One of the proudest moments of my life was when I was sitting in zip ties in the back of a paddy wagon in front of the White House. The crowd outside was cheering, my fellow arrestees were singing, and a young girl was screaming “Save Our Earth, Save Our Earth.” Sitting in the back of that paddy wagon, I understood that I was doing the right thing, that I was doing everything in my power to change the system and prevent a catastrophe. I’m proud to have participated in the action and I’m proud of what we accomplished.
The problem, the reason I was sitting in zip ties in a paddy wagon instead of in a congressperson’s office, is that we can’t build a carbon free economy under the current power structure. If we could, we would have by now. The policies that we need to enact to move in that direction are straightforward and well understood. The problem is that we don’t have a policy problem. We have a power problem. And power problems aren’t solved by lobbying for new laws and regulations. Power problems aren’t solved by working within the current system. Power problems are solved when the 99% take to the streets in nonviolent protest and begin using our bodies to disrupt business as usual and demand a new order. Power problems are solved when the people unite as one to demand change and begin building that change themselves.
#occupywallstreet was called by a small group with impeccable timing. Americans have seen three years of hard times now and many are at the end of their savings, their unemployment benefits, and their patience. The economy collapsed and our government funneled massive bailouts toward the richest among us while cutting our services and benefits. Republicans and Democrats alike have sold out the people. Those individuals within the government who work hard to make good policies that help Americans are like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. They can’t do this alone. They need the support of the people and they need us to take some responsibility for creating this change ourselves.
That’s why I participated in the Tar Sands Action and it’s why I’m participating in #occpuywallstreet. We’re fighting the same fight, the fight to restore our democracy, the fight to end corporate influence and rebuild a society based on cooperation, trust, and brotherly love. We can’t solve the carbon problem until we solve the power problem. And history has shown time and time again that only way to solve a power problem is for citizens to join together in the street and bring the great machine to a halt. Only then can we find a way forward together. Only then can we begin enacting the policies we need to build our new carbon-free economy.