We Are All Occupiers
People the world over salute the Occupy movement for
standing up to injustice and fighting for equality at
the heart of empire
by Arundhati Roy
November 17, 2011
[Video - Arundhati Roy speaking at the People's
University in Washington Square Park, New York, held
at Judson Memorial Church, 16 November 2011.
The People's University is a project of NYU4OWS.
Find more info at http://www.facebook.com/nyu4ows
and http://peoplesu.tumblr.com ]
Tuesday morning, the police cleared Zuccotti Park, but today
the people are back. The police should know that this
protest is not a battle for territory. We're not fighting
for the right to occupy a park here or there. We are
fighting for justice. Justice, not just for the people of
the United States, but for everybody.
What you have achieved since 17 September, when the Occupy
movement began in the United States, is to introduce a new
imagination, a new political language into the heart of
empire. You have reintroduced the right to dream into a
system that tried to turn everybody into zombies mesmerised
into equating mindless consumerism with happiness and
As a writer, let me tell you, this is an immense
achievement. I cannot thank you enough.
We were talking about justice. Today, as we speak, the army
of the United States is waging a war of occupation in Iraq
and Afghanistan. US drones are killing civilians in Pakistan
and beyond. Tens of thousands of US troops and death squads
are moving into Africa. If spending trillions of dollars of
your money to administer occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan
is not enough, a war against Iran is being talked up.
Ever since the Great Depression, the manufacture of weapons
and the export of war have been key ways in which the United
States has stimulated its economy. Just recently, under
President Obama, the United States made a $60bn arms deal
with Saudi Arabia. It hopes to sell thousands of bunker
busters to the UAE. It has sold $5bn-worth of military
aircraft to my country, India, which has more poor people
than all the poorest countries of Africa put together. All
these wars, from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to
Vietnam, Korea, Latin America, have claimed millions of
lives - all of them fought to secure the "American way of
Today, we know that the "American way of life" - the model
that the rest of the world is meant to aspire towards - has
resulted in 400 people owning the wealth of half of the
population of the United States. It has meant thousands of
people being turned out of their homes and jobs while the US
government bailed out banks and corporations - American
International Group (AIG) alone was given $182bn.
The Indian government worships US economic policy. As a
result of 20 years of the free market economy, today, 100 of
India's richest people own assets worth one- fourth of the
country's GDP while more than 80% of the people live on less
than 50 cents a day; 250,000 farmers, driven into a spiral
of death, have committed suicide. We call this progress, and
now think of ourselves as a superpower. Like you, we are
well- qualified: we have nuclear bombs and obscene
The good news is that people have had enough and are not
going to take it any more. The Occupy movement has joined
thousands of other resistance movements all over the world
in which the poorest of people are standing up and stopping
the richest corporations in their tracks. Few of us dreamed
that we would see you, the people of the United States on
our side, trying to do this in the heart of Empire. I don't
know how to communicate the enormity of what this means.
They (the 1%) say that we don't have demands . they don't
know, perhaps, that our anger alone would be enough to
destroy them. But here are some things - a few "pre-
revolutionary" thoughts I had - for us to think about
We want to put a lid on this system that manufactures
inequality. We want to put a cap on the unfettered
accumulation of wealth and property by individuals as well
as corporations. As "cap-ists" and "lid-ites", we demand:
An end to cross-ownership in businesses. For example,
weapons manufacturers cannot own TV stations; mining
corporations cannot run newspapers; business houses
cannot fund universities; drug companies cannot control
public health funds.
Natural resources and essential infrastructure - water
supply, electricity, health, and education - cannot be
Everybody must have the right to shelter, education and
The children of the rich cannot inherit their parents'
This struggle has re-awakened our imagination. Somewhere
along the way, capitalism reduced the idea of justice to
mean just "human rights", and the idea of dreaming of
equality became blasphemous. We are not fighting to tinker
with reforming a system that needs to be replaced.
As a cap-ist and a lid-ite, I salute your struggle.
Salaam and Zindabad.
This is the text of a speech given by the author at the
People's University in Washington Square on 16 November
[Arundhati Roy is a novelist, writer and political activist.
Her novel The God of Small Things won the Booker Prize in
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