Thoughts on Occupy Wall Street in Mexico City, Change, and Revolution

The Occupy Wall Street movement has hit Mexico City. There are campouts along Paseo Reforma, one of the major arteries in the city, as well as in the main plaza of Coyoacán.

The first time I visited the centro, I was handed a flyer advertising an upcoming protest. A selection from the handout (translated from Spanish) reads:

In the national scope, there are 40 families that control the political classes and the forces of the establishment who have stolen the wealth generated by all of us and, acting like criminals, have been able to maintain the functioning of the destructive system.

The actual war against the people, disguised as a war against narcotic trafficking, has implanted a state of terror through torture, forced disappearances and assassinations, whose real objective is to keep the population terrified and repress social protest.

we are the 99% signOne of the things I find most fascinating about Latin America is the revolutionary mindset. Before I came to the region in February of last year, I fueled my interest by reading Che Guevara’s diaries, Silence on the Mountain, and books from other revolutionary greats like Nelson Mandela and Gandhi.

I even entertained fantasies about one day being a part of ending global injustice and inequality.

The first year I spent in the region was pretty disheartening. Some places I visited, like Leon, Nicaragua, had already seen their revolution. In Honduras, I arrived a year after President Manuel Zelaya was ousted by the army. The energy of the country was tense and straight up dangerous – not a place I’d stick around.

Finally, in Colombia, I got my first revolutionary fix. While I was there, the proposed Law 30, which sought to privatize public universities, was causing dissent across the nation. I had the opportunity to interview a student involved in the protests (Spanish speakers can watch the interview video).

Occupy Wall Street signNow, the buzz word of the season is Occupy Wall Street, which has spread throughout the US and the world. I spent some time walking through the encampment in Coyoacán. Aside from promotion of the catchphrase, “We are the 99%,” the encampment is also being used as a platform for all of the primary issues of our generation.

Banners advertise solidarity with indigenous rights groups. Signs encourage people to ride more bikes and less cars. One states that land isn’t for selling, it’s for defending. A makeshift recycling station is set up.

recycling stationShining a light on negativity and being focused on change is great. Anything that awakens the consciousness of the people and aims to encourage evolution is positive.

But I have to wonder how effective all of these movements will actually be.

I tend to learn towards Gandhi’s sentiment, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” For this reason, I keep my money in a small banking institution. I try to shop locally and avoid franchises. I buy organic products which haven’t been tested on animals. I am a vegetarian with vegan aspirations. I do my best to limit use of plastic bags. I take personal responsibility for the state of the world and I think my lifestyle reflects that. If I learn of something more I could be doing personally that will positively affect the world and those in it, I’ll make the move.

I think in terms of solutions. If I see a problem, I don’t dwell in it, but immediately seek a resolution.

Camping out in the streets brings light to the problem. Great. A few specific issues have been outlined in Occupy Wall Street’s call to action, such as the fact that the power corporations exercise is wildly out of control and has been left unchecked for too long. This is a first step.

But what’s the answer? What can the individual do to change the state of things? Where are the defined solutions and propositions? What demands are being issued to world governments? How can we actually bring about a change instead of just saying that we need one?

Mary Sanchez writes: “It’s time to launch Occupy Wall Street, Phase II. The part where the movement articulates what it wants, wins over a large bloc of the public and fights to get its demands enacted.”

We have a long way to go.

  • It’s sad but I’ve become so disheartened by the truths of our society (at least in the U.S.) that i’ve become immune to the injustice. i’ve fallen victim to the choice of ignorance as so many people do in order to go about their daily lives – my daily life.

    it’s easier to hide from the situation than do something about it. i hope movements such as this do help influence the majority and change can actually become a possibility.

  • gypsy.jack

    You do a very fine job expressing sentiments similar to mine about the ideology of these protests and perhaps a better way of effecting change. It is slightly ironic that the social media through which these protests spread are often owned by the corporations they want to bring down..

