We tend to think of movements as akin to organizations—that is, as unified, bounded entities pursuing specified goals under the leadership of specific individuals. Biased by this conventional understanding, we urge Occupy protestors to pursue the goals we see as most important using the tactics and organizational structures that make the most sense to us. But given all that the Occupy protests have accomplished and continue to accomplish, why should those groups morph into the movement that you or I want to see? All broad, successful movements start somewhere, with a particular campaign or set of actions serving as the opening wedge. The Occupy protests have served that function, changing the conversation in this country, and creating space—literally and figuratively—within which others can act. The challenge for those of us who identify with the protests is to organize ourselves using whatever structures and towards whatever specific goals we find consistent with the broader struggle. Given the larger economic and political stakes, this is a challenge worthy of our efforts.
As a Brit, I still find it amazing and a little sad that in your country, people still have to fear getting sick. Though our National Health Service is far from perfect, you know that is you become sick or injured, you will get as good level of treatment without having to worry about the costs.
When my parents split up when I was young in the 70s, he moved to the US and for the next 15 years I made regular visits, thinking you where the coolest country on earth, hoping one day that I might be able to become a resident. My father always said it’s a great place to live if you’re well and working. Unfortunately at 59, he suffered 3 strokes and though having good insurance, savings and paid for home, end up losing everything, leaving my step mother bankrupt. I have American friends who tell me this is not uncommon.
After the WW2, the British people wanted something more and our welfare state was set up so that if times got hard, the state would help you until you got back on your feet. The US is still one of the richest nations on Earth, isn’t it about time you had a system for all Americans? Is it right to have a system where if you get sick, you are better to die quickly or risk losing everything you’ve worked hard for?
“Why in a country as rich as the US, people live in fear of becoming ill?"—a comment on Don Barr’s contribution to our ”Occupy the Future“ series.
We seem to have entered the Age of Relativity, wherein we finally experience time as Einstein imagined it, contracting and expanding relative to the velocities of observers. … If it’s an anxious moment concerning time, it’s also a playful and expansive one. All temporal bets are off, including, given climate change, the seasons. It’s still one earth, but it is now subtended by a layer of highly elastic non-time, wild time, that is akin to a global collective unconscious wherein past, present, and future occupy one unmediated plane.
Hungarian students’ demonstartion, “The University is ours!”
The hungarian government is trying to take away the free places at universities and colleges. The number of the free places will be tierce of the current number, so the students will need loan, which is very expensive, or they will need to work during their semesters (more than the half of the university students have job, but I think this is the situation in the other countries), because their family can’t pay for their study.
There are thousands on the streets even it’s lower than -6°C. The demonstrators are not even university students, but parents, teachers and students from the secondary school.
The govern is going to vote about this law tonight, and still don’t give a shit.
Editor’s Note: This piece is part of “Occupy the Future,” a series of essays by Stanford professors and students on lessons to be learned from the Occupy movement.
I was drawn to art for its ability to make social commentary accessible to a wider audience. There are numerous forms of art from which to choose. For me, it was the graphic novel—an art form that combines the narrative arc of a novel with the sequential illustrations of a comic. The images and text work in tandem to tell a story: the words articulate only what is necessary while the pictures cut straight to the reader’s core. I discovered the form through a creative writing course at Stanford. Seventeen other students and I collaborated to write, illustrate, and lay out our own graphic novel. We decided it was the perfect vehicle for social commentary.
We each proposed a book topic. I was inspired by a BBC article about Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The eastern region of the DRC, where Virunga is located, has hosted the world’s deadliest conflict since WWII. The article focused on the park rangers who risk their lives to protect wildlife, including Virunga’s huge population of endangered mountain gorillas. Several gorillas had just been shot dead.
I cried, not just because the situation was sad, but also because hardly anyone knew about it. The lack of awareness seemed to diminish the rangers’ struggles. I had an overwhelming desire to tell people about it, thinking that maybe if they just knew what was going on, they’d start to care and maybe do something to help. My classmates agreed it was the right topic for our graphic novel and we began the long process of creating it.
As we researched, we realized we had put ourselves in an interesting predicament. The real story was, and is, still ongoing. We didn’t know how the narrative would end in real life, let alone in our fictional version. The more we read about Virunga, the more issues we uncovered: poaching, illegal coal trade, rebel militias, child soldiers, and rampant sexual violence. As our knowledge grew, so did our book, until it threatened to become unwieldy.
It was our story’s protagonist, 11-year-old Malika, who finally led us to our conclusion. Malika is an artist herself, ever-captivated by her surroundings and the animals that live there. With her artist’s eye she finds beauty amidst ugliness and wonder in what others are too quick to destroy. In the end we decided to offer not just revelation but comfort—an alternative picture of what could be if only the effort were made to achieve it.
Rhean Westerlund is a student at Stanford University.
The United States is a country deeply committed to principles. We believe that everyone, not just the rich, should have the opportunity to get ahead or otherwise lead a good life. We believe that everyone, not just the rich, should have a right to be heard when our country makes decisions about its future. And we believe that everyone, not just the rich, should have an opportunity to participate fully and meaningfully in society.
