Alternative Banking meeting today
We’re meeting from 3-5pm today at 1401 International Affairs Building on Columbia Campus. That’s at Amsterdam and 118th, on the 14th floor. The meeting is open to everyone.
It’s going to be an interesting meeting today. Lots has happened this week with the movement, obviously, and it’s super important to keep the conversation going and productive. We got some press coverage in the Financial Times and perhaps because of that I’ve added quite a few new names to the email list. I’m very much looking forward to meeting the new members of our group.
Bloomberg’s decision with removing the tents from the park and the 2-month anniversary protests got lots of attention, not all of it positive. I participated in the protest the other day with my son, and since then I’ve had a few thoughts about it.
This movement is a big deal and can potentially be a bigger deal. It’s certainly one of the things I care about deeply. I understand people’s frustration and defiance, because even just thinking outside the system when it’s this huge and embedded is an act of defiance. But what I don’t want to see is the movement losing its head and giving in to anger and rage. Especially because it inevitably becomes something extremely narrow- us against the police, or us against Bloomberg.
The truth is the police, at least the ones on the ground in riot gear, have very little to do with setting up this system. Bloomberg has more to do with it, but he’s still just another scavenger picking out the juiciest meat of the system. What we need to do is understand the bigger picture and try to improve things in a meaningful and positive way.
That’s not to say that I want to work within the system to change it. I’m not that naive to think that people give up their honeypots so easily: this will be a war against corruption and vested interests. But I’d rather spend my time rooting out real corruption (like Jack Abramoff has done in this amazing Bloomberg article) and proposing realistic alternatives than being vaguely angry at the wrong things.
The democratic system that the OWS movement has created is based on the idea of mutual respect and trust. We need to enlarge that sense of trust to more and more people, including the cops and including the mayors. We want to invite them to join us, or at least to respect us.
It’s my experience that most people want to live in a just world- even if they take advantage of injustices for themselves. The majority of people working in the financial system see it as unfair and unreasonable. One reason they let things slide is that they really don’t believe the system could be changed; they don’t have the imagination or the faith to believe that. So that’s actually what we can and should provide: imagination and faith.
No system is perfect, of course, but there are certainly systems that are less imperfect, and we should be envisioning them and a path towards them which is reasonable and not terrifying. If we could do that we would get support rather than pepperspray. I know I’m sounding idealistic, but that’s actually what we need right now. After all the original protest started with nothing more than silly hand signals and ideals; its international growth has proven that ideals resonate with people.