Occupy Detroit responds to Jack Lessenberry

Here is an e-mail that arrived last night, responding to a recent column by Metro Times columnist Jack Lessenberry about the Occupy movement. —MJ


November 8, 2011

To Mr. Lessenberry and the editors of Metro Times:

In your recent column (“Unpleasant Truths,” Metro Times, Nov. 2-8, 2011) you served up several criticisms of the Occupy movement which are standard fare among many journalists and commentators. As yours are, we presume, intended constructively, we of the Occupy Detroit movement issue the following in response; which we hope will inform and motivate you and your readers.

The critique in your column represents, unfortunately, common misconceptions in the media about the movement. It consists of the sort of reflexive thinking characteristic of the general political and economic malaise which made the movement a necessary social, global response.

Your column first reflects a general misapprehension as to the nature of the movement. “Occupy” is the genesis of a social movement. It is not just another "hot issue." The movement comprises all issues. For too long the welfare and well being of the great majority has been marginalized in discourse and policy. As a result of this, the great majority have suffered terrible consequences, such as job loss and employment insecurity, increasing poverty, degradation of educational opportunities, and existential threats to our access to health care, housing, and a secure retirement.

Our movement stands for the proposition that the welfare and well-being of the great majority (the 99 percent) will henceforward be the central topic of all politics, policy, and law. Furthermore, we will no longer allow our just claim upon prosperity and well-being to be obscured by a minority of the ultra-rich or sociopathic global corporations interested only in enlarging their own power and wealth at our expense. We want it to be understood by all that Wall Street, to use a metaphor, lives only off of what we produce, and not the other way around.

In the Enlightenment of several hundred years ago, the people stopped asking themselves whether the kings were ruling countries well and started questioning whether kings should rule at all. Similarly today, the Occupy movement, and the millions around the world in solidarity with us, are no longer asking if Wall Street is ruling our societies well — clearly they're not — we are instead posing the question: Should Wall Street rule at all? Ultimately, as Occupy grows and organizes, the people will answer this question.

Secondly, your column made several specific claims and assertions which amounted to a denigration of the potential of this movement. These claims are nothing more than a reflection of the general failure of the media to distinguish this social movement from everyday issue politics, a failure from which we will now liberate you.

It is claimed the the “bailed-out bankers” and “plutocrats” are not worried about the Occupy movement, and that this somehow signals the movement isn't working. Well, we don't care if the plutocrats are scared or not because this movement is, at long last, about the 99 percent and not about how the plutocrats feel. Their fear, or lack of it, is no measure either of our success, or their highly questionable judgment

It is also claimed that “The Occupiers have no coherent agenda.” Let us clarify our agenda for you. We are not yet fighting for specific items on a list because what is at stake now is what has been at stake for generations — it is the right of the 99 percent to distinguish their collective interest from the greed and selfishness of the 1 percent. The first victory gained in our struggle is the right of the 99 percent to have an agenda. Until now, it is this right which has been ignored, dismissed or attacked.

We say: NO LONGER.

The scope of change needed to address the vast and structural inequalities is so broad that it cannot be translated into a few immediate demands. But rest assured, as this movement engages the imagination of people everywhere, concrete demands will emerge.

It is asserted in your column, Mr. Lessenberry, that the absence from this movement of leaders from the political class also reflects some sort of weakness. We count this as a mark of great strength. Time and again throughout history it is the upsurge of the people independent of the existing political class which has led to the lasting transformation of societies. It would be absurd to accept the leadership of status-quo politicians when our aim is to transform the status-quo. Politicians who recognize the necessity for fundamental transformation are as welcome to join us as anyone else — but we do not need their “leadership.” In short, we don't seek those kinds of leaders because this is a movement which will, in due course, enable the people to lead themselves to the transformation of their society, and of the world.

It is claimed that this movement will dissipate when it gets cold and the Occupy camps are dismantled. This may be what your typical 1 percenter hopes for, but they will be very disappointed. The ideas around which this movement has coalesced cannot be extinguished by cold, for the fires of freedom, social justice, democracy, and equality burn in the hearts of millions worldwide. Even now, in a thousand cities and on every continent, from New York to Tokyo, from Mexico to Germany, the sun is always rising on an Occupy movement somewhere in the world. And here in Detroit, we, like they, have daily acted to bring attention to the local miseries and injustices brought on by the greed, inhumanity, and corruption fostered by the system of the 1 percent.

While the camps may or may not last, the struggle we have begun in solidarity and in resistance to the present system will endure until it is transformed into a system of, by, and for the 99 percent.

Finally, in closing, we invite you Mr. Lessenberry and the editors of the Metro Times to join us and the citizens of Detroit, and people of the world, in the great call for unity and justice in our time.


by Consensus of

[the General Assembly / the Media Working Group]

Occupy Detroit

23 E. Adams St.

Detroit, Mich. 48226


About The Author

Michael Jackman

Born in 1969 at Mount Carmel hospital in Detroit, Jackman grew up just 100 yards from the Detroit city line in east Dearborn. Jackman has attended New York University, the School of Visual Arts, Northwestern University and Wayne State University, though he never got a degree. He has worked as a bar back, busboy,...
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