Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Time for Occupy Movement to Move On

Message Received. The Occupy movement accomplished the first step of what it set out to do. We have emphasized the tremendous economic disparity in this country and the undemocratic dominance of our government by big-money special interest groups. We have driven home the message that something needs to be done to address the inequality, inequity, and iniquity of our present social, political, and economic systems. So, what do we do and where do we go next to achieve our goals, whatever they may be?

We Need More Movement in Our Movement. America got that first message. Now people want to know what comes next. Surely it isn't just continued occupations, confrontations, demonstrations, protests, work blockages and civil disobedience, with the occasional violence and abuse of authority that accompanies such proceedings. But that is all they are seeing – both now and on the horizon. They see no change, no progress, no structure, and no plans. The second act so far has been mostly a repeat of the first act, and the audience is leaving in droves.

Our Methods Are Outweighing Our Message. Shutting down the Port of Oakland got a lot of press, but much of it came across as negative. When a veteran at an Oakland demonstration suffered a fractured skull, that was the news, not the message of the group. When anarchists defaced and destroyed both public and private property, that got the headlines, not the message of the movement. When cops flagrantly showered pepper spray on students in Berkeley and on and 84-year-old woman, that is what you saw and heard about on television, not the message of the movement. Marshall Mcluhan, who was born 100 years ago, once said “The medium is the message.” Unfortunately for our cause, the media being used by the Occupy movement to communicate their frustrations are mass protest and civil disobedience.

Where's the Beef Support! Recent polls demonstrate the the movement is losing is populist support. A USAToday/Gallup poll released in October reported that 20% of those polled disapprove of the way the movement is being conducted. In November, that percentage jumped to 31%, an increase of 55%. Approval during the same period dropped from 25% to only 20%, a decrease of 25%. Those are some shocking percentages for a movement that is trying to represent 99% of the population, and it does not bode well for the future of the movement if it does not get its act together.

Organizations Need Structure and Leadership. Any successful organization is needs to have a stated vision and mission, plus goals and objectives, and an organization to support them. This represents a charted course for the organization, something that is noticeably absent in its present state. . It also needs to have various checkpoints and milestones, much like a compass that ensures that the organization is on track toward its destination. And, of course, to carry the analogy a bit farther, there has to be a captain and a crew. Otherwise, the “ship” might as well be rudderless, because nobody will have specific responsibility to monitor the weather, set the sails, or steer the ship, and it will just flounder..

Democratic Decision Making? While the captain and crew could be selected democratically, day-to-day and minute-to-minute decisions have to be made by these people. It is not feasible or desirable to exercise the democratic process in every decision that must be made. You are likely to have decisions made based upon the whims of the group on a given day. Policies and long-term strategic and tactical plans can and probably should be made democratically. However, day-to-day management and decision making needs to be left to a leadership group. And that is another thing that is lacking at this point.

Role of “Leaders.” We need people who can unify, and speak for the interests of, the entire group, and not just for their own personal interests. We don't need people like Dylan Bozlee, of Hilo, Hawaii, who reported that he would rather travel across America than get a job. “Do I want to work?” he said. “Only if I wanted a home, wife, kids and a dog. If not, I think you’re ruining your life,” While everybody has a right to free speech, comments like this are taken up by the opposition as though they represent the Occupy group as a whole. The movement doesn't need comments like that. What is needed are leaders who can speak on behalf of the movement in an articulate and responsible manner. Bozlee, no matter how well-intentioned he may be, has played right into the hands of the movement's opposition.

Protection from Minority Views. Without some form of central leadership, the movement leaves itself wide open to being defined by the personal views, actions, and comments of individuals, rather than the group itself, and its perception devolves to the lowest common denominator. Whether it be the the socialists, the Marxists, the American Communists, the anarchists, or the Dylan Bozlees of the movement, these people are feeding the opposition, not helping the cause, and their effect needs to be diminished.

A spokesperson could also help explain elements of the movement that some people find questionable or objectionable, and could meet with authorities and government officials and possibly even create a spirit of understanding and cooperation, rather than misunderstanding and coercion.

Another View from the Outside. Byron Williams put it quite well in his column in the San Jose Mercury News:

“Without leadership that controls the message in a way most can understand, offering tangible solutions, providing guidance and sustaining morale when frustration consumes emotion, the Occupy movements will be vanquished into the flames of the first phase, leaving a few to brag about the several weeks their efforts to have a leaderless movement dominated the news cycle.

.Personally, I think there should be a national leader or leadership group, with a similar arrangement in each of the major city groups. Smaller groups, at their option, may decide on a form of leadership that best suite their needs and direction.

No comments:

Post a Comment