Noam Chomsky is pleasantly surprised at the success of the Occupy movement.
Coverage of Occupy has been mixed. At first it was dismissive, making fun of people involved as if they were just silly kids playing games and so on. But coverage changed. In fact, one of the really remarkable and almost spectacular successes of the Occupy movement is that it has simply changed the entire framework of discussion of many issues. There were things that were sort of known, but in the margins, hidden, which are now right up front – such as the imagery of the 99% and 1%; and the dramatic facts of sharply rising inequality over the past roughly 30 years, with wealth being concentrated in actually a small fraction of 1% of the population.
For the majority, real incomes have pretty much stagnated, sometimes declined. Benefits have also declined and work hours have gone up, and so on. It’s not third world misery, but it’s not what it ought to be in a rich society, the richest in the world, in fact, with plenty of wealth around, which people can see, just not in their pockets.
All of this has now been brought to the fore. You can say that it’s now almost a standard framework of discussion. Even the terminology is accepted. That’s a big shift.
Earlier this month, the Pew foundation released one of its annual polls surveying what people think is the greatest source of tension and conflict in American life. For the first time ever, concern over income inequality was way at the top. It’s not that the poll measured income inequality itself, but the degree to which public recognition, comprehension and understanding of the issue has gone up. That’s a tribute to the Occupy movement, which put this strikingly critical fact of modern life on the agenda so that people who may have known of it from their own personal experience see that they are not alone, that this is all of us. In fact, the US is off the spectrum on this. The inequalities have risen to historically unprecedented heights. In the words of the report: “The Occupy Wall Street movement no longer occupies Wall Street, but the issue of class conflict has captured a growing share of the national consciousness. A new Pew Research Center survey of 2,048 adults finds that about two-thirds of the public (66%) believes there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor – an increase of 19 percentage points since 2009.”
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