An Open Letter to Non-Occupiers

by Dennis Trainor, Jr.

While most debates about the next steps the Occupy movement should take naturally occur among those already engaged in the movement, one population that needs to be further engaged, if the May 1st national general strike (and other Occupy spring and summer related activities) are to succeed and this movement is to grow, is the population of those who are watching from the sidelines.

In other words, the individual members of the 99% who are potentially sympathetic but as yet unmoved to participate in the movement need another open invitation to the dance.

One such individual watching from the sidelines hit me up on facebook recently asking, essentially, what Occupy stands for.

Questions like this and other versions of the “what are your demands” question can sometimes make one go a little postal. What do we stand for?  Really? Are you kidding? However, this recent query was not a joke or a provocation. It came in good faith, unsolicited from one not yet aligned with occupy but seeming at least willing to consider participating in the future. The honest to goodness naiveté embedded in the question is evidence supporting the idea that we have more work to do in providing a more compelling narrative than the dominant corporately controlled media provides.

What does Occupy stand for? One narrative potentially more compelling for new recruits is this: The Occupy movement seeks to be an equalizing force for good in a world dominated by greed. And let’s just get this big elephant out of the way right up front: for some, but not all, that means smashing capitalism.

Smashing capitalism sounds crazy to some, because that makes us sound like a rag tag group of socialists. And socialism, goes the refrain oft repeated in one form or another by a corporate media bent on dredging up a red scare once or twice every century just to keep us in line, is Anti-American.

Without debating the merits of Capitalism versus Socialism, perhaps we can agree that the way capitalism operates right now in our global culture delivers poverty, misery, and is downright homicidal.

The Capitalism as homicidal force claim is one that can be made without hyperbole.

People do in fact die for lack of access to healthcare. Human consumption is, in fact, accelerating the destruction of our planet. People do, in fact, die in wars waged based on lies that profit a precious few. Over 5 million children globally each year do not reach a 5th birthday because they die of starvation. This is not because the system that puts man on the moon or can squeeze an entire library onto a computer chip the size of a thumbnail has failed to find a way to feed these children, rather our system is so competitive that it accepts these deaths as a natural component of a capitalist model that dominates world markets. In short, the system is driven by corporate greed, not human need.

And greed, to take back the popular phrase, is not good. Screw Gordon Gecko.

The film Wall Street, which made the “greed is good” ethos popular was written and directed by good old commie loving Oliver Stone. It was a tragically misunderstood satire. It’s as if angry old white dudes in the 70’s watching Archie Bunker in All in the Family missed that the joke was on them, upped the ante and joined the KKK.

The question some of us within the Occupy movement are trying to solve is this one: what would a world look like that had a culture and an economic system that places human need above corporate greed, and how do we bring that world into being?

Who cares what it is called. Call it Socialism, Real Democracy Now, or Chunky-Monkey-Cherry Garcia. The world needs to change radically, dramatically, and it needs to change fast.

The movement has resisted clearly defined answers to distill a singular message because it believes the following: No single individual among us has all of the answers. Rather, we believe that collectively we can come up with solutions to the problems that face us. Some within the movement are reformists, seeking little more than “getting money out of politics” so that our representative democracy can function without the corrosive influence of big corporate money. Others want to see the system replaced altogether.

All of us refuse to allow big money determine our future.

All of us think that we can, collectively, do better than the politicians that have been bought and paid for by corporations at solving the problems that face us.

Spring is coming, and we need you, the 99% that have been watching from the sidelines, to join us.

All of us need to put May 1st on our calendar. The city you live closest to may not have a 24-hour physical occupation any longer, but the movement continues to meet, to plan, to dream.

Some people work on Occupy full time, others participate when they can where they can.

You will find your place. Join us.


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