#OccupyTogether. It’s About Inequality and Social Justice

Jake DiMare responds to some critical misconceptions about the #OccupyWallStreet movement. 

Remember two weeks ago when you didn’t know what ‘getting on stack’ meant? Still don’t? For those of you whose weekend consisted of catching up on reruns of Jersey Shore there’s something interesting unfolding on city streets all over the United States. It all started two weeks ago on Saturday, September 17th, 2011 when a group of individuals invaded Lower Manhattan with the intention to–quite literally–occupy Wall Street.

Within days, whispers of similar action in Chicago, Portland, and Los Angeles surfaced online. This past weekend the flood gates opened. Suddenly there are occupation groups at various levels of organization in over 100 cities across the country and another 27 international chapters. More are coming online seemingly by the minute.

Here in Boston this past Friday night the #OccupyBoston camp kicked off with approximately 1200 people rallying in Dewey Square. This new occupation is literally wedged between the Federal Reserve building and the Bank of America headquarters in Boston. Within 48 hours the Boston occupation has set up a full camp and completed a couple of successful, peaceful marches.

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Meanwhile, back in New York City, the occupation numbers have swelled dramatically, after a spate of ridiculously incompetent police efforts to stymie peaceful protests, some of which resulted in a flood of online content documenting police violating department procedure, civil rights and, perhaps in some cases, criminal law. This past weekend, thousands marched in New York City, after a week of visits from celebrities and leading thinkers including Dr. Cornell West and documentary film maker, Michael Moore.

In the last week #OccupyWallStreet has received endorsement and solidarity from a handful of unions, including the powerful transportation union. Just in the last 24 hours MoveOn.org and the Zeitgeist Movement have called their followers to action, adding hundreds of thousands of supporters.

I could go on for hours about what’s happening out there but it would probably be a lot easier for readers to go on twitter and search for #occupywallstreet or visit https://occupywallst.org/ for more information on New York City or http://www.occupytogether.org/  for information on occupations in other cities.

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Of course, as with anything new unfolding on such a scale, there’s plenty of questions and criticism as well. Main stream media is has been called out on shading their stories, making sarcastic comments and, reportedly, in at least one case the New York Times changed the way a story was reported 20 minutes after publishing a story which highlighted NYPD incompetence. In the social space, and particularly on Twitter, there’s is no shortage of trolls ready to point out what they think is wrong with the occupations, 140 characters at a time.

By way of full disclosure, I’ve been spreading the word about #OccupyWallStreet and, particularly, #OccupyBoston on Twitter. I consider myself a supporter, having donated some money and clothing, but I am not an occupier and certainly not an organizer of the occupation movement. The views and opinions I will share in this article are my own.

I’d like to quickly address the most ridiculous question I’ve heard with regard to the occupation movement. If you really have to ask what the occupiers are protesting, you’re an idiot. Stop reading immediately because you lack a fundamental level of cultural relevance and/or reading comprehension to understand most of what I have to say. Go back to reading US Weekly as quickly as you can. I’m sure there is something in there about what color Khloe Kardashian’s toenails are going to be this fall you would not want to miss.

However, if you just want a reminder on the details, one of my previous articles on The Good Men Project may help out.

Criticism #1: The movement has talked a lot about lofty goals and objectives but don’t seem to have a clear strategy. 

My response to this line of questioning is pretty straightforward. Just because you don’t recognize the initial phases of a strategy doesn’t mean one isn’t being employed.  A goal like purging the influence of corporate money over the United States government is not going to be accomplished overnight. The occupation is currently on the first few steps of hundreds of things which must be done in order to bring about the kind of changes envisioned.

Criticism #2: The occupiers are spoiled, lazy hippies.

This sweeping generalization is particularly persistent in the Twittersphere amongst Christian youth ministers from places no sane person would ever choose to live, like Iowa. As with any movement this big, there are sure to be many people out there who are smart or stupid, motivated or lazy, etc. However, the majority of people I’ve met while visiting the camp in Boston are incredibly organized, inspired and resourceful.

Criticism #3: The occupiers seem to be very disorganized.  

