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.
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.
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.
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