When protesters across Tunisia and Egypt took to the streets to demand more transparency in government, democracy and equal rights, the West stood and cheered. Dubbed the Arab Spring, these people powered movements saw the disenfranchised 99% of the population rise up and protest the concentration of ownership and privilege controlled by the 1%.
But how do we respond to the same situation in our own backyards? The 400 richest Americans at the top of the economic pyramid have been able to amass more wealth than the 180 million Americans at the bottom – and I’d wager there is a similar disparity in Australia.
In an open letter to Join the Wall Street Occupation – The Revolution Begins at Home, Arun Gupta explains:
Our system is broken at every level. More than 25 million Americans are unemployed. More than 50 million live without health insurance. And perhaps 100 million Americans are mired in poverty, using realistic measures. Yet the fat cats continue to get tax breaks and reap billions while politicians compete to turn the austerity screws on all of us.
At Liberty Park in New York, hundreds if not thousands of people are gathering each day to discuss, debate and protest the state of democracy in the United States. The campaign #occupywallstreet is spreading to other cities and countries – from San Diego and Omaha to Toronto and even Brisbane.
And while there is a lot of conversation on Twitter and on social media, the mainstream media outlets are yet to deeply engage on this subject. And it makes me wonder – where is the tipping point … what level of social movement or activism is required before traditional media can no longer ignore the unfolding situation? And at which point does it become “contagious” – shifting gears from a protest to a movement?
Perhaps financial traders like Alessio Rastani, shown here in interview on the BBC will help galvanise such a movement.
Or maybe not. We may be part of the 99%, but many aspire to the 1% – and while a culture of aspiration (and entitlement) dominates our thinking, non-traditional media will have to work harder to reach that tipping point. If Duncan Watts is right, then we need about 15% of a closely linked social network to act before contagion begins. And that means we have some way to go.