Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Don Soeken

Dr. Donald Soeken is a social worker with 40 years of professional experience in the multidisciplinary areas of practice, research, and teaching

November 17th, 2011 6:37 PM

Protesters At Occupy Wall Street Are Blowing Whistle on Decades of Corporate Greed and Corruption in U.S.

“Stop the Greed and Start Meeting Human Needs!”

Written by Donald R. Soeken and Tom Nugent

New York City – If you want to understand how thousands of ordinary Americans have recently been transformed into corporate “whistleblowers,” just spend a few days hanging out with the demonstrators who’ve gathered here for the social protest known as “Occupy Wall Street”.

The dramatic signs of their spontaneous whistle-blowing are everywhere. PEOPLE ARE WHAT MATTER – NOT PROFITS!

WE ARE THE 99 PERCENT!

STOP CORPORATE GREED AND START RESPECTING HUMAN NEEDS! As you wander among the pounding drummers and the leaping dancers at Lower Manhattan’s now-famous Zuccotti Park, it’s easy to see how an astonishing new “social awakening” is beginning to transform the American landscape.

Like the “Arab Spring” of 2011, in which one Middle Eastern dictatorship after another (think Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and maybe Syria) sank beneath the waves of surging popular dissent, the “American Fall” of rapidly accelerating social awareness now promises to make whistleblowers out of ordinary citizens from Maine to California . . . with earthquake-like consequences that cannot as yet be predicted.

Something new is happening in American, and it’s happening right now.

“Something’s coming, mister,” says Paul Armstrong, a 48-year-old, Los Angeles-based ironworker in a hard hat, as he waves his sign (“I am a union ironworker, I vote, I work, I pay taxes, I'm pissed, so I'm here!” at the swarming TV cameras. “The working people of this country aren’t stupid. They see how things have been going lately, and they’re starting to wake up. They see the widespread unemployment, and they see how people are being forced below the poverty line every single day.

“They’re demanding jobs and decent wages, that’s certainly true. But they’re also demanding respect. They’re letting everybody know that the old days of being ‘talked down to’ by bosses at the top of some distant pecking order are over. Those days are gone for good!

“What we’re now seeing here in New York is the same spirit that was at work in Cairo during the Arab Spring. We’re seeing an outcry from workers who want to be treated with dignity, and who want to be able to make decent wages on the job. If you talk with the working people at this Occupation, you soon start to realize: there’s a big change moving on the wind. I speak only for myself here – not for the ironworkers’ union or anybody else – but I sincerely believe that we have to change the way working people are being treated in this country, and soon.”

Still Looking – And Hoping – For Justice

Like the heavily tattooed Paul Armstrong, thousands of American working people are now speaking up in an act of collective whistle-blowing that continues to make headlines daily. Speaking out against a backdrop of thunderous drums and in a setting where nearby skyscrapers often shut out the sun, they spend their days reiterating a few startling facts about the America of 2011.

Fact: More than 17 percent of the adult population of the United States is now unemployed, if you include those who have stopped looking for work and those who are working part-time out of necessity and not making enough to feed their families.

Fact: More than 49 million Americans are now living beneath the federal poverty line . . . which means their families are living on less than $23,000 a year . . . while in many cases struggling with inadequate housing, medical care and nutrition.

Fact: More than 46 million Americans are now living on food stamps – without which they would literally be walking the streets all day long in search of food. (Yes, that’s right: nearly one-sixth of the entire U.S. population in 2011 is now unable to feed itself and surviving courtesy of federal government handouts.)

Fact: While more and more individual people are sinking into abject poverty in this country, most of the nation’s major corporations and most of its major banks are continuing to make handsome profits. One number says it all: Less than one percent of the American public now controls nearly half of its total wealth . . . and the stories of corporate executives making $10 million and $20 million and even $50 million bonuses (while their companies are laying off thousands of workers each month) long ago became strictly routine.

As the nation sinks into the grind of relentless poverty, however, more and more economic whistleblowers are stepping forward to insist that this degrading state of affairs cannot long continue.

Take John Bird, a Blackfoot Indian who drove to the Big Apple all the way from Tucson, Arizona. Why? It’s actually quite simple, he says: “I never gave up my hope for justice!”

He’s sitting on a plastic crate, three feet from a hand-lettered sign:

Sure, You Can Trust the Government – Just Ask an Indian

“Indian people have never given up hope that some day there will be justice,” says John Bird. “Our elders teach us that, so we carry it on. Some days, it all seems pretty hopeless. But this” – and he waves at the huge throng of protesters in Zuccotti Park, located in the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District – “this is hope. And what we’re hoping for is not only economic justice, but also environmental justice.”

The reporter leans in closer, with his tape recorder at the ready.

It’s eight o’clock on a recent Friday morning at the nation’s longest-running “Occupation” protest. Since last September 17th, about 300 people per day (on average) have been living here, crammed into a tiny urban green space surrounded by high-rise office buildings and by long blue ranks of silent, expressionless police.

The Occupation encampment houses ironworkers, teachers, truck drivers, college students, clergy members, military veterans, job counselors, environmental activists, psychologists, homeless grandmothers in wheelchairs and a few Native Americans who say they traveled to New York in order to call attention to the various ways in which the current “recession” is making life hard for Indians in American cities and on reservations.

Question for Mr. Bird: Can we really hope to bridge the gulf between Indian society and the rest of America, in 2011? Isn’t it too late for that now?

His answer: “I think we’re going to have to bridge it, and soon – if we’re gonna survive. I’m very hopeful . . . but I also think it’s our last opportunity, and we better not squander it!”

Editor’s Note: Donald R. Soeken LCSW-C, Ph.D., a social worker in Washington, D.C., frequently counsels whistleblowers. Journalist Tom Nugent, the author of a book about coal mining in Appalachia (Death at Buffalo Creek, W.W. Norton) often writes about U.S. labor issues.

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

More in David Sirota's continuing series on the billionaire takeover of PBS: More PBS conflict woes as activists move to eject David Koch from board of...

Mar 3rd
12:35 PM
Read More

Ukraine: One ‘Regime Change’ Too Many? ...by Ray McGovern www.michaelmoore.com Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative...

Mar 2nd
9:25 PM
Read More

Latest from David Sirota on Enron billionaire John Arnold smuggling anti-pension propaganda into "neutral" institutions like PBS and now, the...

Mar 1st
12:58 PM
Read More

Second Guessing a Life: US Health Care System Robs Security and Human Dignity ...by Donna Smith michaelmoore.com The dysfunction of the US health care system...

Feb 27th
1:40 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles