This summer I watched with envy as Israelis took back ownership over determining what society will look like. I had just moved to New York and spent countless hours watching streaming video from Israel, often tearful as I realized just how many people shared the ideas and values that I believe are so important. What impressed me most though was the change in the actual conversation being held. People where suddenly talking about how we live together rather than how I get ahead.
Two weeks ago a small group of people started a protest on wall street in New York City called Occupy Wall street (occupywallst.org). What started as a few individuals has changed into a few thousands camped out in a park in Manhattan. Once again there are people discussing how they want our society to look, what they think needs to be changed, why we cannot continue going on the way we have up to now. Once again, it’s the act of the conversation that impresses me most. What they want to achieve is clear, an end to the free market economic policies and the corporate dictatorship of our politics.
How to achieve this, on the other hand, is very unclear and the subject of countless, passionate discussions and arguments. This is the beauty of recent protest movements because they signal a change in the way we perceive our problems. We have tried working through the regular channels in order to affect change only to realize that everyone that makes it to power is enamored to the Chicago School of Economics, whether he is Netanyahu, Bush, Livni or Obama. It seems that the time has come to try something else.
No one really knows what this something else is exactly. News media here, just like in Israel this summer, keeps on insisting on getting a clear list of demands and some kind of idea when the protest will end. There cannot be a clear list of demands as what is being asked for is a change in the way we conduct ourselves and not just a change in this policy or the other.
It took conservatives 40 years to break down the welfare state, deregulate the financial industry and establish the consumer society. These protests aren’t going to change that within the space of a couple of months. What they are doing is reminding us that it is us that decide on the character of our society. It is us who allowed the corporate greed, the wholesale privatization of public services and goods, the monetization of everything we do to take place. It is us that will decide to put an end to this. This is our responsibility.