False. Go visit your local camp. In Boston the occupiers have on-site food service, centralized laundry and trash removal. There are supply and tactical teams working 3 shifts. There is a media team working out of a tent with power and WiFi reacting to mentions, fielding interviews and generating content around the clock. There is a medical tent with registered nurses, a spiritual tent and a hundred or so full time campers in addition to the space and infrastructure to handle the 1000 or so participants in general assembly meetings.  There are sessions going on all day to educate occupiers on topics like protest first-aid and legal issues.

Criticism #4: This will never work. Their goals are impossible. 

Not having the ability to see into the future, I can’t say for sure what the outcome of this movement will be. However, I also don’t believe a good man or woman can look at the world today and simply decide there is no use in trying to make it a better place. The situation is grim for all but the most wealthy among us but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Criticism #5: I don’t understand the message. There are too many voices. 

This was difficult for me at first as well. I know it is hard to recognize it when compared to what we see on C-Span, but truly pluralistic democracy isn’t pretty… And it doesn’t happen overnight. Everyone gets a voice in a general assembly and the occupiers are hell bent on making sure dissenting views don’t get drowned out just because they may be tedious or unpopular. This is not democracy where things are resolved after the commercial break.

Criticism #6: Get a job.

This seems to be a favorite comment from people rolling by the #OccupyBoston camp in SUV’s with oversized wheels. All I can imagine is it is coming from people who get their information and news filtered through sources like ‘shock jock’ radio personalities. Being informed is not a hurdle one has to cross in order to spout an opinion.

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Consider things differently

In general, to the critics of the occupation I ask you, for just a moment, to relax and think about the current state of the occupation movement from a completely different angle. Change your baseline assumption about the occupiers for a moment. Instead of thinking of them as lazy hippies who don’t want to get a job, think of them as good men and women, with strong values and a desire to make the world a better place. People from all walks of life and of all ages.

Imagine the organizers are smart, motivated and media savvy, having never really lived in a world without the internet. Envision them as clear-headed, healthy young men and women with graduate degrees from prestigious Ivy League institutions out living in the mud or sleeping on cold concrete with even colder rain falling on their heads, a situation that has no effect on their steely resolve to make the world a better place for the sick and elderly, the poor and needy.

Now imagine they are digging in for the long haul…Setting up a network and infrastructure designed for the purpose of snapping together broad based support. Consider the possibility that during this early phase the plan is simply nothing more than to organize and grow. Now think about the list of cities all over the world where this movement is catching on like wildfire…Thousands marching around Lower Manhattan…labor unions coming out in support…Suddenly you are catching on…Shh…go back to sleep.

photo: mikegwphotos / flickr

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About Jake DiMare

Jake DiMare lives in Boston, Massachusetts with his fiancee Jackie. In addition to writing for the Good Men Project, Jake is a digital strategist managing large scale web projects for government, health and higher education clients. When Jake’s not at work he enjoys sailing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, movies and hanging out with friends. Jake blogs at jakedimare.com and can be found on Twitter @jakedimare

Comments

  1. Loved the articles Lisa..keep up the great job….its not easy when you are a man in Africa…hard really hard finding a few good men back here.The Site is quite educative and gives alot of insight from different perspectives and angles with view and topics that touch on so many things that we dont see much back here! 5 thumbs up from Mama Africa!

  2. Good article, it addressed a lot of my pragmatic skepticism about this series of protests.
    Reading that this is indeed an organised continuous Assertion is piquing my interest.

  3. Jake, this is a great article for anyone wanting to understand the movement and you do a good job of wrestling the principles of the movement out of the jaws of a crazed hippy. I really hope it lives up to your vision of it!

  4. Honestly… I still think that this movement is run by purposeless hippies who would be just as content with an XBOX and a case of beer.
    BTW.. Labor Unions are as parasitical an any wall street firm.

  5. brightlighter says:

    Nice article Jake. I do think that people need to stop and take a second and ask- “Is everything really OK?” And if the answer is the same resounding “no” that I come to, then what is the path to changing that? Certainly the two-party political system isn’t working for anybody except the the richest amongst us, so how else do we incite the kind of change that is needed? Certainly you can forfeit your desire to have a better life for yourself and simply make pot shots like budmin here, or you can really ask yourself- What can I do to make my voice heard? A case of beer & some videogames might appease budmin, but the rest of us would like a dignified life: an education, a career, and a home without fearing that, at the whim of some Wall St. trader/traitor, all of our collective eggs are fried. Is that really the America that we believe in? Is that all we are worth?

