Mohammed Bouazizi worked as vegetable street Vendor in the small North African nation of Tunisia. With this one man’s rebellious but inspirational act, the foundations of the Occupy Wall Street Movement were forged on the 17th of December, 2011. Mohammed Bouazizi purchased vegetable produce on Credit in order to sell food goods to the public. As Bouazizi was a father of eight his family’s necessities were a top priority. He was a graduated University student that failed to find a job out of post-secondary. Tunisia’s Government corruption created a dysfunctional economy that plummeted the employment rate particularly for youth. Bouazizi joined the thousands trapped in the poverty cycle called the Army of Unemployed Youth.  He was constantly in debt to pay back produce purchases. Through his debt his vegetable cart became a symbol of association with the 99%.


On the 17th of December Mohammed Bouazizi was harassed by police for not withholding a vendor permit even though it was not stated as a dire law. His scales, cart and dignity were stripped by the officers leaving him hopeless. Out of his distraught dissatisfaction after being denied the right to receive his goods back from the political office, Bouazizi turned to actions rather than words. Little did he know his actions would ignite one of the most influential political revolutions of this generation. Bouazizi lit himself on fire in front of the political office sparking Tunisia and eventually a chain of Muslim countries to outcry against the corrupt puppet governments. This became known as ‘Arab Spring’ and the same martyr- like actions of Mohammed Bouazizi that united oppressed Muslim societies also inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement. Bouazizi’s courageous act out of despair may not have brought an entire society against the Government like Arab spring but it unveiled the power of the individual.


Occupy Wall Street certainly formed outside the heart of New York’s Stock Exchange but its roots rest with Mohammed Bouazizi. His sacrifice branded people all over the world with inspiration to address the one per cents greed. Like his flesh it scarred us as a reminder that as collective individuals we can stand against the unequal distribution of wealth and services. Ironically enough the United States supported Arab Spring even though it was generally responsible for installing numerous puppet governments throughout North Africa.  In the US “The top 1% of earners enjoyed 65% of all income growth in America for much of the decade” just passed. “In 2010,” he added, “20.5 million people, or 6.7% of all Americans, scraped by with less than $11,157 for a family of four—that is, less than half of the poverty line” (Solnit 2011). What is so powerful about Bouazizi’s decision to lite himself ablaze is it instigated community movement that resulted in a political revolution. People all throughout Tunisia have been disbanded by the corrupt regime for years as in most North African nations. Yet it only took Bouazizi’s self-burning to fuel mass protests. These mass movements highlighted the successful nature of general assemblies to organize protests with collective action and civil society. In turn Occupy Wall Street drew on the strongest aspects of civil demonstration in the Arab Spring and incorporated it into a leaderless movement. All revolutionary responses require a dramatic example. For the creation of Occupy Wall Street, that symbol is Mohammed Bouazizi. He is the ballerina that dances on the bull.

 15 December 2011  Posted by rhys360 Case Studies  Add comments