But we don’t always live up to our most cherished ideals. Our country’s history has been driven instead by a tension between our principles and our practices. Now and then, the disjuncture between our ideals and institutions has been exposed and led to dramatic reform. We’ve ended slavery. We’ve extended the franchise to women. And we’ve secured basic civil rights for all. Some of these projects remain works in progress. But the defining feature of our country is our commitment to making our most cherished principles real and meaningful rather than hollow.
Are we entering another moment in history in which the disjuncture between our principles and our institutions is being cast into especially sharp relief? Are new developments, such as the rise of extreme inequality, opening up new threats to realizing our most cherished principles? Can we build an open, democratic, andsuccessful movement to realize our ideals?
Occupy the Future is a series of opinion pieces that address these questions. Our simple purpose is to lay out what our country’s principles are, whether we’re living up to them, and what can be done to bring our institutions into better alignment with them.
Ethics and Inequality Should the Occupy movement oppose all forms of inequality? What makes a particular type of inequality objectionable? Rob Reich and Debra Satz
Political Inequality in America To what extent does our political system live up to the ideal of providing an equal voice to everyone? Is extreme inequality and corporate power undermining that principle? David Laitin
Economics and Inequality Why have income and wealth inequality in the United States reached unprecedented levels? Does this outcome reflect the operation of a fair and open contest? Kenneth Arrow
Education and Inequality How does our education system fail our commitment to equality of opportunity? How can educational access be equalized? Sean Reardon
Capitalism Versus the Environment Why do we continue to place so little weight on the possibility of catastrophic climate change and other environmental disasters? Is it because corporations, rather than individuals, drive politics and generate policy outcomes that cater more to short-term profits than the long-term well-being of humans? Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich
The Double Binds of Economic and Racial Inequality Does the persistence of racial inequalities call into question our commitment to a fair and open economy in which everyone, regardless of race, has equal opportunity? What might be done to end racial inequality once and for all? Prudence Carter
Thinking Big Have humanistic disciplines become too specialized to understand our current historical predicament? How can cultural studies help us grasp the significance of the Occupy movement? David Palumbo-Liu
Occupy Your Imagination How have the arts historically addressed inequities and injustice? How might the arts play a role in the Occupy movement? Michele Elam and Jennifer DeVere Brody
Momentum for a Millionaire’s Tax How does one decide how progressive our tax system should be? Is current practice inconsistent with our values? Cristobal Young
Inequality and Health in America How have health outcomes between the rich and the poor become so unequal? Is this form of inequality inconsistent with our ideals? Don Barr
The End of the End of History Is the law protecting the rights of everyone equally? In what ways do corporations, the rich, and the powerful establish laws and exert influence to further their interests? Gary Segura
like all true accelerationists i live close to the international date line so that i can truly occupy futurity, and also, so that it is christmas for me before it is for all u sorry fucks. merry christmas nerds.
ok guys i’ve just about had it i like to occupy myself imagining happy futures for the free! ES third years where they all end up happy, together and then there’s THIS foreshadowing:
and i happily brushed it off because i like to live a life of denial.
and then i came across a translation of the neo blue breathing excerpt (which we know involves rin, haru and makoto) we were given and
’In this vortex of feelings flowing now, each of us found their own path Our passion urges us to find a neo blue we’ve never seen before This moment breathe now breathe now breath now, let’s burn it into our memory Breathe now breathe now breathe now we won’t forget This irreplaceable blue where we were together’
“found their own path”??
“let’s burn it into our memory”???
“where we were together”?????
NO. NO I CANNOT BEAR THE THOUGHT OF THEM SPLITTING UP EVEN IF IT IS REALISTIC. NO. NO NO NO NO.
Editor’s Note: This piece is part of “Occupy the Future,” a series of essays by Stanford professors and students on lessons to be learned from the Occupy movement.
When I was five years old, my doctors discovered that the oddly shaped red mark on my left side was actually a rapidly developing benign tumor. I was left with a large scar that spans most of my left back.
The result of two surgeries and multiple hospital visits, my scar cost at least $30,000. Without medical insurance, my parents would have had to pay this sum out-of-pocket and our bank account would have been sucked dry. It is nothing but pure luck that my tumor developed at the time it did, when my family had insurance to cover the exorbitant price of my medical care. A year later, my father’s business nosedived, and my family could no longer afford family health insurance. Had my tumor developed just a year later, my family would have gone bankrupt from the medical expenses.
My scar is a symbol of luck.
After my family’s main source of income faltered, we could no longer afford the out-of-pocket coss for visits to the doctor’s office, and there were no decent community clinics in the area. My family’s annual household income placed us squarely in the working class; we never qualified for the type of aid afforded to the disadvantaged, and my parents, both small-business owners, did not have access to employer-provided health insurance. I went without insurance for the remainder of my childhood. Things like visits to the doctor’s office or the dentist’s chair were luxuries, not necessities. Except for occasional illnesses and that tumor, I was largely healthy.
