Occupy Wall Street : a Legacy from the Civil Rights Movement ?

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Occupy Wall Street : A Legacy from the Civil Rights Movement ?

Studying history in the making seems a strenuous task. Many will say that we lack detachment and objectivity to judge the sequence of events. But if we base our study upon previous historical facts, and thus draw a strict comparison between past and present, bringing to light what the actual history is or is not, then the objectivity seems somewhat restored. We will thus see through this essay the parallel that can be drawn between the Civil Rights movement of the sixties, through the Port Huron Statement of the Student for a Democratic Society (SDS), and the newborn Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS), through its Declaration of Occupation of New York City. As history repeats itself, we will first see the similarities between the two movements, and then study what are the advantages that one may have upon the other.

Rooted in social crisis, both movements rose out of a deep feeling of inequality. Even if the causes seem different, we see, through the demands both movements make, that what triggers those movements is rooted in the same reality. Complaints about a corrupt political system, growing social inequalities, ongoing violence inside and outside the country... Either in the 1960s or nowadays, those issues created an urge in people's mind who figured that it was about time to do something, to remind their government and leaders that they could not act with complete impunity in a so called representative democracy.

If we consider the Port Huron Statement on one hand, and the Declaration of Occupation of New York City on the other, we can see a difference in shape and yet not in pattern, in words and yet not in ideas. Both texts rely on an anaphora to give strength to their content. On one hand, the Port Huron Statement claims that “We would... We oppose...” while the Declaration of Occupation states “They have... They continue...”. Even if this shows a difference in the point of view they adopt (the first texts is demanding something while the second denounces), the effect on the public opinion is to be the same. It is a pounding cri du coeur which aims at making people realize how grand is the injustice and how strong is the offense. This enhance the use of pathos, which may be efficient if we consider that many people who read this might recognize themselves in what is stated. And the pounding rhythm given by the anaphoras renders the point even more striking. Then, if we consider the content of the texts, we can also draw analogies between the concepts and ideas that are at stake, even if the words and examples used are somewhat different. The main common topic they denounce is the discrimination both organizations have witnessed throughout the years. In the context of the Port Huron Statement the discrimination mainly concerned the Black population, and it has spread to a greater number of “social classes” since (“... based on age, the color of one's skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation”). But they both also denounce the drift of a government which is perceived as lying to its people (“The proclaimed peaceful intentions”, Port Huron Statement), which has “sold our privacy as a commodity” (Declaration of Occupation), which chooses profits over human beings, by reducing them “to the status of things” in one case (Port Huron Statement) or by continuing “to block generic forms of medicine... in order to protect investments” (Declaration of Occupation). A government which, according to them, wastes its natural resources for always more benefit, makes promises they won't keep, colonize “at home and abroad” under the pretext of maintaining peace and which threatens the entire humanity with a nuclear weapon. And while the Port Huron Statement claims that “two thirds of mankind suffer under nourishment”, the latest reports on food situation in the world reveal that in twenty-six countries, hunger rate is still alarming (report of the...
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