New York, NY
March 17, 2012
available from Alternative Radio
You can listen to Michael Moore speak for himself here.
Michael Moore first brought his humorous and progressive analysis to mainstream audiences with the award-winning documentary Roger & Me. His Bowling for Columbine won an Academy Award. His film Farenheit 9/11 broke box office records and won the top prize at Cannes. His latest films are Sicko and Capitalism: A Love Story.
I have to tell you, I have never seen a political or a social movement catch fire faster than this one. It really just took a few weeks before they started to take polls of Americans and they found that the majority of Americans supported the principles of the Occupy movement. This was back in October.
Then they took another poll, and it said 72% of the American public believes taxes should be raised on the rich. Seventy-two percent. I don’t think there was ever a poll that showed a majority in favor of raising taxes on the rich, because up until recently the vast majority of our fellow Americans believed in the Horatio Alger theory, that anyone in America can make it, it’s an even and level playing field.
Now the majority, the vast majority, at least know that that’s a lie. They know that there’s no truth to that whatsoever. They know that the game is rigged, and they know that they don’t have the same wherewithal on that playing field that the wealthy have.
What I am so happy with and what we are blessed with with Occupy Wall Street is that the hardest part of the job is done. Think about this. We don’t have to struggle for years to convince the American public that these banks are out to ruin their lives. We don’t have to work for years to convince our fellow Americans that the health insurance companies put profit ahead of their own health. We don’t have to do any of that anymore, do we?
You live in the real world, right? You know this. At work, at school, in the neighborhood, at church, at temple. You know this, right? This is where people are at. They are already there. They are with us. So we should just go, Wow, the biggest job. I have so many slacker tendencies, so this is what I really like. I just like the fact that the toughest part of the job is over.
Now, now we have tens of millions of our fellow Americans agreeing with us that the rich are up to no good, that these corporations have sold them out, they’ve sent their jobs someplace else to exploit people around the world, made them cut back on their health care, on their vacation days, on their sick days, made them work longer hours for less pay.
Somebody asked me a while ago, “How did this occupy Wall Street start? Who organized this?” They tried to look for the one person that organized it. There is no one person. I said, “If anybody organized it, I’ll tell you where to go. Go talk to Goldman Sachs. They organized it. They organized this movement. Go talk to Cigna Health Insurance. Go talk to BP. Just go down the list. They did the bulk of the work for us.” They opened the eyes and took the scales off those eyes of our fellow Americans, who woke up finally to realize that their best interests were not at the hearts of those in charge.
That’s where our fellow Americans are at; that’s where the majority of our fellow Americans are at.
So what are we going to do with this now? Because we’re not used to this. We’re not used to after just a few weeks being handed an army of millions of people who want to see change take place in this country, who want their lives back. Or a life at all. They never had the chance to have that life.
In case you’ve forgotten how lonely it is to be on the left in this country, to be for peace, women’s rights and gay rights and ending racism in this country, ending the prison-industrial complex in this country, it has seemed through most of our lives that we were never going to live to see the day when things would get better. Even the optimists amongst us, and I consider myself one of those. I’m not really a cynic. I have a really strong belief that people are good at their core and they just get messed up somewhere along the way. But I do believe that a majority of people, in the end, will to want do the right thing, if presented with all the information, if not kept in the dark.
Of course, we know that’s how fear works. You can make a country afraid by keeping them ignorant and stupid. That has been the equation. People don’t know what’s going on, so then they become afraid. And what does fear lead to? It leads to hate. And what does hate lead to? It leads to violence or wars.
Why are we such a warlike people? I don’t think Americans—we don’t really see—it’s never really discussed that way, is it? I remember there was an essay by D. H. Lawrence that he wrote back in the early part of the 20th century. He said, When you think of the Americans—he said something to the effect that they were a great bunch of killers. That’s the story history will record. History will not be kind to this era.
So I thought that this era would just continue on for the rest of my life. And I would keep going to things like this and go back to making movies and I’ll write books and I’ll do these things and I’ll put my part into this as best I can, but always knowing that the good days are someplace way off in the distance.
