Months before the news trucks and celebrities showed up, a group of artists and activist were meeting in a coffee shop near Wall Street, and many of them were foreigners who had been part of massive protests in the mid-East and Europe.
According to Mother Jones, their conversation was fueled by a desire to create something that looked like the Arab spring and had the same clout as the Tea Party. Then Adbusters, an anti-capitalist magazine from Canada, issued a call for demonstrators and soon there was a tent city in Zuccotti Park.
Occupy Wall Street, and similar groups around the country, are enamored by the concept of a “general assembly,” a consensus building effort popular in Spain and other recent European protests. This “horizontal structure” is one where they meet and talk to discover what the group wants to do.
Mostly they want the government to make the corporations give some of their money back, although it’s not too clear to whom. But the movement as a whole faces two problems.
First, these “anarchists for big government” merely want to exchange one corrupt system for a different corrupt system. Seriously, there is no reason to expect big government to be less awful than big business.
Some of them point out that big business has bought out our leaders, but this is certainly a cozy two way relationship. And some of them want to be bought themselves– where is my bail out?
Generally government and business are somewhat responsive to the demands of consumers or voters, so they may achieve some concessions. But government also attract self-centered and self-serving men and women who want and abuse power. Greed comes in all sorts of delivery systems.
The second issue is that consensus is difficult to achieve in a world with roughly seven billion people. Their claim to represent the 99% seems presumptuous and preposterous.
And while such democratic experiments have been around since before the ancient Greeks, in congregational churches in the early U.S., and in every utopian fantasy, they always have a dark side. Tyranny and dysfunction lurks outside every door.
They don’t represent me, I know that. And I’m hardly one of the idle rich. I don’t imagine they represent you either.
I don’t mean to defend the rich, however. I’m just saying if the government takes their money away there is no reason to expect less corruption. Buying votes is apparently an irresistible temptation.
That’s the heart of Tea Party concerns, actually. Occupy Wall Street opposes corporate corruption and the Tea Party opposes government corruption.
If I had to pick the lesser of two evils I’d go with the Tea Party. Freedom is at stake, and I prefer to keep mine. Expecting government to solve all of our problems can’t end well.
Both groups miss the point, through. When Occupy Wall Street kitchen staff staged a slow down because homeless people were eating their roasted beet salad it sort of belies their concern for the poor. In the end their demands have turned out to be as self-serving as any.
And if Tea Party members wanted fewer taxes so they could give more to the needy that would be great, but it’s unlikely. (Although with more government, it might also be impossible.)
Sin is not a political problem, however. Among the “sins of your sister Sodom” Ezekiel tells Israel, “she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49 ESV).”
This too is an abomination. Shame on them. And on us.
Frankly, the movement America actually needs is a revival.
Proverbs 30 says:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
(Proverbs 30:8-9 ESV)
Such a prayer is only a step, but it’s a step in the right direction. We can deny him or profane him, that’s clear enough.
Or we can let him occupy our hearts.