Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rights Readers Authors on Occupy Wall Street

Before I survey the commentary on the Occupy movement from authors we have read, and in view of the police actions we've seen in the last 24 hours I'd just like to point out to my Esteemed Readers this October 27 press release, Amnesty International Urges Restraint as Police Clamp Down on Occupy Wall Street Protests and with a further nod to PEN, their press release from yesterday, PEN Calls for Press Freedom at Occupy Sites.

Salman Rushdie at Occupy Wall Street NYC, 10/16/11 from cathleen falsani on Vimeo.

To date the website OccupyWriters has collected hundreds of endorsements from authors in support of the Ocuppy movement. In addition to Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children), some of the writers our Loyal Readers will recognize are Lawrence Weschler (Calamities of Exile), Ann Patchett (Bel Canto), Lorraine Adams (Harbor), Daniel Alarcón (Lost City Radio), Junot Díaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), Greg Campbell (Blood Diamonds), Adam Hochschild (King Leopold's ghost) and Barbara Ehrenreich.

Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, is probably the least surprising name on that list. Her book about living among low-wage earners is ten years old and available in a newly revised edition. She was interviewed at WNYC about it last August. As the Occupy movement took off, she explored the intersection between the protestors and the homeless community,

In Portland, Austin and Philadelphia, the Occupy Wall Street movement is taking up the cause of the homeless as its own, which of course it is. Homelessness is not a side issue unconnected to plutocracy and greed. It’s where we’re all eventually headed—the 99 percent, or at least the 70 percent, of us, every debt-loaded college grad, out-of-work school teacher and impoverished senior—unless this revolution succeeds.
Sonali Kolhatkar's Uprising radio also features this interview on the topic with Ehrenreich.

Other authors have weighed in around the country and abroad:

Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walkingstopped by Occupy Portland,
The Occupy Portland folk are protesting corporate greed, the concept of corporate citizenship (foisted upon us courtesy of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision) and the lack of accountability of the government to the people. At the same time, they are promoting local, sustainable, diverse economies; the right to privacy and Internet freedoms; free education; clean air and water; meaningful work and fair taxes. 
There’s been a lot of talk in the media about how “incoherent” the Occupy events are, but that seems to me like a pretty coherent program for a people-focused democracy, in place of a congress beholden to corporate interests.
Preach it, Sister!

Mark Abley (Spoken Here. Travels Among Endangered Languageswriting his language column from Montreal, explores the layered meaning of the movement's terminology,
An occupation is a job. But it's also a seizing of control...
Amira Hass (Drinking the sea at Gaza), also reporting from Montreal, discovers another layer of meaning for members of Canada's first nations who,
find the choice of the term "occupy" very disturbing. For them it represents a very real history of the dictatorship of the material profit mentality, to the degree of genocides. Are we part of the 99 percent or outside it, they ask themselves.
Mark Hertsgaard (Earth Odyssey), focuses on the success of the Keystone Pipepline protests at the White House,
Already, the political conversation has changed in the US. Although much of the media coverage of the Occupy movement has been simple-minded or even hostile, there has been a great deal of it, and the effect has been to amplify the movement's message and gain it followers. Now, budget cuts for workers and pensioners are no longer the sole focus of political debate; requiring corporations and the rich to pay their fair share of taxes is also on the agenda.
Arundhati Roy (The Cost of Living), interviewed on Democracy Now, has a different kind of pipeline in mind,
[The] vision has to be the dismantling of this particular model, in which a few people can be allowed to have an unlimited amount of wealth, of power, both political as well as corporate... And that has to be the aim of this movement. And that has to then move down into countries like mine, where people look at the U.S. as some great, aspirational model. And I can tell you that there is such a lot of beauty still in India. There’s such a lot of ferocity there that actually can provide a lot of political understanding, even to the protest on Wall Street. To me, the forests of central India and the protesters in Wall Street are connected by a big pipeline, and I am one of those people in that pipeline.
Last but not least, of course Pete Seeger (The Protest Singer) showed up:

More on the Occupy movement and human rights in another post.

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