I no longer feel that way. I feel that that time is now. And I think it is so important for us, who don’t have much experience leading a majority, to very quickly learn how to do it. Because we have the majority of Americans with us. They’re not always necessarily going to stay with us. Because of the lousy education system, because of the control of the media and the little information that does get out to people, they can be easily manipulated back into a different place. So how long will we have here before we say to our fellow Americans, the majority, “Let’s go. Let’s go get this. We can do this. We’re a democracy.”
See, they know that the corporate chieftains, the people on Wall Street here are the real power. They know that now. They know that what’s left of our democracy is a thread or two. Those threads are the United States Constitution. There’s that problem with that piece of paper that still exists, that does give us the right to go into a booth and close the curtain and elect somebody, anybody, to stop this. We are never hopeful about that, right? Talk about being on the losing end of things and having to settle for Democrats over and over again, to the point where the kink in your neck is just “ooooohhh.” But right now the people are with us.
So I’d like to talk a little bit tonight about what we should do with that. I’d like to just throw my ideas out there. The great thing about Occupy Wall Street is that it’s open to anybody’s ideas. This is a horizontal organization; it’s not a vertical thing. “Who is the spokesperson here?” And everybody raises their hand. Because everybody has a story to tell. Everyone has been affected by this disparity of wealth in this country, so everyone is a spokesperson, everyone is the leader of Occupy Wall Street.
If you’re living in Boise, Idaho, and you want to start Occupy Boise, just do it. You don’t have to write in to national headquarters here for permission, and then we’ll take 10% of the dues that you collect. There’s no grants you have to write. You just have to exercise your constitutional rights as a citizen of this country. And we, those of us here, at least in New York at Occupy Wall Street, we want you to do this. We don’t want to be in charge of Occupy Boise. You know what Boise needs and you need to occupy it.
That’s why there are Occupies now in over 1,000 towns and cities in this country. It’s amazing. I’ve been to small towns in Michigan. I remember in the early weeks I went to a place called Niles, Michigan. I went to Grass Valley, California. Where is Grass Valley, right? It’s up near Nevada City. And there were like 400 people there at a demonstration at Occupy Grass Valley.
I saw this throughout the fall, everywhere I went. There were all these Occupies, and it was clear that nobody was going to wait for permission to do it. People knew this was the moment to seize, and people seized the moment. This is incredible that this has happened. And it continues on in different ways. People have had teach-ins, students have occupied college boardrooms, nurses have continued demonstrating and fighting for health care rights for all of us. It continues on.
And Wall Street has become afraid of us. No one has ever been afraid of us. They see us coming down the street with our all-yellow Workers World banners, all the same signs from the RCP. Here we come. They see us coming and they’re, like, it’s been embarrassing. Laughing at us every time for the last 30 years. They’re not laughing anymore. They’re afraid. The CEOs of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have been canceling things right and left because they do not want to be out in public making an appearance. They cannot go out in public to make an appearance. And why can’t they do that? We’re nonviolent people. Why? You can leave the house anytime you want, Jamie Diamond, Lloyd Blankfein. You can leave anytime you want. It’s a free country and we are nonviolent people. So what are you afraid of? They’re not afraid, actually, of us in this room, the Left Forum. They’re not afraid of us. They’re afraid of those tens of millions of Americans that they have screwed over the last decades. That’s who they are really afraid of. And who would know better than Lloyd Blankfein or Jamie Diamond how many people have been hurt by their mortgage fraud, by how they invested teachers’ pension funds?
When I went down there to film that scene, to put the crime-scene tape around the Stock Exchange, clearly I couldn’t get a permit to do that. And there’s all those barricades. You know what it’s like across the way here. So I decided, I’m going to do it anyways. Of course, the police show up, and this cop is coming toward me. And I went, Oh, geez. I don’t want to get arrested here, I’ve got to finish this. So I see him coming and he’s about 10-20 feet from me. And I said, “Officer, it’s just a piece of comedy and it will be over shortly. I’ll clean it all up. Don’t worry.” And he comes up to me and he says, “Don’t worry, Mike. You take all the time you want.” He said, “These bastards in here have lost millions of dollars of our pension funds.” That’s who they’re afraid of.
