Despite several challenges the Occupation of wall street is becoming a powerful catalyst for our nation. It seems by most accounts and observations, the group is well-organized, determined and moving forward with their stated objectives. Naturally there will be ridicule, downplay and outright media perpetrated lies from the conservative right, that is to be expected What concerns me is it’s not only the right that is jumping on the crazy wagon. I’d like to address two pervasive public reactions to the Occupation of Wall street that are already creating an atmosphere of divisiveness among the rest of the 99%.
First, the criticism that there is “no stated goal, or demand” put forth by the Activists.
This video is by far a more eloquent response than anything I could craft. In my mind it is virtually a guidebook for the evolution of a revolution! I was particularly struck by the statement made by the young woman addressing needing to change ourselves before we can change the world. As passionate, creative and motivated as we all are we are conditioned to functioning in a society that promotes individualism over cooperation, power over consensus and expects immediate outcomes. Cooperative organizing for lasting change is process and meeting, educating, sharing ideas are all process. This is not a quick fix. The easy way, the quick way, Action that is not nurtured and developed by cooperative planning and careful consideration of the community as a whole is the kind of modus operandi that led this country into our current state. The fact that people are engaging in the process in large groups, visible to the public promotes action in a way that is dynamic, inclusive and effective. We have seen that we can only spend so much time planning and organizing online, in coffee houses or libraries before the group begins to lose momentum. Being in public and accessible draws more people into the fold and provides them with real opportunities to be a part of some thing bigger than themselves. The general assembly model provides structure, opportunity and facilitates empowerment both for individuals and as a community. The daily routines of marching, chanting dancing and protesting keeps people mobilized, energized and motivated.
The intent is fairly obvious, we don’t need a spreadsheet or manifesto to get the point across that economic inequality has reached the breaking point, that the government is no longer run by politicians but by the corporations who buy them and that people are demanding change.
The second issue that has me a bit irked is the incredible amount of time and energy some individuals are devoting (but not acting on) to the abuses perpetrated upon protesters by some NYPD officers (especially young scantily clad girls). Some place so much emphasis and attention on these incidents that they risk losing focus of the original purpose. Even the media was essentially ignoring the occupation until the arrests, accompanied by excessive violence started showing up on you tube and other social networking outlets. Why is this many ask. Is it because we care about protesters getting hurt? Do we care about abuse of power and authority/ Let me remind you that if the latter were the case, these protests/gatherings would have drawn national coverage from day one. After all it is the abuse of power, the oppression of human beings that is the fundamental cause of the movement. So why has the media suddenly taken interest? Distraction. A direct provocation of emotional response and reaction that is a fly in the ointment of calm, rational planned process. I’m reasonably certain the organizers have included a “how to deal with combative police presence” in their core training and mission. It is the people who are following closely via whatever media source they have available, who are becoming entangled in this web of drama. Please know I am not minimizing the event. It’s clearly an excessive and uncalled for use of force. However this is to be expected, at least prepared for, when organizing an occupation/demonstration of this size and scope. The abuse needs to be addressed but as it’s own issue, handled by a designated committee in conjunction with the attorneys who are volunteering their time to assist with these matters….otherwise we risk distraction from the original goal and purpose. Ongoing organizing and direct action needs to continue; if anything these events can offer a teachable moment where the activists can revisit strategies for passive non-compliance. To risk losing time and effort organizing, to act from a place that is purely re-active is to risk undermining the validity of the organization. Additionally this sort of reaction perpetuates the “Us and Them” mentality which is another divisive tactic. As some of you may remember, here in Wisconsin we had an incredible amount of support from the police in Madison this winter during the occupation of the State Capitol building. This week in New York there are police who are not coming into work. As many as 100 officers, according to some sources, did not show up for work on Monday. Many of these men and women are in the same boat as the rest of us, struggling to get by on low wages in a world of increasing cost, worried about losing their homes and having their Union dismantled piece by piece. If we are to heed the advice of the woman quoted in the video and change ourselves in order to change the world, we have to stop painting classes of people, even police, with a broad brush. We have to refine our skills of discernment. That means call out the bad eggs, get their badge numbers, video their actions (people have been doing a great job at this) but I caution against screaming “Fascist pig” or some other slander at the man or woman who may very well be on your side even if they are in uniform. That person may well save our life someday.
I’m looking forward to seeing and participating in the progression of this movement and I encourage readers to seek out alternative news sources for more information. I’m providing a list of a few links at the bottom of the page if you are interested in learning more about the actions and activists.