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Movement Against Corporate Greed Occupies Asheville, Inspires Many

by Christian Diaz, News Editor

Watching the Occupy Wall Street movement blossom despite a media blackout during the past weeks has been truly inspiring. Last week I visited Pritchard Park after attending Building Bridges, an anti-racism community workshop. At the park I found a crowd operating much like our student caucus.

When the Occupy movement started I worried it would fizzle after a day of protest. Now I see it has spread to Asheville.

I first became interested in the movement when the anti-corporation magazine Adbusters announced September 17th as the date when a projected 20,000 citizens of all creeds would camp in front of the global financial district and stay there until a single demand was addressed: the removal of corporate influence over use of public money.

Since June I’ve fantasized about a vast public outcry that would wake up the silent majority. We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore, right? Well, that one demand has been made elusive by the media.

The Occupy movement has highlighted the problem that progressives have faced since the Civil Rights movement. We have seen the ideological ascent of a united and invigorated Right versus the fractured nature of the Left.

To paraphrase Immanuel Wallerstein, our generation is nestled in an era constructed by the Right. In the year 2011 we are still bound by the Reagan legacy which emphasizes globalization rather than development, or profit over people.

We have witnessed the imposition of neoliberalism in countries throughout the Third world. For Mexicans and Greeks alike this has meant the deconstruction of the welfare state, the reversal of capital gains and the deregulation of finance. Now the United States is experiencing this undoing of the social fabric too, though to a lesser extent.

United States foreign policy since the 1970s has made the third world poorer and politically more volatile in order to subvert global resistance to Yankee hegemony. Because of this foreign policy, known as the Washington Consensus, Governments throughout have abandoned the Left and adopted a fundamentalist belief in the market.

Yet the global capitalist system is not sustainable. The invisible hand of the market does not exist, and as many Wilson students know, infinite growth is not possible on a finite planet.

Marginalized people have suffered this reality for a long time. Now that the exploitation of the one percent has touched first world people we see first world resistance in the form of Occupy.

The concept of white privilege, namely how it perpetuates itself because the dominant group is conditioned to see privilege as a natural circumstance, struck me during Building Bridges. After all, we live in a meritocracy and if somebody doesn’t like their position within the social hierarchy it is their responsibility to work hard and lift themselves to prosperity.

If white people have more advantages in life it’s because they’ve worked hard to achieve such status, according to the meritocracy myth. Building Bridges often inspires people to take ownership of their privilege, a painful process for some folk who realize that although they detest racism, their actions and decisions nonetheless contribute to the status quo.

As a very privileged person attending a private school in the first world, it’s become painful for me to come to terms with how my lifestyle contributes to global inequality. I’m ashamed for ever complaining about the food at Gladfelter or for the heavy work-load that Wilson throws at me.

I hope that we as a college can have a discussion about how our actions and decisions also contribute to the status quo. What Occupy demonstrates is that the World System is in a structural crisis.

The media and politicians continue to frame our financial crisis as a temporary glitch in the market, yet the reality is that our current economic model is corrupt, unjust and unsustainable. We are nearing a tipping point. Will Occupy finally unify the voices of the left and help set a progressive agenda for our communities?

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