An Open Letter to #OccupyWallStreet: You Are Not The 99%—But You Could Be – By @BlackCanseco

by Karoli on November 4, 2011 · 131 comments

Ed. Note: This post is by @BlackCanseco, a twitter friend. Follow him, please.

Dear Occupy Wall Street,

For 45 days and counting most of you have braved weather, media scrutiny, and lately, police opposition to boldly proclaim yourselves “The 99%” and stand up to the 1%. Just one problem: You are not the 99%. Not even close. You don’t speak for the masses of America.

As part of America’s 99%, allow me to explain:

According to the US Census Bureau, as of November 1, 2011 there are an estimated 312, 540,000 people in America.

Now given the perceived bias of corporate media and other forces possibly at play towards OWS, let’s go only by #OWS numbers for discussion. Based on info and estimates directly from #OWS participants that I’ve regularly spoken with from #OWS encampments in LA, Oakland, NYC, Chi, ATL, there are, at best, about 5,000 participants at any given time at any given #OWS encampment. But also for discussion’s sake, let’s assume that even these first-person anecdotal estimates are low—by half; let’s say that there’s actually about 10,000 OWS folk encamped/publically protesting in each of our 50 states. Or better yet, let’s again double the estimate and assume there’s 20,000 people in each state marching, sitting, camping out in the name of all movements, “Occupy”.

So 20,000 folk x 50 states is roughly 1 million people. That’s 1 million out of America’s population of 312 million-plus citizens. Folks, that’s not 99%. That’s not 9%. That’s not even 0.9%. In fact, 1 million out of 312 million is exactly .0032% of America’s current population as of this November. So yea… Zero Point Zero Zero Three Two… Percent. That’s what Occupy Wall Street really comes down to: Thirty-two thousands of a single percent of American people. But then again, “We’re the 32thousandthsOfAPercent!” doesn’t look as good as a URL or twitter handle. Definitely doesn’t look as sexy as “99%” does on a t-shirt, either.

In contrast, Apple just sold 4 million units of the iPhone 4S in its first week of release. Adele has sold over 2 million copies of “21,” her latest album so far. “The Mentalist”—a CBS show no one I know has ever watched and I’ve barely heard of and isn’t even in the Top Ten pulled over 12 million viewers for its most recent episode alone. Justin Bieber has 14 million followers on Twitter. Justin Effing Bieber has 140 times as many followers as @OccupyWallSt—the biggest official account dedicated to Occupy Wall Street (roughly 100K followers as of this writing). Hell, I’d be more accurate numbers-wise in calling American Idol’s voting base ‘The 99%’ than conceding that title to the #OWS movement.

Now to be fair, maybe my math is faulty. Maybe Occupy Wall Street’s participant numbers are bigger than anything I’ve seen online, bigger than anything being reported by the co-opted press, and bigger than anything I’ve seen live. But even if you doubled the most generous of accepted calculations a couple more times, one thing’s empirically certain:

A good 99% of the country isn’t out occupying anything beyond their own daily lives. And one big reason for that is OWS hasn’t engaged the actual 99% much at all.

There are 311 million people out here. WE are the real 99% and OWS has largely ignored us in favor of coalescing with each other and yelling at three comparably smaller albeit exponentially more influential groups—i.e. the Obama Admin (roughly 100 members deep) & The US Congress (about 538 deep) and “Wall Street” (a few thousand folks at best) about how you’ve finally had enough of all of them. It’s like the old 300 movie—a few noble souls vs. the savage gluttonous hordes backed by their foul masters. But lest we forget: The Spartans didn’t actually win it themselves. In fact—all other historical conflations aside—it wasn’t until an additional army of reinforcements joined the fight that the Spartans won.

So instead of camping outside of office buildings—where OWS’ presence has not altered, delayed or impeded one single business transaction—why not focus on the actual 99% out here? Why not hit up neighborhoods, churches, schools, townhalls, etc. and physically recruit the average American? Why not knock on your neighbor’s door and ask them to join OWS; and when they say “why?” make your case.

You’ll find that many of us agree with OWS. We want corruption out of politics. We want to feel like we’ve got a fair chance at a good job, a good living and a home. We want affordable healthcare along with an affordable comprehensive education. We want all these things and more. But most of us simply don’t know enough specifically what Occupy Wall Street is all about and want to learn more before we act. And of course some of us don’t support OWS and won’t no matter what you say or do.

But again OWS needs to make the case to us of how taking to the streets, camping in parks and out of random businesses that don’t have traditional retail models that would be threatened by mass demonstration will actually help accomplish anything?

Explain to those of us with jobs, who could get fired for participating in an Occupy Wall Street encampment why we should risk our livelihoods for OWS in its current incarnation.

Convince us.

And please: Don’t fall back on attacking those of us who aren’t cheerleading OWS movement or packing up our sleeping bags and drums. Stop accusing us of being conservative plants, TeaParty sympathizers, delusional Obamabots or too scared-lazy-to-act. Don’t play the George W. Bush trope of “You’re either with us or you’re against us”. Instead, see us for the intelligent, reasoned, equally human, and equally deserving citizens that you see yourselves as and make your case for gaining our support.

Personally, I just want some answers worthy of action. And again, OWS: at this point you are exponentially less than 1% of the US population. You need our support. But if you don’t value us enough to speak to us and engage us, then you are not us and will never be us. WE are the 99%. Not you, but US. So while you, the .0032% are claiming us, know that you don’t own us anymore that the 1% does.

So OWS, come talk to us. We, the 99%, are waiting.

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