What if the cops and the firefighters and the nurses and the teachers and the auto workers and the steelworkers and the person who is bumping out your car and putting some Bondo on it, what if they actually decided to become politically involved? What would happen then? They’re so afraid this is going to happen because they know what I said at the beginning of this, that the American public is already convinced that we’re right and Wall Street is wrong. They already know this. Yes, Wisconsin is going to be the first, I hope, wonderful example of how the people are going to respond, in another month or two.
If you don’t mind, I would like to just throw out a few ideas here, a few tactical ideas and a few strategy ideas.
The purpose of Occupy Wall Street is to Occupy Wall Street.
Let’s never forget that. I said, this movement, by and large, the fuel of this is coming from young people, young adults. Those of you who know, who have been involved in Occupy Wall Street who are my age or older, it’s been just the most amazing thing to watch. And it’s been very important for us to not have them do it our old way, because I kind of like their new way. It’s a little messy, it maybe seems a little goofy sometimes, but there’s real heart there, isn’t there?
If you spend any time at the Occupies with any of these young people, one of the most encouraging things to see is the kind hearts that they have. The level of racism in the younger generation is almost nonexistent. Sexism, almost nonexistent. I will say without a doubt, whether it’s Alabama or New York City, that this younger generation has done a better job with these issues than we have. They’re already trying to see to it that this world is a less racist, less sexist, less homophobic place to live in. That’s very encouraging.
And it’s very encouraging, too, to see young people at Occupy, at the general assemblies, wanting to give everybody a chance to have their say. It’s like the opposite of our old way, where the left would just spend most of its time fighting each other. They don’t want to do that. They don’t want to fight each other. In fact, they want to do the opposite. They want to let everybody do whatever.
That’s the other thing with us. We’re such pessimists. Mike, don’t come out here and tell us everything is good. No, it’s horrible. That’s how I get up in the morning, because the world sucks. What’s Michael Moore saying? He’s saying the revolution might actually happen? He’s saying it is happening. Whoa. What are we going to do? Here’s a few things.
In this movement and for this movement to grow, we need to use our sense of humor. We need to employ satire and humor on a level that the left has not been used to for many, many years. I will submit to you that I believe, and I can say through my own personal experience, that humor is a great vehicle for your political message. It’s a welcoming vehicle. It’s why Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are so popular, because they’re able to impart information by using a sense of humor. This is so important in this movement. We need to go to The Yes Men. I think they should be a very important part of this movement. Because I want to see The Yes Men do their thing. They’ve actually started a thing called Occupy the Boardroom. I have a feeling that means they’re going to be doing something. I don’t know what that is. But I think that that is such a powerful way to drive these points home to people who are not on the official left.
We need to demonstrate differently. I don’t ever want to get on another bus in Chinatown and head down to Washington, D.C. That’s it. I’m officially resigning from that. The ways that these young people, the new ways that they’ve come up with to demonstrate, I love them. Have you seen it? Have you seen the silent-treatment protests? Have you seen this?
At UC Davis, after the cops pepper-sprayed those kids, a couple days later they lined the sidewalk that the chancellor was going to have to walk out of to her car with a few hundred people. And as she walked out, they said nothing. They just stared at her. Complete silence. She had to walk this walk of shame through them. Their silence was louder than anything.
A couple weeks ago women’s groups in Virginia did the same thing when the governor there proposed that women go through a “transvaginal probe.” If they had decided that they were going to have an abortion, they would have to have this probe. To protest this, the women organized, again, hundreds of people. They surrounded the capitol building and the steps. All the legislators going in had to walk through—you could have heard a pin drop it was so quiet. The quietness of it was deafening. And it looked like these politicians were doing a perp walk. I’m sorry we don’t have video here to show you this. Go online and watch this. It’s so cool. We need to come up with things like that, different ways to demonstrate, to make our point. I think it’s very powerful.
The use of social media. This I don’t really needing to go into. Everyone gets this now, right? People with no color in your hair or those with no hair? There aren’t any holdouts still, are there? Please don’t hold out. This is one of the most incredible inventions in the history of mankind, and we can use it. We can use it for the greater good. I encourage people to do that. If you don’t have a Facebook account, think about getting one. You don’t have to tell everything you did at the mall today, what you had for breakfast and lunch. You don’t have to do that. You can just use it with your other politically aware and active friends and you can share articles you run across, you can put these links up. You can educate people with this, you can encourage people to do this.
