I haven’t been paying much attention to Occupy Wall Street. It initially looked to me like the kind of disorganized protest that happens all the time, doesn’t have enough focus, and quickly dissipates when anarchists show up to co-opt the whole thing. But now that it has successfully sustained itself for a couple weeks, it’s clear my initial perception was wrong. Today I noticed they’ve released their first official statement, and I read through it, thinking it would give me a better idea of who this group is and what they hope to accomplish.

The minutes of the meeting that agreed to this document are fascinating. They ended a long discussion of this document by saying (shouting?) THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE! and it really does look like a working democracy. The meeting minutes are probably more useful for understanding the group than the official statement. It’s really impressive they’ve been able to hold this together so long without much formal leadership at all, and it’s exciting to be able to see the details of how that works in practice.

That said, the document itself isn’t great. It does very little to clarify what exactly the group is about, at least for someone like myself who is vaguely sympathetic. It’s just a long list of bad things corporations have done. The key question I had before reading it went entirely unanswered: is this group against corporations themselves, some general category of corporate behavior, or an unrelated collection of specific corporate misdeeds? It looks like the group itself hasn’t answered this question. I imagine there are more than a few dedicated communists in the group as well as people who maintain a generally positive view of corporations.

I mention all of this as context for a single word in this statement, which seems to exemplify where this group is right now. Emphasis added:

We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.

I'd speculate most adults in America don’t know when to use "which" and when to use "that." But surely at least one person in the working group that created this document understood the difference. Unfortunately the meeting at which this document was drafted has no published minutes to tell us if they collectively considered an alternative:

We come to you at a time when corporations that place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.

That single word change is pretty big. The published version suggests all corporations place oppression over equality. The alternative would say only some corporations do that, specifically those running our government. That single word is the difference between a campaign against corporate influence of government and a campaign against the very existence of corporations at all. Outside this statement, I don’t see much evidence Occupy Wall Street has defined its position on this issue. But here in this statement, they may have done so unintentionally.

I think we’re in good shape on the question of what democracy looks like. Is it too early to start worrying about what democracy writes like?

 

In case you missed it, the President King broke the law by spying on Americans without legal oversight. Though some in Congress knew about it, they apparently forgot their oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic when they decided not to tell America about it.

In other words, he has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. Or maybe it would be better to say he has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures. Or maybe the executive branch is just suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

This, after protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States and depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury and transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences. Also, he is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

Basically, it looks like he has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. Or maybe I'm thinking of a totally different George with plain, homely, thrifty manners and tastes.