Bioethics Blogs

The Need for Ethical Grounding in Social Activism: A Banker’s Perspective of The Occupy Movement:




By: Philippa Girling

The Occupy Wall Street movement was ‘a constructive failure.’ It fizzled out after ‘failing to create the social change that it set out to achieve.’ These are not my words; they are the words of Micah White, one of the co-founders of the Occupy Wall Street movement.[i]

Why did a movement that should have resonated with 99% of the population, lack the support to achieve the changes that it sought? There are few, if any, issues that capture the interests of almost all of society, and yet the movement has faded quietly away.

What went awry? Was there no wrong to be righted? I will argue that that there was indeed a wrong to righted, but that the ethical roots of the social rights message was neither clearly articulated nor delivered and that there was no clear call for action. Without an ethically defensible core, a cry for change falls on infertile ground and eventually will wither and die from lack of nourishment.

On July13, 2011 the rallying cry for #OCCUPYWALLSTREET went out on social media, initially calling for “Barack Obama [to] ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.” This seemed like a clear goal, but the end of the posting also asked supporters to “post a comment and help each other zero in on what our one demand will be.”[ii]

By mid-September, 2011, the movement had successfully set up camp in Zuccotti Park, near Wall Street, and the media were hungry for details, asking those involved over and over again, why they were participating and what they wanted.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.