  • Chrysyl

    This is the sentiment that largely fills the minds and hearts of those empathize or sympathize or support the occupiers. I don’t have the answer to how Phase II can begin or manifest itself but I am optimistic that it will. The movement will evolve because it has to. It is unique in a sense that the occupiers are not just one face, they are also not after just one thing, there are a lot of differences among themselves, and there are a lot of different ideas on how to accomplish the end goal. 

    I have no doubt it will all unfold on it’s own time. It might come in the form of a bill or initiative or a candidate that will be proposed or supported by the occupiers. What needs to happen is for the occupiers (I can only call myself a supporter as I haven’t actively been involved) not to forget the power that they have by simply being a part of a democracy, by being a citizen of the United States. That when the time comes when their vote and number will really count, they will similarly exercise that right and not only their right to protest.  

    The wonderful thing about everything is that the mood has changed. The complacency that has persisted for decades has found its demise and people are paying attention. As an organizer, this is incredibly exciting for me. The apathy in this country is unbelievable. Change doesn’t happen over night. The occupiers are new to this, there hasn’t been a protest of this magnitude since civil rights movement, with a bigger challenge of not having a solitary demand. Not to mention the fact the culprits, as we’ve all been informed holds the majority of the wealth. As we all know, money is power. A lot of money, is a lot of power. And they are going to put up a big fight. It’s going to be a very brutal one and it’s going to take a long time but the great thing is that it has finally started. 

    We do indeed have a long way to go. 

  • Yes, many live in ignorance, but it doesn’t have to be like that. If the movement is only able to achieve a small awakening in some of the people, that would be a small win.

  • Thanks Jack. I hadn’t thought about that, but then again what isn’t owned by a large corporation?

  • I suppose I worry that if no concrete solutions are defined, and no actions being taken to achieve those solutions, people will become disillusioned and give up eventually. I hope you’re right.

  • We have a lot of similar views political views and I’d just like to add my 2 cents to your article which I enjoyed. I see the movement as having brought inequality to the forefront of the American people’s consciousness. It is calling for greater democracy and greater accountability for banks and indirectly the politicians that bailed them out. The horizontal leadership and the general assembly give people a taste of real direct democracy and not the simulacrum that currently exists in the US. That OWS doesn’t have THE one answer is probably because no one does. We didn’t get to this point where banks got 4.7 trillion dollars in bailout money to have it be fixed by one answer. As Dr. Cornel West says, “only organized people can defeat organized money.” We can’t look to OWS for the answer, we have to all come to the answer together. OWS is just the one thing bringing our own lack of answers into focus. Then, should we be looking to government to fix things for us when they are the ones that helped get us into this situation? This is not to say that government can’t be a part of the solution but it is obviously not the solution itself. Maybe phase 2 means the 99% actually becomes politically active (with voting being the political floor not the political ceiling) and starts to participate in civil society and democracy. 

     If I had a wishlist of things to change/demands/solutions, a few of them would be these (in no particular order): 1) Trust bust the banks. 2) Reimplement Glass-Steagall 3) End corporate personhood 4) Ban derivatives 5) really enforce Sarbanes-Oxley on corporate and criminal fraud accountability 6) Uptick rule on shortselling 7) Tobin Tax BTW, my family loves Bogota! Keep up the good writing.

  • If only someone like you was organizing things :)

  • I was involved in political work for years and then I leave the country and within a few months the revolutions starts. Go figure! Obviously I was the stumbling block! ;)

  • Jana Daines

    revolutionary movements are seeking to change the world; sometimes I see it
    as futile; but I know that they are out there to make a difference. But my
    belief is actually the same as yours. It is true indeed, that if each one of
    us will be the change that we want to be; then the world will be a better
    place finally.

  • Sandy Summers

    It’s pretty
    chaotic, scary, and sad at the same time. What is happening in Mexico is also
    happening in other parts of the world.And I wonder, is it all worth it? Why
    does it have to be as traumatic as this when things could be arranged and
    dealt with in a positive approach. 

  • Ricky Denunzio

    I hope the leaders
    of these countries would realize that war often backlashes. That bloodshed is
    not worth the power and dominion over people.