Two other ideas on this, and then I want to give you some strategy ideas. Two more of the tactics. I think that it’s very hard for average Americans to protest these days because of the time it takes. So many of our fellow Americans are having to work two jobs to get by. They work one on the books, one off the books. Or their health problems have gotten so bad because they haven’t had the money to get their teeth fixed. And if you don’t fix your teeth, you then eventually can’t chew food very well. And when you can’t chew food very well, you have to eat a lot of Wonder Bread and simple carbohydrates, because that’s all the mouth can handle. When you eat that, you have all the health problems that go with that. You’re so focused on your health and trying to get better and trying to get somebody to help you, because you can’t find the right help, and you certainly can’t afford it. And you’re fighting the insurance company, call after call, day after day, to try to get them to cover this procedure. These, of course, are the very people that would love to be with us but can’t, because just getting through the day is a struggle. That’s why I want to say to you that for every American who is in that position we need to go and get somebody who isn’t to join us in this movement, to be the stand-in for that person who can’t be there because of the suffering they’re going through. We should make that a commitment.
Don’t do meetings. Keep the meetings to a minimum. This movement needs action. I think in our past movements we’ve had way too many meetings. Does everybody agree with us? I do not want to go another meeting. I love the general assembly idea, and I think there’s things there that could make it even better, probably. But the idea of thinking that you’re actually being politically active by going to a meeting isn’t really true. You’re politically active when you actually take an action against those in power or for those who have a solution to help us out of the mess we’re in. That’s political action. Not a meeting.
Finally, I was on this panel with Naomi Klein here back in the fall, who is, I think, a hero. She said, I think it’s also important that we’re all kind to each other, that we make sure that in the infancy of this movement we take this pledge, really, amongst ourselves to be kind and generous to each other, and to understand that each of us, all of us, everybody has something they’re going through. And if they’re not going through it, their spouse is going through it or their kids are going through it, their parents are going through it, their neighbors are going through it. Somebody that they’re deeply attached to is going through something really bad. We need to make commitment to not have the typical infighting that goes on and to be kind to each other. To hear everyone out and then do what the majority feels like we should do, but respect the minority and make sure they always have a voice, because they’ll be there to keep the majority honest. I just wanted to second what she said.
If this were like a real army and I was a general, I would have my pointer and I would have, “Here’s how we’re going to do this. We’re not going to talk up here. This is the reality. There’s where they’re at, here’s where we’re going, here’s how we’re doing it.” So just kind of imagine the imaginary pointer and Wall Street and corporate America and everybody else up there on the screen. I get stopped a lot by people on the street, people when I’m traveling. Again, these are not political people. They say to me, “What can I do? I really want to get involved in this. What can I do?” They always say, too, that they really can’t sleep overnight in a park. I say, “That’s okay, you don’t have to sleep overnight in the park. There are many things we can do.” I think it’s very important that this movement make people aware of the fact that there are many avenues into this movement where they can join it and be part of it. That staying overnight in encampments is not the only way.
But thank God for those encampments. Thank God for the anarchists who started this on September 17. I’m telling you, this movement probably wouldn’t have got the traction it had if that first group of people hadn’t decided to go right into the face of power in that first week and not give up. Because at first they were ignored. Nobody covered them on the news, on the national news at all. And then when they started into the first week, it was basically, Oh, look at these hippies with their tambourines and their drums.
But by the end of the first week, when a march took place over by Union Square and the New York city police in the form of one individual decided to pepper-spray four women who were already penned in by the police and pepper-sprayed them in the eyes, that image went out across the country, went out in a viral way, as they say. People saw that and they felt one thing: They were being pepper-sprayed in the eyes. That’s what they felt. There was a catharsis. And the following Saturday, even more people decided to show up and decided to go on to the Brooklyn Bridge, and the New York City police made the huge tactical mistake of arresting over 700 people. I’ve never heard of an arrest that large in New York City. It was just amazing.
Ray Kelly yesterday was complaining about how they’ve spent $17 million on police overtime dealing with Occupy Wall Street. And I said, “I hope it’s $170 million this year. And you should make the people on Wall Street who you’re protecting pay for it. Because you don’t really have to protect them, because we are a nonviolent people. We are not going to harm anyone in the Goldman Sachs building. So why all the cops?
