The Power of Polycentric Movements – Occupy Wall Street Goes Global – 80+ Countries, 1,500+ Cities
“At bottom, riots are always the language of the unheard” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Having spent 24 straight hours at Occupy Wall Street in NYC on October 5th – 6th, I wanted to write up a series of blog posts on the movement, this being my first. I desire to do this for a few reasons. First, for the longest time, there was a media blackout on the movement. It was only covered by alternative new sources like Democracy Now. It wasn’t until 700 people were arrested on the Brooklyn bridge has the movement got much attention from mainstream news, and coverage for the most part has been quite shallow.
But it has become hard for the mainstream news to ignore this movement now, as today there were rallies in over 1,500 cities across the world, including every state in the United States, and in over 80 different countries. Tens of thousands rallied all around the world from large cities to small towns in protest against the greed and growing political power of multinationals as well as the growing disparity between the supper rich (top 1 percent), and everyone else (the other 99 percent). “We are the 99 percent” is one of the common cries of the protesters.
Second, I stand in solidarity with many of the protesters, especially in regard to the growing “wealth gap” in the United States. One of the reasons that underdeveloped countries remain underdeveloped is because the wealth of the country resides in the top 1 percent and everyone else is dirt poor. When a country has a growing middle class, like Brazil, we consider this healthy. But over the last 25 years in America, the rich are getting richer, and the 2010 census showed that we have the largest number of Americans (46.2 million) living under the poverty level in the 52 years the bureau has been publishing figures on it. An important article entitled Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%, written by Joseph Stiglitz an American economist, professor at Columbia University and recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences breaks it down for us. He says, “The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.” This ought to concern us as Christ followers. Jesus had much to say about wealth inequality, just check out the not so popular Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6.
Third, as I’ve been actively observing this movement, I have been awakened freshly to the power of polycentric movements. Occupy Wall Street practices direct democracy. It is not a hierarchical organization. While polycentric might sound a bit eccentric as a term, it is an important concept for us to understand. Polycentric implies a broadening circle of leadership which is neither centralized nor decentralized. Polycentric means that there are many centers of leadership that interrelate with one another. In this series of post, I will share with you some videos which I took of a public assembly in NYC, demonstrating some ways in which this has fleshed its way out in this movement, which has gone global.
Finally, as one who spent some time in NYC, talking with many protesters and protesting myself, I feel that the group has some concrete goals and hopes which are not talked about much in mainstream media, so I hope to bring that to your attention. Hugo Assman in his book Theology for a Nomad Church insists that awareness of oppression must be the foundation of any contemporary theology. He says, “If the state of domination and dependence, in which two-thirds of humanity live, with an annual toll of thirty million dead from starvation and malnutrition, does not become the starting point for any Christian theology today, even in affluent and powerful countries, then theology cannot begin to relate meaningfully to the real situation. It’s questions will lack reality and not relate to real men and women.”