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An open letter to #OccupyWallStreet

Sometimes I think I may have something to contribute to #OccupyWallStreet. Sometimes I don’t know. The only people who would know are you, if you’ve seen what I’m talking about. So, well, here goes. Sorry that I’m talking about my own stuff. I don’t know any other way to let you know about it, and it may be worth your time.

I’m not trying to answer the question about “What’s the message?” The message is “A fair deal for the 99%!” Obviously.

Nor does anyone need help with some of the great tactics OccupyWallStreet is already using.

But I might have something to contribute to the discussion about the kind of society we want to have.

#OccupyWallStreet is focusing on the crimes of Big Money, and the story is the same wherever you look. Environmental pollution, cell phone privacy, copyright law, marriage equality, living wages, everything is tied together by an understanding of what individual rights really mean and what they are.

For instance, the right to life is a matter of law, but the right to a living is not. And yet, without the right to a living, life becomes a privilege. The right to a living implies enormous changes to economic systems. It makes sense to think about how to make those changes as fairly as possible. OccupyWallStreet is not about getting new privileges and making a new underclass.

Another example. The level of acceptable environmental pollution is set by assuming only a few people will pollute. But if we’re all equal, then we can all pollute equally. Based on rights, rather than a privilege to pollute, acceptable levels have to be set according to what is scientifically defensible if everyone polluted equally.

And a final example. If everyone is equal, nobody can have more access to the law than anyone else. An open legislative process is one implication. It’s a right, part of being equal before the law, to know who authored which laws . Nor is it hard to do. Software writers have shown the way with versioning systems such as Plone that can track millions of changes in large collaborative projects.

My ideas aren’t necessarily new or unique, but I haven’t seen them all together in one place with their interrelationships spelled out. Those ideas, in my work or anywhere else, show that the issues raised by the 99% aren’t just grievances. Not that that’s news either, but non-sympathizers try to make it sound as if protestors are whining about not getting theirs.

Grounding the movement in the big picture makes it easy to show that the issue is rights. Not complaints and not grievances and not money. The protests are about being deprived of rights. The goals are to regain rights.

I try to explore the concepts of equal rights in our current context. Whether I come up with anything plausible or useful will show up in time if people want to have a look at it. In case anyone does, in the long fall evenings camped out in the Occupation zones, here’s the link to the whole nine yards, aka Re-imagining Democracy. If it does nothing else, it moves the Overton window back to the left.