And to the undercover New York City cops who are in here tonight, I just want to say thank you for coming. We welcome you. You are the working class. Don’t be tools for the people who want to hurt you. Join us. Come be with us.
Number one, I think it’s very important that we occupy Wall Street. I think it’s important that Zuccotti Park keep going. If we can’t stay there overnight—where did I see this yesterday—was it in Memphis?—where they said no tents could be in the park, so all the demonstrators showed up wearing a tent. Where was that? The cops didn’t know what to do because they were clothes, they weren’t really tents, but they were tents. That’s the kind of jujitsu that we can do with them, because they just don’t know where we’re coming from. “Who’s the leader? Who’s the spokesperson?” We need for Zuccotti Park to continue.
I can tell you, most of the time I’m in Michigan, and Zuccotti Park is known by people all across the country. It is the holy grail. It is the epicenter to people who don’t live here.
You probably didn’t even know there was a Zuccotti Park before Occupy. I didn’t. I had never heard of it. But trust me, people out there have heard of it. I think it’s very important. Those of us who were down there a lot in the fall, after just a month or two those big red Big Apple tourist buses put us on the stop. It was like a group of senior citizens from Omaha. They all get their cameras out and they’re going like this. We have to keep this going.
One of the best mornings I saw was that day that we decided to really get on Wall Street early in the morning and tried to delay the opening of the Stock Exchange. I don’t know if anybody was there. There were hundreds of people there. It really did look like we were actually in the army, because we had all these different routes in, and when one would get to a block, we would radio over to the other and everybody would shift over to that. “No, there’s no cops over here. C’mon, we can go through here.” It was exciting and it was interesting to see how scared the Stock Exchange was that they weren’t going to be able to open on time. It was critical to them that they never miss a minute of their dirty work.
I said this in The Nation, and I want to say this here. We need daily and weekly nonviolent assaults on Wall Street. Nonstop. Nonstop. And it certainly would start with the people who live just a few hours’ drive from here. They would certainly do this. We should really think about organizing this, because it’s important for us to be visible and it’s important for the American public and the way that we/they have been trained with the visual media. It’s very easy for those in power to create out of sight, out of mind. We must not leave their sight. That’s why Zuccotti Park has to continue and we have to have these daily demonstrations of trying to get through those barriers to get to the Stock Exchange, because all we want to do is politely ask them to stop.
Other things in terms of direct action that I think we need to do—and some of them are already happening— the Occupy Our Homes movement is incredible. Some of the people who started this movement I had in my film three years ago. They were Take Back the Land. We followed them in the Miami area and put them in the movie. And then Marcy Kaptur, the congresswoman from Ohio, who in the film just told people,
Do not leave your homes. Do not let them evict you. Do not leave your home. They can’t find the mortgage, they can’t find the paperwork. Go to court and tell the judge to make them show you the mortgage. They can’t show you the mortgage because they cut it up a thousand ways, bundled it, and shipped it off to be sold in China or Switzerland or someplace.
So the whole Occupy Our Homes movement.
But I think we need to grow this, because what I would like to do, and I will do this as a citizen, I want us to be able to sign up in my neighborhood in Michigan to say that if anyone in our village where I live, if we hear of anyone being evicted by a bank, I commit to show up and stand in the doorway. Just imagine every town across America having a “mod squad” of people who will come at a moment’s notice and risk being arrested to stand there to prevent that family from being tossed out on the curb. The students have to continue occupying their schools and universities. The sit-ins. Stopping the business of the board of regents or trustees, doing whatever we can to support these students. And really, people of my age, like I said earlier, we done them wrong by allowing this system to come up to such a disgusting place that it’s now the number one cause of debt in this country, student loans. So students, do this. And we, your parents, will back you and we’ll be there for you.
We need to occupy our health care system. In the same way that we have these strike forces in our communities to show up when someone is being evicted, when someone is denied a treatment or a procedure or a surgery because their health insurance company said they weren’t covered or they don’t have health insurance, we have to stand up for them. We have to go that hospital and demand that they receive this treatment. If you live near one of the regional headquarters or main headquarters of the health insurance companies, we need to walk into their lobbies and occupy them. We need them to stop this.
