a moment to respond to my various friends on various social networks who are linking to the above Ben & Jerry’s announcement that the brand supports the Occupy Wall Street protests.

It doesn’t really matter what Ben & Jerry’s board of directors supports as they are merely a division of consumer products conglomerate Unilever, the third largest food company behind Nestle and Kraft. Don’t be fooled by a shallow marketing ploy.

This is one of the problems with global corporations—they can have no obligation besides profit. The pleasant statements from a small brand within an enormous conglomerate do not reflect what your dollars support when you buy their products. Short of a Unilever announcement of support—followed by a fundamental restructuring of the company—we shouldn’t take the B&J statement seriously.

Ben & Jerry’s concerns don’t mesh with their parent company—you know, the people who pocket your money when you scarf down a pint of Schweddy Balls ice cream.

The B&J statement lists the following concerns they claim to share with the protestors:

  • The inequity that exists between classes in our country is simply immoral.
  • Many workers who have jobs have to work 2 or 3 of them just to scrape by.

When Unilever CEO Niall Fitzgerald left Unilever in 2004, he received more than $20-million in salary, bonus, and benefits. Current CEO Paul Polman has made it a priority to close factories, eliminate jobs, freeze wages, and raise the cost of their products. His starting pay package was around $4-million. By contrast, starting wages at Ben & Jerry’s are $8/hour. No wonder workers need 2 or 3 jobs just to scrape by.

  • We are in an unemployment crisis. Almost 14 million people are unemployed. Nearly 20% of African American men are unemployed. Over 25% of our nation’s youth are unemployed.

Unilever has laid off more than half its global workforce since 2000, despite increases in profits and productivity alongside rising executive pay packets. A 2010 report from FNV organization of unions found that Unilever has denied workers their legal rights, refused to recognize trade unions as representatives of the work-force, intimidated workers and replaced permanent workers with casual, temporary labourers who have fewer rights. It also estimated that around half of Unilever’s global workforce (approximately 150,000 people) is now outsourced. This means that all these people are not recognised as employees and Unilever does not pay them the wages and benefits that unions have successfully fought for and negotiated.

Unilever is concerned with racial inequality in employment. The company’s solution? Their very own skin-lightening cream.

Unilever’s proper concern for racial inequality in employment is ironic considering the company’s India division sells a skin-lightening cream (Fair & Lovely) that is promoted in commercials depicting depressed, dark-skinned women who are ignored by their employers until they use the cream, suddenly finding glamorous careers and happiness. Watch, it’s crazy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIUQ5hbRHXk 

And, why not, child labor, too:

The page goes on to list B&J’s myriad, mostly benign lobbying efforts, but this caught my eye:

  • Support for the Youth PROMISE Act, which funds proven youth violence prevention programs.

It’s good that they oppose child violence. But a report from Indian researcher Dr. D. Venkateswarlu for the Indian Committee of the Netherlands estimated that 25,000 children, mostly girls, work an average of ten to thirteen hours a day in cottonseed production for Hindustan Lever, a division of Unilever.

Okay, that’s all.