    Thanks for your continued attention to this, Jake.

  6. Jake, could I ask you to take your own advice and imagine the critics of the “movement” as smart, informed, hardworking individuals who actually possess the ability to think critically about current events, and yet still disagree with you?

    Or are you so busy labeling critics as, in your words, people “from places no sane person would ever choose to live” who “get their information and news filtered through sources like ‘shock jock’ radio personalities,” to take notice of the inherent hypocrisy in asking your critics to open their minds while simultaneously closing your own?

    • OK, I’ll imagine it. Care to explain your position?

      • The current viewpoints of the protestors lack nuance or originality.

        To begin with, their blanket anti-corporate complaints are all tired old statements that we’ve heard before. The idea that “corporations put profits before people” is at least as old as the Port Huron statement and subject to the exact same criticisms.

        Namely: so what? Capitalism has brought us prosperity, competing systems have failed, and continue to fail. For all the constant talk about “scandanavian socialist paradises” no one wants to talk about socialist Spain with 25% unemployment. America is sad now that we know what 9% unemployment looks like, but in France the unemployment rate has only been below 9% for 6 of the last 20 years. There is no reason to believe a competing model is superior in any way shape or form. Yes, this recession is bad. There will be future bad recessions. Throwing a hissy fit will not change this, and socialist policies can make the future a good deal worse.

        But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The recently released “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City” combines a whole panoply of silly leftist causes (literally mentions everything from “cruel treatment of animals” to the “poisoning of the food supply”), all of which are old, tired, and have been rejected as serious dozens of times before.

        And that’s the real point here: there’s nothing new. This is NOT a popular movement, just a vocal one. If it were popular, we would have seen the 2010 elections swing the other way. They did not. If it were popular, and things like “pollution” and “animal cruelty” were serious national concerns, then no Republican candidate would be polling with a majority anywhere. Yet, not only are Republicans polling well in many places, recently released polls suggest that they have a real chance to take the White House in 2012.

        This movement is the same old gripes repackaged with claims that the movement is somehow “of the people.” The reality is that this is no more a “revolution” than the Tea Party was 2 years ago.

        As someone who just wants to get to work, and home, without being harrassed (here in San Francisco the “Occupy” group is actively planning to shut down Market Street, the major transit corridor, beginning at 5pm this Wednesday, making it clear they are targetting the commute), it’s really not much fun to have old causes thrown in my face while the buses and trains are shut down and keep me from my apartment.

        • Thanks, I don’t need to imagine you are thoughtful and intelligent anymore. I respect your views. I sympathize with just wanting to get home from work in San Francisco…Having lived there before I know first hand what a hassle it can be.

          I wish I had a response that would somehow convince you that you are wrong but the truth is I don’t. The only thing I am sure of is what we have today isn’t good enough. It won’t be good enough (for me) until everyone is taken care of with fairness and compassion.

          This is the Good Men Project after all…isn’t being a Good Man what we are talking about?

        • It seems to me that the protestors aren’t against capitalism, per se, but against corporate control of the government. Just as we have separation of church and state in this country, so too ought we to have separation of corporation and state. This can only come about, in my opinion, by adding a constitutional amendment requiring public financing of campaigns, so that corporations can no longer purchase the finest lawmakers that money can buy; then using those lawmakers to write policies that enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else.

          • This is a very, very sensible demand. I hope it, or something like it, is at or near the top of the list when the occupation movement does start to outline their goals.

          • Wendy, I respect what you’re saying, but for someone like me it just seems like we’re substituting one set of special interests for another.

            Why should corporations be outlawed from participating in government but groups like PETA and Greenpeace be allowed in? If the environmentalists can lobby, why can’t the oil industry? If the crowd in favor of regulation can organize and petition government, why can’t the crowd in favor of deregulation?

