Guest Commentary – Occupy Wall Street and Arab Spring
If Arab Spring is a protest against unjust government and Occupy Wall Street is also a protest against unjust business, does that make Occupy Wall Street equal to Arab Spring? This is a question that has been asked these past few weeks as the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread across the country. It seems that a majority of bloggers, journalists, and even protesters hold the opinion that to even compare the two is an insult to those protesting in North Africa. This then may a surprise to some of them as a group of Cairo protesters has written an open letter published in The Guardian which claims kinship with the protesters in the US. While, on the surface, the two protests seem vastly different there can be detected some basic underlying similarities between the two in that they both, as stated in the letter, protest the “unchecked ravages of global capitalism” which helps support dictators and economic inequality found around the world. While dissenters might look only at the level of violence threatening the protesters as a way to judge them, it would be a mistake to undervalue the seriousness of either protest in their fight for equality.
The brave protestors in the MALTE (Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt) region are facing serious threats of violence mainly from their government and were driven to protest from a much more dire situation than the protesting Americans. This has led some Arab activists to maintain that the values of the Arab Spring are grander because they address the denial of fundamental civil and human rights. While there is truth in the fact that Arab Spring deals with a more potent version it is also true that there is no competition over who has the more righteous protest. Both protests seek to improve their governments and bring equality back to their countries. This statement is not meant to detract from the severity of the repercussion faced by those in North Africa nor is it meant to give the Occupy movement more credit than it deserves. But it must be remembered that both protests are important to the foundations of their respective countries. The protests show the beginnings of a worldwide demand for reform of the sometimes unscrupulous activities of capitalism.
This recent downward trend of business seeking higher profits through shady dealings and morally reprehensible sources is not profitable to the general public and the working class backs upon which it is built. These protests are the culmination of a system of repression and disenfranchisement of billions of people across the globe. It would not come as a surprise for more protests to spring up; in Europe, in Asia, Australia, South America. People will see the others fighting for what is right and look around only to find injustice in their own back yard. These iniquities are found in sweat shops and chocolate bean farms, in child labor and forced prostitution and the governments and organizations which turn a blind eye to them and even in some cases openly endorse them by ignoring the actions of dictators because of cooperation with their capitalist goals (America is a prime example of this one). How much longer will these protests have to go on? How much more blood will have to be shed in order to stop the unethical practices of blood diamonds, government allowed monopolies, and economic disparity within and between countries?
These protests must continue, whether with violence or not. Those in power must know that they can no longer continue in the footsteps of history; we must forge onward and create new economic policies and international interactions. In the wise words of the ‘Comrades of Cairo’ who wrote the open letter of support linking Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street “…It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose. If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we have won back, then we will surely lose…[T]he occupations must continue, because there is no one left to ask for reform. They must continue because we are creating what we can no longer wait for.” These protests may seem like David against Goliath but if enough people regain their voice and demand that equality become more than a word, that it become an action and a truth again. Then we will be creating a new future for us and for the world.
Kelsey Cute, Junior