Those who are unable to afford health insurance or decent health care are unable to regularly engage in preventative measures. Instead, these citizens are forced into an inefficient pattern where pure necessity drives them to emergency measures, after waiting hours in emergency rooms for care. Had my family lacked health insurance at the time of that tumor, I wouldn’t have been able to see the doctor at the first sign of trouble, and my tumor would have spawned something much more ominous: more uncertainty, more worry, more debt, and possibly bankruptcy and poverty.
People in the middle and lower end of the income distribution are increasingly facing the same risk. Not only should access to health insurance be increased, but the cost and quality of health care should also be equalized. Families should not have to think twice before sending their children to the doctor’s office. The burden from health-care costs isn’t just economic; consider the anxiety that is alleviated from having a safety net in case of illness or injury.
Fortunately, I had such a safety net at just the right time. I am one of the lucky ones. But there remain others out there who are not so lucky. Their scars are symbols of inequality.
Esther Oh is an undergraduate student at Stanford University.
Editor’s Note: A version of this op-ed appeared originally in The Stanford Dailyon November 30, 2011. It is part of “Occupy the Future,” a series on lessons to be learned from the Occupy movement.
The old proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child” captures the reality that people and families don’t exist in isolation, but instead are socially connected member-citizens of larger communities and, increasingly, the world. One of the most profound implications of this truth is an economic one: just as children exist in a larger social context with varying levels of contributions from family, teachers, doctors, and countless others who invest in their upbringing, so too do all products in society, from test scores to share prices, result from a series of interdependent group processes to which many people contribute.
Take my college degree, for example. While it took countless hours of my own work, I didn’t earn it on my own. In fact, if it weren’t for the support of myriad others, I’d likely still be cleaning floors in upstate New York. Contributions and investments from friends, family, and advisors made it possible for me to work full-time while slaving away at a bachelor’s degree. Overstretched co-workers, such as Jackie, took on parts of my workload so that I could study for tests and prepare class presentations. Fellow students offered advice on my admissions essays, lent me their expensive GRE prep materials, and made sure that I knew which internships and student positions were desirable. Administrators figured out how to make every credit that I took work for me. The city bus driver picked me up near my home every morning so I didn’t have to walk to work in the dark at 4 a.m. My family cooked meals for me because I had neither the time nor the energy to cook myself. Academic advisors and mentors encouraged me, believed in me, and kept me on course. The local union reps fought to protect the employee benefit program that allowed me to attend classes while working.
The list of people who contributed to my college degree goes on and on, yet, I get all the credit for the result. When we think about upward mobility and achieving economic success, we tend to think in terms of meritocratic ideals and individual success. But what does it say about our notions of success when some of the people who helped me climb the social ladder remain trapped at the bottom?
As the nation grapples with inequality, a question commonly asked is whether the extraordinary levels of income and wealth inequality in the United States are the result of a fair and open contest in which the most talented and productive secure the most rewards? Have the “rules of the game” become corrupt and unfair, calling into question the legitimacy of inequality? The trouble with this question is that it offers only two options: either the rules of society are fair and inequality is justified, or the game is corrupt and inequality is not justified. In other words, inequalities are a given, and even if we could root out corruption then whatever we’re left with—no matter the level of inequality or suffering it includes—would be legitimate and fair.
Unfortunately, corruption and nepotism aren’t new, nor are they restricted to Wall Street. So while this set up between fair or unfair inequality is alluring in its simplicity, we must resist this dichotomy and entertain alternatives. Fairness isn’t simply the absence of corruption, but rather an ongoing commitment to re-examine and re-evaluate the opportunities and outcomes that our society jointly produces. Corruption isn’t just about individual people taking advantage of their position, but also about a system that allows people to contribute to the success of others with no improvement to their own material standard of living. Why is it that chances for upward mobility are so few and far between? What I hope for is a shift in the way that we think about how value is created in our society, and a realization that what we produce—for better and for worse—is a collaborative endeavor.
Sharon Jank is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at Stanford University.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has ignited new questions about the relationship between democracy and equality in the United States. Are we also entering a moment in history in which the disjuncture between our principles and our institutions is cast into especially sharp relief? Do new developments–most notably the rise of extreme inequality–offer new threats to the realization of our most cherished principles? Can we build an open, democratic, and successful movement to realize our ideals? Occupy the Future offers informed and opinionated essays that address these questions. The writers–including Nobel Laureate in Economics Kenneth Arrow and bestselling authors Paul and Anne Ehrlich–lay out what our country’s principles are, whether we’re living up to them, and what can be done to bring our institutions into better alignment with them.
Contributors: David Grusky, Doug McAdam, Rob Reich, Erin Cumberworth, Debra Satz, Kenneth J. Arrow, Kim A. Weeden, Sean F. Reardon, Prudence L. Carter, Shelley J. Correll, Gary Segura, David D. Laitin, Cristobal Young, Charles Varner, Doug McAdam, Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich, Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich, Donald A. Barr, Michele Elam, Jennifer DeVere Brody, H. Samy Alim and David Palumbo-Liu.