A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post asking what had become of the Occupy Movement. It’s diminished, to be sure, but it remains a live force in American society and politics, especially in particular local contexts.
This weekend I read a brief post at ThinkProgress on Occupy Our Homes, an outgrowth of the Occupy movement that has helped people resist foreclosures and stay in their homes. Occupy Detroit has apparently been particularly successful in this endeavor, preventing 4 foreclosures already and currently working on preventing the foreclosure of Fred Shrum’s home.
Occupy Our Homes seems like one of the most fruitful products of the Occupy Movement because its focus is not on politics but on the economy. Political and economic dynamics are always intersecting with each other, of course—politicians set economic policy, and the economy influences how people vote and guides the priorities of elected officials—but the root of the problem that Occupy has identified is the widening gap in income, wealth, and economic power between the top 1% (or is it the top 20%?) and the lower classes. Much of this disempowerment of the working and middle classes is buttressed by an ideology that insists on debts and other economic obligations as sacred and inviolable. According to this logic, no matter what, homeowners must pay their mortgages on a given timeframe, and failure to do so means disclosure. No matter that banks are sufficiently well off to defer these payments (or even waive some of them) or that mortgage relief would stimulate consumer demand and boost the economy. Debts are debts, and if debtors and the economy suffer because of the priority of repaying these debts, so be it.
The value of Occupy Our Homes, however small its scope may be, lies in refuting this dominant logic and showing that not only is a failure to repay some debts not harmful, it can also lead to economic health. It’s important to keep ideas like this afloat.
If you want to learn a bit more about this line of thought, check out this interview with David Graeber, author of Debt: The First 5000 Years. Though Graeber isn’t an economist, he’s been a prominent activist in the Occupy movement, and his reminder that we have many choices in how we choose to structure our economy is more pertinent than ever.
By: Aaron Bekemeyer