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Reflections of a Wandering Cypriot Philosopher Part 1

occupy wall streetNEW YORK CITY - Writer and philosopher Maria Prodromou reflects on the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement and its lessons for Cyprus. The article is published in six parts.

Part I - Last Saturday I was at Washington Square Park where the Occupy Wall Street movement held its 2nd General Assembly.

People of all backgrounds and ages gathered together and shouted a loud and clear “We are the 99% and we’ve had enough!”

occupy wall streetWhat are they protesting about? It seems that there are as many reasons as the people in the movement. But here is a rough (but not exhaustive) summary:  Corporate Greed, unemployment, the destruction of the middle class, the concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1% who also control policy and the politicians, and lack of democratic accountability. 

With a little imagination and putting cardboard to good use, people raised their slogan sprayed placards and chanted in polymorphous unity that they are the majority and that they are fed up with the injustices that are being perpetrated supposedly for them and in their name but ultimately end up being injustices perpetrated against them that rob them of their future.

occupy wall streetA Gulf War veteran was holding up a sign which said “I served the United States in the Persian Gulf. I served for all Americans, not just the white-insured-Christian-employed-wealthy-straight-corporate.” A woman in her twenties held a St. Augustine quote: “without justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?” A boy not more than 10 years old was carrying a placard with “Don’t be greedy.  Share”. Two septuagenarian ladies on their makeshift cardboard signs demanded “Regulate Wall Street” and “Protect Our Children and Godchildren. Regulate Walls Street”.  A man in his late thirties asked: “Where is our bailout?”

And my favorite: a Vietnam War veteran with a cardboard sign held across his neck which said: ”63 year old. ’68-69 Combat Vet. Run 16-worker construction company struggling to stay above water. Sick and tired of endless war for oil. Sick and tired of paying more taxes from my business than most mega corporations. Sick and tired of the 1% super rich stealing everything from the 99% of us who make everything. WE ARE THE 99% YOU ARE THE 99%“

occupy wall streetWhites, blacks and everyone in between; queer, straight, and some just simply weird (after all, this is New York!), toddlers and their parents (“I am here for you because you are here for me” said the baby’s t-shirt), Veterans, students, teachers (“I am a history teacher and I want Wall Street to stop destroying my class”), workers, unions, and so so many more…

People were singing – I had the pleasure of listening to a very good performance of Bob Dylan’s “All along the watchtower” - dancing, talking to each other, listening to one another. Students sat on the lawn and discussed what direct democracy meant for each and every one of them, planning the next step of the movement. They didn’t just talk about Direct Democracy, they practiced it by giving everyone a voice, and by being there they were claiming it. Some were banging bongos, and there even was a man with a trombone.  The carnivalesque married with radical politics.

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