To answer this question, I think it is best to first draw upon what has been said by others.
From the website “We are the 99%“:
“Who are we? Well, who are you? If you’re reading this, there’s a 99 percent chance that you’re one of us.
You’re someone who doesn’t know whether there’s going to be enough money to make this month’s rent. You’re someone who gets sick and toughs it out because you’ll never afford the hospital bills. You’re someone who’s trying to move a mountain of debt that never seems to get any smaller no matter how hard you try. You do all the things you’re supposed to do. You buy store brands. You get a second job. You take classes to improve your skills. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough. The anxiety, the frustration, the powerlessness is still there, hovering like a storm crow. Every month you make it is a victory, but a Pyrrhic one — once you’re over the hump, all you can do is think about the next one and how much harder it’s all going to be.
They say it’s because you’re lazy. They say it’s because you make poor choices. They say it’s because you’re spoiled. If you’d only apply yourself a little more, worked a little harder, planned a little better, things would go well for you. Why do you need more help? Haven’t they helped you enough? They say you have no one to blame but yourself. They say it’s all your fault.
They are the 1 percent. They are the banks, the mortgage industry, the insurance industry. They are the important ones. They need help and get bailed out and are praised as job creators. We need help and get nothing and are called entitled. We live in a society made for them, not for us. It’s their world, not ours. If we’re lucky, they’ll let us work in it so long as we don’t question the extent of their charity.”
Next, the wonderful Mr. Lemony Snicket:
“Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance.
1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.
2. “Fortune” is a word for having a lot of money and for having a lot of luck, but that does not mean the word has two definitions.
3. Money is like a child—rarely unaccompanied. When it disappears, look to those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on it while you were at the grocery store. You might also look for someone who has a lot of extra children sitting around, with long, suspicious explanations for how they got there.
4. People who say money doesn’t matter are like people who say cake doesn’t matter—it’s probably because they’ve already had a few slices.
5. There may not be a reason to share your cake. It is, after all, yours. You probably baked it yourself, in an oven of your own construction with ingredients you harvested yourself. It may be possible to keep your entire cake while explaining to any nearby hungry people just how reasonable you are.
6. Nobody wants to fall into a safety net, because it means the structure in which they’ve been living is in a state of collapse and they have no choice but to tumble downwards. However, it beats the alternative.
7. Someone feeling wronged is like someone feeling thirsty. Don’t tell them they aren’t. Sit with them and have a drink.
8. Don’t ask yourself if something is fair. Ask someone else—a stranger in the street, for example.
9. People gathering in the streets feeling wronged tend to be loud, as it is difficult to make oneself heard on the other side of an impressive edifice.
10. It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view.
11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.
12. If you have a large crowd shouting outside your building, there might not be room for a safety net if you’re the one tumbling down when it collapses.
13. 99 percent is a very large percentage. For instance, easily 99 percent of people want a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and the occasional slice of cake for dessert. Surely an arrangement can be made with that niggling 1 percent who disagree.”
A common question arises, as Mr. Snicket mentioned: isn’t 99% an awfully big number? Aren’t the top 10, 15 or 25% to blame as well?
While the top 10% does control a huge and disproportionate amount of global wealth, the simple fact is that over the last 30 years the richest 1% has been expanding its control of global wealth. In the mid 1980s the richest 12% of America’s population controlled 33% of its total wealth – now the top 1% controls 40% of the whole and this trend is observable overseas.
If (or rather, as) this trend continues, even the remaining 9% of the top ten will begin to suffer. To put the level of wealth we are talking about into perspective, even our richest Australians have more personal wealth than some countries and approach their responsibilities as taxpayers and as citizens of this country in the disgusting manner shown by the late Kerry Packer.
It is also important to keep in mind that the 99% is everywhere. At Occupy Melbourne we have a policy of criticising the organisation, not the individual (unless that individual does something utterly reprehensible). Those who were at the City Square eviction or who saw footage of it later may notice that we started out inviting police officers to join us, reminding them that they are part of the 99% (and were fighting against the 1% for better wages and conditions) and by inviting them to take part in the discussions. Only when the situation became violent did the chants of “scum” start and now that things have cooled down I believe that Occupy Melbourne and Victoria Police have redeveloped a good rapport.
With police officers as with other workers, employees often have no real choice but to obey their superiors. Some people whistle-blow or exercise their right to resign (as has been seen at the National Australia Bank and in Police departments worldwide), but to many these options do not exist. Whether it is because they have to support families, or because they wouldn’t be able to make ends meet or simply because they would be ostracised by friends and family, we understand that they (you (we!)) don’t have this freedom.
What Occupy Melbourne offers is a chance to join the discussion: to reveal what changes are needed; to work out how to make those changes; and to fight for them.