David Sweet: Occupy an innovative approach to a centuries old quest
Such people today, though we may be a bit incredulous still, are exhilarated despite ourselves by this fast-growing "Occupy Wall Street" movement. A readable, fascinating book about Occupy, just published by the Yes! magazine people and available for 10 bucks at your local bookstore proclaims "This changes everything!" Maybe it does, or will. It's unlikely just to dry up and blow away. But where's the program? What are the demands?
The answer comes back loud and clear from the occupations everywhere: concrete demands would miss the point entirely. They could be met, or negotiated with the powers that be. But the powers that be are the problem. What the Occupiers want is a change in the system itself -- from one that works pretty well for many people, to one that works well enough for most everybody.
And it's clearer to them, so far, than to lots of us, that in order to achieve that change we have not only somehow to elect competent, responsible and incorruptible legislators, we have to get together and talk with our neighbors, no matter how different they are, figure out what we want, get to work in a
This makes the Occupy movement, however it talks about itself, or is talked about by others, a brand new, innovative, extraordinarily promising development in the centuries-old worldwide movement for human rights. The human rights movement wants a system that is centered not on power and profit, but on the dignity, worth, equality and enormous potential of all people everywhere. A system that protects rather than raping the natural environment that sustains us. Every step in the long history of that human rights movement has been made possible by the many individuals like Occupiers today who are willing to join in exercising, at whatever cost to themselves, the responsibility we all have to proclaim, protect and promote the common good.
Americans have contributed as much as anybody, and more than most, to the international movement for human rights: to the abolition of slavery, child labor, lynching and racial segregation, to establishing the eight-hour day and the rights of women, gays and lesbians and the disabled. Many times in the past our government itself, yielding to popular pressure, has contributed quite a lot to broadening and establishing some human rights in national and international law -- even though its policy has generally been to ignore, oppose or drag its feet about them.
One great moment in the history of America's and the world's struggle for human rights was the elaboration under United Nations auspices, and by a commission chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, given to the world on Dec. 10, 1948.
The Declaration's birthday will be celebrated on Saturday, Dec. here in Santa Cruz with a parade down Pacific Avenue followed by an informative and enjoyable Human Rights Fair in the Galleria on Front Street. Occupiers, geezers exhilarated or not, the simply curious and the public at large are urged to attend.
Local community activist David Sweet taught Latin American and world history at UC Santa Cruz for 30 years.