            I understand the concern about the amounts of money involved, but historically that hasn’t played out. Obama built his campaign by amassing small donations from a broad base. As several economists have pointed out (Steven Levitt among them), the idea that “the candidate who spends the most wins” likely reverses cause and effect: the more popular candidate gets the most donations in the first place. Obama was more popular, he leveraged the popularity to raise money from ordinary people, and he was swept into power with a comfortable vote margin. It’s not that he bought the vote, rather, the voters bought into him.

            Jake, I appreciate your attempts to open a dialogue. For what its worth, it’s good to see the protests get some coverage. We definitely need a dialogue in this country, and this movement is as good a place to start as any.

            • MIke, I’m not sure anyone is suggesting our leaders are completely isolated from lobbies.

              For myself, I am only interested in seeing all influence of money removed. I also think it is fair to demand people, non-profits and for-profits are all given at least equal time to try and influence leadership.

            • Peter Houlihan says:

              @Jake: If the occupy protests you’re speaking of did emphasise the goal you mentioned of removing fiscal conflicts of interest from government I’d be all in favour of them.

              As it is I really think Mike’s right: They just seem to be throwing up the same far left slogans I’ve been hearing for years “Capitalism = Evil” “Defloridate Our Water” etc. aswell as a few new ones regarding the financial crisis that don’t seem to have any bearing on reality (do any of them have any idea why the government is bailing out the banks?).

              Their insistance that they represent the 99% is also arrogant and misleading, any polling data available shows that they don’t.

              As nice as it is to see people getting angry and speaking out, its really not much use if they don’t have anything new to say or any useable solutions. Maybe ocuupy dame st (Dublin) will turn into something worthwhile and useful, but I’m not holding my breath.

  7. The Bad Man says:

    I would like to believe that this is a western uprising against capitalist control of government. I don’t fall for all of the negative stereotypes attributed to the protesters or the MSM spin. Yet I fear that we will just be serving new masters with their own special interests.

  8. Tom Matlack says:

    Jake I am very ready to support this whole effort. I am with you on social justice and inequity. My problem is that quite literally no one can figure out what the message is. I have read more than one article where the writer (perhaps their fault but still) goes on for graph after graph without EVER saying why these people are occupying the streets and what they want even in a general pluralistic way. If the folks in the streets can’t be organized enough to feed the press crumbs of a message than I don’t know how effective it can be. When folks marched for civil rights or agains the various wars it was never in doubt what they wanted or what the injustice was. Here it just is very unclear. My advice is get a broad but understandable message and build a big tent around that.

    • I guess I wonder which rule book every one is reading from where it says the strategy of a protest is:

      Step 1 – Occupy a space
      Step 2 – Make your one demand clear
      Step 3 – etc.

      What I am suggesting is:

      1. If there is a playbook for the traditional protest, the occupiers didn’t get a copy.
      2. I caution anyone against rushing to judgement that the movement is lacking a strategy, disorganized or rudderless based on their reticence to rush to a list of demands.

      Quite to the contrary, it would seem their strategy is to invite anyone who is unhappy with the current situation (including you) to get down there for one of the nightly general assemblies and help them shape the future.

      If one metric of a protest movement is it’s ability to attract new talent….they are hitting a grand slam in that department.

      • Peter Houlihan says:

        Again, how on earth are they shaping the future? Theres no strict set of rules on how to effectively advocate political change, but a certain degree of common sense has to apply. If a group can’t even establish what they’re fighting for (and I think they’ve had more than enough time to work this out) I really don’t see how they can succeed in fighting for it.

        Its not that their strategy is flawed, its that there isn’t one, or any hope of them achieving anything other than registering their anger. Was there any doubt that the political situation has made people angry? If not then what have they done?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Back to the fictional banker with his or her nose pressed against the glass: whom does he or she see on the street below them? A bunch of freeloading hippies who’d rather turn up and sit around watching people who are clinging on to their jobs, than get one of their own? Just as some stereotypes of  ‘greedy banksters’ are true but not the full story, it seems that the Occupy Wall St movement has a sprinkling of wacko undesirables of its own—but it also has a voice of reason. […]

  2. […] #OccupyTogether. It’s About Inequality and Social Justice […]

  3. […] Contact #OccupyTogether. It’s About Inequality and Social Justice — The Good Men Project Posted in THE ORPHANAGE0 comments via goodmenproject.com […]

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