This Is A Fight For Life

October 8 – You can feel the reverberations of the drums as you emerge from the subway stop at Cortandt Street. The short walk from the metro station to Zuccotti Park, the epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, is spent sidestepping tourists who have come to snap pic­tures of the adjacent Ground Zero and the city’s newest tourist attraction.

The park is packed with protestors. There is a station for volunteer medics, a kitchen, a section that donates bedding, a media center with its own generator, a people’s library and knots of protestors who meet in circles. The movement even has its own newspaper – The Occupy Wall Street Journal.

Tall grey office buildings, deadened by wide yellow win­dows, loom over the square. On the southeast end, chant­ing protestors compete with construction workers who wield jackhammers.

A string of New York City police vans, squad cars, offi­cers mounted on motorcycles and knots of blue uniformed cops and metal barricades surround the park. The protest­ers, who have gathered here since September 17, daily stare down and at times clash with the foot soldiers of the corporate state.

Here is ground zero for a protest movement that has sparked hundreds of occupations across the United States and abroad.

“The energy here comes from the fact that people per­ceive Wall Street as having captured the Obama admin­istration,” Stan Rogouski, a 47-year-old educator who commutes to the protest from his home in Roselle, NJ, said.

“Corporations have mutated into something corro­sive to democracy,” he said. “They don’t say ‘should I send jobs to China?’ They say ‘send jobs wherever we can make the most money.’ They operate on a purely profit-driven basis.”

Rogouski, like many others in the park, wants to reverse our corporate coup. He wants a government that serves the interests of citizens, not corporations. He wants account­ability and the prosecution of corporations that game the economy and trash the ecosystem for profit. He wants a legal system that is not a wholly-owned subsidiary of the corporate state. Fines, he argues, do nothing to deter fraudulent activity. The SEC, for example, fined Goldman Sachs $500 million, a mere one percent of their market value, for massive acts of fraud. This is a movement that at its core seeks to reconfigure the mechanisms of power within the country as well as globally.

Rogouski’s picket sign was clear: ‘Guilty Bankers Should Be In Jail.’ Someone else was holding a sign that read: ‘Corporations are people when Texas executes one.’ Several protesters had red and black pins on their shirts with “fracking” crossed out.

The corporate media makes brief forays into the crowd. They prefer to report at a distance, their vans parked next to the police.

“I’d like to put the media out of business,” said Rogouski bitterly. “I think people should self-publish, through face­book, twitter. We don’t need the corporate media. They have an agenda.” He cited the New York Times initial reporting, which dismissed the Occupy Wall Street movement as an unorganized and uninformed group of demonstrators.

The intense scrutiny, the daily arrival of new protes­tors, the cacophony of noise from the drum circle, the ad hoc speeches, the rows of sleeping bodies, the small circles where working groups are holding meetings, give the place the feel of a circus.

“I feel like I’m a zoo animal,” Jenn Farmer, a 26-year-old photo producer from San Francisco, said, “I’ve been photographed so much by tourists.”

Farmer spent what little money she has for a plane ticket. “I had to be here for this.”

Corporate news, she argues, has perverted the truthful image of Occupy Wall Street. The movement “has [its] own media team, so they can exploit the mainstream media. I don’t think the broadcasting networks should be general­izing the people here. We all have something in common but come from different places.”

The overriding commonality is economic distress. Many in the park, who are young, deeply in debt because of col­lege loans and unable to find more than menial work, strug­gle to make a living. “I don’t get any benefits,” Farmer said, “I don’t get any health care. My job will get outsourced in a few years.”

The inequality between the power elite and the mass of the citizens created this movement.

Many have been driven from the middle class, their as­pirations and the aspirations of their parents destroyed in our new neofeudalism.

“The difference between you and a middle class or up­per class person is that you pay your own right. You pay your own food. You pay your own plane ticket. It’s you against the world.”

Farmer, an attractive blond with ripped leggings and a black beret, dismissed the “kids who party their asses off in college and don’t care about their education and then get a job through their parents. That’s just not realistic for a majority of people, even in the U.S. … I’m in debt, and I’m not going to pay my college loans. What are the younger generations going to do? They won’t be able to go to school.”

“We’re not treated like people,” she said. “Corporations have taught us to consume and that’s the only way they look at us now. Advertisements and commercials teach us that individuality comes from what brand we buy. They lie to us and pretend that they care about us and want to make our lives better. But actually their intent is sucking as much money out of the people they trick into buying [from] and working for them.”

The people at Occupy Wall Street and other sites across the country have gathered to fight back against the corporate state. The protesters have no faith in the traditional mecha­nisms of reform from the Democratic Party to the electoral process. And the fragile community they have created in the financial district of New York is in the end a paradigm for a new way of relating to each other and the earth. It may be utopian.

It may fail. But these protestors understand that if the corporate state is not halted in its relentless pursuit of prof­its, our nation will be hollowed out from the inside and the deadly effects of climate change will doom future genera­tions to misery and death. This is a fight for life. Let’s hope they’re victorious.

Contact Thomas Hedges at [email protected].