Occupy What Street?

We knew it would happen eventually; the eye sore of a tent city in Zuccotti Park and dozens of other sites around the country wouldn’t be tolerated forever. Sure enough, they are being forcibly removed by police with pepper spray and horses. Like all parties, it had to end sometime; but not like all parties, this one has served a real purpose. It’s brought attention and popular support to a whole host of issues at the core of our democracy and economy. The question is where does the movement go from here and how will leaders emerge to guide it there.

Sally Kohn, in this CNN article Occupy Wall Street’s Next Move, offers some predictions about how things are going to play out over the next few months. She provides some keen insight, but the one point that resonated with this blog was her prediction that OWS would begin to split into factions. Till now, their cohesiveness has been somewhat of an illusion as no one had really drawn any lines to have disagreements about; they pitched a big tent and invited everyone in… literally.

But now as the movement matures and becomes more focused and defined choices are going to be made and some people are going to inevitably have their opinions compromised. WAIN Street has made it fairly clear about what we think OWS should shift its focus to. Challenge Wall Street to use their considerable talents and skills in financial innovation to serve mid-market and small businesses. De-emphasize the condemnation of big banks, big business, and profit seeking; strengthen the message around working together to alter the system already in place with better incentives and regulation to work for the good of everyone.

However, it’d be foolish to hide from the fact that there are a number of passionately held and very legitimate competing causes that could take over the OWS movement. Frustration over corporate influence in Washington, demands of accountability for the 2008 crisis, and far reaching concerns about income inequality and social mobility, among other things, are all mixed into this melting pot of ideas and causes. While this broadness is partly responsible for the initial success of OWS, it should not cause us to shy away from the debate: What next and why? The biggest danger for Occupy Wall Street is that it chooses not to have this discussion, loses momentum, and simply ends… full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.