We need to occupy our jobs. There are many examples taking place right now where workers are just refusing to allow these things to continue. We need to encourage people to sign union cards and be represented in the workplace. Like what happened at the glass factory in Chicago. When they try to move the company someplace else, don’t let them. Sit down. Bolt the doors. You can’t leave. You can’t leave, glass company, because my tax dollars gave the Bank of America, which is funding you—that’s my money. First you take the bailout from me, and now you throw me out of a job with that money. Are you fucking crazy?
And my last idea for direct action and civil disobedience is that we need to occupy peace. We often forget to talk about the wars we are currently fighting. We’re fighting wars in seven or eight countries right now, not just Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve got our troops in many places around the world that are doing things, sometimes covertly, sometimes in the shadowy parts of what we would consider legal behavior in this country. The $2 billion to $4 billion a week that we spend on these wars, we’ve been doing this now for over 10 years. Just imagine those 10 years at $2 billion to $4 billion a week: 10 times 52 weeks, 520 weeks times $2 to $4 billion. How many schools could that have helped? How many people could that have covered with health problems? We can’t ignore this aspect of it, of how the military-industrial complex still runs large parts of this country.
That’s number one, direct action and civil disobedience. Number two, we need to provide for people so they can do individual actions. This is for a lot of people who are not necessarily political people. When they say to you, “What can I do? What can I do to be part of Occupy Wall Street?” I always say to them, “You’re part of Occupy Wall Street just by saying you’re part of Occupy Wall Street. At the moment you say ‘I Occupy Wall Street,’ you are occupy Wall Street. That’s it. You are now in the movement.”
Here’s something you could do. Make a sign and put it in your window or out on your lawn that says “We Are The 99%.” Imagine in the suburbs across America turning into a subdivision with street after street filled with these yard signs saying “We Are The 99%.” The politicians, the banks, no matter where they turned, if they were in a city, you would look up at an apartment building and you would see those in the windows, “We Are The 99%” or “We Support The 99%.”
It’s a very simple thing to do, is to make that, put it on your cars, put it in your home, put in on the lawn. But the lawn, just imagine the visual of looking down a street and seeing sign after sign after sign after sign after sign, “We Are The 99%,” “We Are The 99%,” “We Are The 99%,” or looking at an apartment building and seeing that. That’s a very simple thing that we can get started and get people to do. It’s something every American can do. We can encourage them to do what some have already done: Move their money out of these banks and put it in a credit union or a locally owned bank.
I think people need to be able to feel free to occupy their block. If you live on Oak Street, you could start an Occupy Oak Street. Just go and knock on the doors of your neighbors and ask them who would like to get involved in this. And if they say, “What are we going to do?” you can say, “We’re going to start by putting signs up saying ‘We Are The 99%.’” “Okay. What’s the next thing we’re going to do?” “We’re going to go and take our money and put it in the credit union.” “Yes, that sounds like a good idea. What else can we do?”
So those are some ideas that people can do as individuals. I think we need to create more of that for people on an individual basis who are not able to go to demonstrations or sleep overnight in the park. There are things any American can do, no matter what their station in life is. I think we really need to get behind that.
The final and third area is the area we don’t really want to talk about a lot because it has a lot of stinky poo around it, and that’s electoral politics. But there are those among us in the United States of America who do believe that electoral politics will do some good. We need to honor that and respect that and create a place for them within this movement so that they can take the principles of Occupy Wall Street and try to find candidates to run for office who believe in these things.
Or what they could be doing this year is do what I did in Flint with the guy who is running for Congress there. I asked him to take a pledge that his top priority in Congress will be to remove the money from politics, take all the money out. I think in every congressional district we should be asking the people running for Congress, Will you do this? Will you commit to doing this? And then when they get elected, hold their feet to the fire so that they do it.
I think that there are some of us who also need to push past the kind of visceral reaction I think a lot of us have toward politicians and electing politicians and thinking that they’re going to be the be-all and end-all for us, because we know that’s not true now. We’ve lived through enough of this. We know from just the last election of who our president is that he didn’t turn out to be everything that we wanted him to be. So people get disillusioned when that happens, because they put all their eggs in that election basket, and then the politician doesn’t come through and then it’s, like, Why did I bother?
