Bank of America and the other biggest banks announced their intent to charge a monthly fee to their customers for the use of debit cards. Their customers stood up and said: “No!”. They not only said “No!” in Zucotti Park and the streets, many said “No!” by moving their deposits out of the big banks and into local and regional institutions, such as credit unions. The big banks got the message very quickly and backed down. They announced that they had decided not to charge the fee. Hooray for common sense!
Can we chalk it up as a victory for OWS? That’s a lot less certain. But, in my opinion, it is much less likely that the big banks would have changed course if there had not been an OWS movement. I hold this opinion for three reasons. One, without the OWS movement and the media attention it garnered it would have been a lot more difficult for the voices saying “No!” to be heard or to realize that they were part of something bigger. In this aspect, OWS acted as a megaphone. Two, OWS gave an immediate example that people acting in concert could affect change. I was quite surprised at how quickly individuals began moving money out of the big banks and how quickly the big banks noticed. Three, OWS showed that individual financial decisions can be a voice, one that speaks a language the big banks understand. As each of us decide what bank, what broker, what financial advisor and what fund manager we shall take our custom to, that choice matters. We have options about where to invest our 60% share of the wealth. If we don’t like how the poster boys of excess: the overly compensated executives and fund managers and bankers are behaving with our money, we have the ability to take it away. And, the poster boys have just been reminded of that. OWS has helped us realize that we aren’t stuck with what the 1% want to give us. Changing the business culture is possible. And, perhaps, not as difficult as we imagined.
As the police clear the tents in Zucotti Park and the other places around the world where the vanguard of the Occupy Wall Street Movement first made itself visible, it is important to note that they haven’t cleared the people, the idea or the movement away. I think making the big banks back down showed that OWS has momentum. Once a movement has momentum it is not arrested by clearing out a location. Just as the Occupy Wall Street Movement quickly spread from Zucotti Park around the world, it is not tied to Zucotti Park. The tents are not a requirement.
What is required is that the Movement remain visible and vocal. The movement can come back to the parks and streets where and when the need arises. None of the demonstrations or sit-ins of the sixties lasted nearly as long as the encampment in Zucotti Park. They appeared at one place briefly and then another. The important thing was that they kept appearing. And, back then, internet organized flash mobs were unknown. Having stayed at Zucotti Park so long, the OWS movement demonstrated the breadth of its support. By my guage, the OWS has a much broader base of support in the general populace than any of the 60’s protests and demonstrations.
One thing about a movement is that it has a flow, like a river. You can’t dam it completely, the water will always find a way around. If you force the river out of one place it flows to another. Where the river’s channel is narrowed, the water simply flows faster and more forcefully through it. Push the movement out of Zuccoti Park and it will simply appear somewhere else, and it may gain force in the process. So, let us not mourn the the loss of some tents. Let us instead realize that, like the river, the OWS movement flows on and is gaining volume and force.