Blog Archive

Blog Archive – October, 2011

“Tahrir is Here!” shout American protesters on Wall Street

October 07, 2011

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Whoever thought the Arab people today would inspire an American democratic movement? Who ever thought Steve Jobs, Apple’s celebrated founder, reputed world changer and one of the most brilliant minds of the century, was Arab?  Who conceived a Yemini woman would be our 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate, that Syrian people would shout in their streets for freedom? 

Meanwhile back on Wall Street: young Americans have begun a sit-in, copying Egyptian youth who set up their workstations and tents and sleeping bags and heath centers in Tahrir Square. Within 3 weeks, the Occupy Wall Street movement, joined by unions and well known intellectuals, has sprung up in several cities. (Angelina, what are you waiting for?)

There is doubtless much that the West could learn from Arab peoples today. But they fail to see it and cannot acknowledge even the possibility. We in the Arab lands have abundant heroes and heroines, from those Iraqi doctors who stayed on, in impossible conditions to tend the sick through decades of sanctions, abandoned by their own western teachers, to our astute journalists and Palestinian poets from Suheir Hammad to Mahmoud Darwish, women and men who speak for the oppressed worldwide, to teachers and mothers who keep the promise of education in the forefront of the lives of young Arab girls and boys, to the men and women who search out cluster bombs dropped by Israeli bombers across their farms. There are the psychiatrists who treat our traumatized millions through war after war after war, and the courageous women and men of Syria. Their fortitude and creativity and generosity is unmatched. And if recognized for their courage, all these Arab minds would indeed arouse people everywhere.

But it was Cairo’s Tahrir encampments and outrage that is the model for young Americans on Wall Street-- the 99%. They are indeed the “99%ers” whose combined assets equal the 1% of America’s richest. One slogan at the Wall Street sit-in shouts “Tahrir is Here!” Here, in the financial capital of the world, the center of lustful, unmitigated greed and power. These demonstrators, like those in Tahrir Square, Cairo, are young and jobless; they too have college degrees (a sign-carrying protestor cries: ‘I lost a job, found an occupation’). They do not use the word ‘dictator’ to address their enemy, but the CEOs are indeed dictators; their tyranny applies across the globe. Neither do the “99%ers” utter the word corruption—not yet-- although what they oppose is the theft of their lives and hopes by corporations whose immunity is sanctioned by Washington, and who enjoy privilege and wealth of obscene proportion, while poverty and despair grow. The US government refuses to acknowledge the link between the unbridled license of banks and thedespair of millions of its citizens;  Washington also refuses to consider the cost of its wars as a source of the country’s economic woes; neither officials nor the rich will admit their profits are based on US imperialist polices. These young people make the connections. And finally their anger has found expression.

It is not as if the problem is a mystery. Analysts have been exposing the issue for years: take a statement by former US Treasury official and economist Paul Craig Roberts, as recently as September 30, 2011: “…..(US) wars and military attacks have cost American taxpayers in out-of-pocket and already-incurred future costs at least $4,000 billion dollars--one third of the accumulated public debt--resulting in a US deficit crisis that threatens the social safety net, the value of the US dollar and its reserve currency role, while enriching beyond all previous history the military/security complex and its apologists.”

What is this but corruption?

I often walk along Wall Street and note the undiminished delight of tourists having their photograph taken in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Do they realize that if they attempted to enter the sacred gate of NYSE, they would surely be pounced on and arrested?

All day and through the night, I see rows of black limousines, engines purring, waiting in the streets adjacent to Wall St. for their masters to emerge, then rushing them to their stately, gated homes. We never see the faces of the rich. No general traffic is permitted anywhere along Wall Street today; security throughout the area is very tight, day and night, seen and unseen. Surveillance cameras abound, as do police. Every year, more barriers are installed to protect these offices from would-be attackers. This is indeed the seat of empire.

For over a decade I have questioned the political naivety and despondency of Americans through the many wars, during the 2008 economic collapse, reading exposes of the reckless but filthy rich investors and bankers. Citizens accepted the powerlessness of  their government to reign in these ruthless corporations or to punish offenders. Watching people worldwide rally against food prices, corrupt officials, and impotent or lackey governments, I asked “Why are Americans not in the streets?”

Well, maybe they needed the example from Cairo. If the Egyptians could unseat their dictator, maybe their daring could be replicated in the USA. For the first time in more than 20 years, I am hopeful.

[ “Tahrir is Here!” shout American protesters on Wall Street ]


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