The people that run now for office, those of you who have lived long, like I have, do you agree that the gene pool of politicians has been depleted? It’s beyond the incestuous part of depleting a gene pool. It’s sort of like when you have a Xerox copy and you make a copy of a copy, and then you make a copy of a copy of a copy, and then a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy? By the time you get to the tenth copy, what does it look like? That’s what we’ve got now in the state houses and in Congress.
We can stop that by running for office ourselves. No matter how much they can put into these elections with all their money, what they can’t do is, when we go in that voting booth, they can’t put their hand in our hand and pull the lever or punch the card or draw an X. They can’t do that. We really do hold the power. You know what? That’s got to scare the shit out of them—that there are more of us than there are of them. What if we actually ever decided to realize that and exercise our power? Where would they be then?
I don’t think they’re just sitting there at the country club or up in their penthouse apartments enjoying this. They’re not enjoying it. They’re really worried that we may figure out how to organize the tens of millions who support us. Can you imagine the dreams they have? As dark as we see the world, as unhopeful as we are about the future of this planet, trust me, their dreams are real nightmares these days. And that’s a good thing.
So we need to not ignore electoral politics. We need to get involved in it. And we need these two constitutional amendments that are being proposed now. We need our mass organization that we have around the country that’s going to build to get behind these constitutional amendments.
Number one, corporations are not people.
And, number two, we need an amendment that has all the electoral reforms that we need: taking money out of politics, moving election day to the weekend so more people can vote, making voter registration easy for people, preferential voting systems. There’s a whole bunch of them. And let’s go back to a paper ballot, please.
So direct action, individual action, and electoral politics.
The final thing that I want to say tonight is this is an evil system. It’s an evil system that is set up for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. I get tired when I go on these talk shows and they say, “What’s the solution?” and I say, “Number one, capitalism has to go,” and they’re, like, “Whoa. You mean crony capitalism, Mike.” “No, I don’t think you need to put an adjective to it or repeat yourself by saying ‘crony’ and ‘capitalism.’” The sort of liberal media establishment want to hang on to this old Adam Smith idea of capitalism. They think it can come back magically someday, where if everybody just puts in a hard day’s work and you get paid for that, you can do better in life. I say to them, “Well, yes, but that’s not what capitalism is. You have to define a word by the way it is enacted and used now.
You don’t define marriage as a man has to ask permission of the woman’s father to marry her, and then, when married, the woman has no property rights and cannot divorce her husband. That is not how you would define marriage, is it?” “Of course not.” “Well, I hate to tell you, 100 years ago, that’s what the word ‘marriage’ meant. And then it changed.
And ‘capitalism’ may have meant something else, and there might have been a kinder, gentler version of it somewhere back there. But those days are long, long gone. Whatever kind of imagery you have of this pie-in-the-sky thing, Horatio Alger, everybody has got a chance, it was bullshit then, but it’s really bullshit now.”
So I want us in the long run, through this movement, to develop an economic system that will ensure that everyone has the means for food, for housing, for a job, for health, for transportation, for education, for a vacation, and where every American can truly feel that they can run for office because they don’t have to have a dime in the bank to do so.
I want someday for this country to say that the Earth’s resources don’t belong to a corporation, they belong to everyone. I want it to be a crime for anyone to make a profit off someone who is ill. I want education to be our top priority, because a democracy cannot survive with an uneducated and illiterate public. I don’t think anybody should have to work more than four days a week.
I’m just trying to make us look better for the history books. When they call us wage slaves, I want us to gradually get to the point where more than 50% of our time is really for us and our families and the other stuff, yes, we have to do because these lights have to go on and we’ve got to sweep the floor, we’ve got to do these things. I want to see the concept of a business be something that the workers own. I put a couple of examples in my film on cooperatives. This is such a great idea. Or even do it just as a nonprofit.
In closing, I just want to thank you for letting me speak here tonight to throw out some of my ideas on what we need to do. I really want to encourage you to not let this moment slip by. Our ship has really come in. The spotlight is on Occupy Wall Street.
And, again, thank you, everybody, for coming here tonight. Let’s not lose the moment. The moment is ours and our fellow Americans’. Occupy Wall Street!
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