Reddit users in the subreddit r/Wallstreetbets brought down Wall Street this week. Acting collectively, they overwhelmed bets by hedge funds that the stock price of the video game retailer GameStop would plunge. The Redditors did what they set out to do: rescue GameStop stock, punish certain industry practices, and, above all, troll the stock market.
If you want to understand the economics behind all that, here's the journalist James Surowiecki with a breakdown. But what’s so remarkable about the whole incident isn’t learning that the stock market can be easily overpowered (that’s been proven before). It’s that Reddit breezily revealed the vast power that can be generated when people with a shared purpose act in unison.
Especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has further highlighted the massively unequal distribution of wealth in the US and around the world, the GameStop saga is a stark example of everyday people going up against systems of power to demand transformative change.
And collective action, no matter what form it takes, is ultimately the engine that drives history.
In New York City, workers at Hunts Point Market recently demanded a $1 raise to account for the hazardous nature of working through a pandemic. When the company refused, they went on strike until they achieved their goal.
Indigenous communities throughout Latin America engage daily in collective resistance to halt commercial activities that destroy the Amazon Rainforest. They also engage in collective action to protect and conserve the rainforest, preserving centuries of tradition.
Protests, meanwhile, are happening worldwide. Farmers in New Delhi are demanding fair working conditions and adequate pay for their labor. After years of women-led community organizing in Argentina, the government recently passed a law to legalize abortion that will particularly help women living in poverty.
And two, youth-led movements, the fight for racial justice and the fight for environmental justice, are growing across the globe — underscoring the fact that Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color are the most impacted by pollution and climate change. People from Minneapolis to Kampala are marching, organizing, and building power to achieve a healthy and thriving global environment and human rights for all.
“Now we all have a choice,” climate activist Greta Thunberg said in a 2019 song with the band The 1975. “We can create transformational action that will safeguard the living conditions for future generations. Or we can continue with our business as usual and fail. That is up to you and me."
All the big changes in society have been started by people at the grassroots level. People like you and me.
“And yes, we need a system change rather than individual change. But you cannot have one without the other,” she said. “If you look through history, all the big changes in society have been started by people at the grassroots level. People like you and me.”
It's that kind of thinking that makes ending poverty possible — when everyone realizes their individual and collective power.
Global Citizens, for example, have taken more than 28 million actions in the fight to end extreme poverty, leading to $48.4 billion in commitments made and impacting 800 million lives to date. You can join the movement, take action, and learn more about poverty and its systemic causes. Then, you can use that momentum to jump-start your own activism in your daily life by participating in — or organizing — collective action efforts in ways that directly benefit your community.
The community on r/Wallstreetbets showed, if only briefly, how people can rapidly overturn old conventions and power structures.
Now let’s harness the energy of collective action for other things, like saving the planet.