Friday, November 18, 2011
New Direction for the Occupy Movement
The Occupy Movement at the Crossroads. We have completed our first mission and delivered our message. We are the 99%, and we want to get corruption out of a government that has fed Wall Street, the corporate mega-corporations and the super-wealthy at the expense of its middle and lower economic classes.. The American people have heard us and have responded resoundingly. Even the top 1% have heard us and are virtually begging Congress to increase their contributions to help alleviate the financial problems that beset our country. As one of them said, if Congress ended the Bush-era tax cuts it would affect him and his fellow millionaires"about as much as a dead fly interrupts a picnic."
What Have We Accomplished? The mission of the occupation movement was get the attention of the American people; to open their eyes, ears, and minds to what has been going on around them for decades; to get to them our message of corruption and the need for reform; to comfort them in knowing that they are not alone; and to let them know that together we have the power to effect changes that will make a difference in their lives and in the lives of all who come after them. We have done all of this. We have brought our case to the court of public opinion. We are the plaintiffs; our government is the defendant; the American people are our jury; and history will be our judge. Now we need to decide how to plead our case in such a manner as to bring about a favorable verdict. for our country and its people. This mission has been accomplished.
Mixed Effects of Our Efforts. The message of the 99% has been heard. Many, if not most of the American people, have felt our anger and our angst. Many thousands have rallied to our cries – with both personal and financial support. A small handful of protesters has grown into a mass of more than 100,000. Nowhere in the past four decades has the power and strength of democracy been better demonstrated and felt. However, the message many of our fellow citizens have heard is not the true message we would have liked them to receive. In many cases, they have understood it in only the broadest sense. In other cases, they have misunderstood the message altogether or have been led to misunderstand it by elements bent on subverting our efforts. They feel that we are attacking Wall Street, our government, and the 1%, instead of the inequality, inequity, and iniquity that they represent. Beyond that, our messages have gone in 100 different directions, lacking any clear or coherent focus, thus creating the impression among many that we are not united in what we seek. And I am sure that this also keeps major portions of the 99% from fully backing our goals.
In addition, our occupations have had a negative effect on some of the very 99% we choose to represent, creating in some areas a backlash against our cause. Our tactics have been hurting small businesses and ordinary citizens for more that they are the big corporations or the wealthy top 1%. If we did $100 million in damage to the income of a major business, they would hardly feel it among their billions of dollars of profit. But, if we wreaked only $1 million in damages to a local community, thousands of our fellow citizens would feel it. That is not good. If one does a Google search on Occupy hurts the 99 percent, you will get almost 25 million hits.
Do We Continue the Occupations? The answer to this is a resounding NO! They have served their purpose. We have the attention of our jury. There is no need to hammer our message over and over to them. That will serve no useful purpose and it can, in fact, have the opposite effect of what we strive to accomplish. Our occupation of parks and corporate entities is getting old and starting to wear thin with a lot of Americans. Fighting to continue our occupation diverts from our primary cause to reform our government and reclaim our democracy. If we continue to occupy public spaces and blockade corporate interests we will rapidly become “yesterday's news,” if we haven't already For many, we have already worn out our welcome. See Occupy Wall Street Favor Fading and Voters moving against Occupy movement.
There Is Also the Matter of Image. The image many Americans have of the occupiers is that of a bunch of well-intentioned, rag-tag young people who lack a specific goal and have no direction. The parks are crowded and messy, which projects a negative image for our movement. Dissenters have described them as being unsafe and unsanitary, claiming that people there are urinating and defecating in public, dealing and using drugs, and and engaging in other undesirable activities. This is not the kind of image that we want to project We want to be people that the American public can identify with and feel comfortable with. We want to turn them on with our cause, not turn them off because of negative perceptions.
Additional Benefits. By moving on from the occupation phase, we can sleep comfortably in our own comfortable beds each night, awaken refreshed from a good night's sleep, shower or bathe in the comfort of our own facilities, wear clean clothes every day, and be more rested for the next day's activities, without fear of being confronted in the middle of the night by hundreds of peace officers.
Time for the Next Step. We have awakened the sleeping eagle of democracy; and now we need to determine the direction in which it needs to soar. We need now to mobilize, organize and galvanize those who are in agreement with our cause and get them into our fold. They can be active or inactive, they can be vocal or silent; they can march or stand on the sidelines. But we still want them to support us in spirit and in word, and to register their support so that we can add them to our swelling numbers.
Time for Change – Mobilize America The time is right for us to move beyond the Occupy Wall Street phase to something ore like a Mobilize America phase. We may want a new name to indicate that we are shedding the old image for a new one – one of evolving change. We want to show the country and the world that we are maturing into a truly national movement, rather than a bunch of autonomous regional groups, and that we stand united for progressive change on behalf of our country – a movement in which all Americans can share and become a part of history in the making. I can see this being followed later by something like a Restore Democracy phase. However, we can cross that bridge when we come to it (and hope that it is not one of the hundreds that have a severely damaged infrastructure).
Next Step – Organize. Instead of having a couple hundred separate and independent entities doing their own thing their own way, it is time for us to find the strength that comes with unity – not just in purpose but also in practice and in tactics. This comes from the 3 C's – communication, coordination, and cooperation.
Communication. We need to be able to speak with one voice. Each of us has certain issues that we feel need to be addressed. However, when public representatives or members of the press want to interact with any of the group, they have no official source or spokesperson to contact. Consequently, they are likely to pick people at random and get their individual stories, problems, and needs. In so doing, our groups are getting painted with the feedback of individuals who may not be representative of the organization as a whole or who do not project the best image for the group. Yet, this is the face the public sees,and they judge us by that feedback.
Even within a democracy, we need to have some structure, and this is one area in particular that needs to be addressed by each individual group and by the entity as a whole. Whether it is a public information or a public relations function, or something else, there needs to be a communications component for each group who can speak on behalf of the general assembly. This could be one person or a small group of people who are properly informed and articulate communicators, who can accurately represent each respective group and, eventually perhaps, someone or some function to represent the movement as a whole.
Coordination. Just as we need to have someone to represent the views of each general assembly, we also need to have somebody to coordinate with other assemblies to share ideas, plans, problems, and progress. The mayors of 18 cities have done that, so why shouldn't we? In doing so, we can become a more effective and more unified movement, doing things in common as we work toward our common goal..
Cooperation. Here, we need to address not just the cooperation between general assemblies in different cities. We need to be able to meet with representative of our communities to open dialogues with them. We need to know where they stand and why they feel the way they do. We need to be sensitive to their needs and how our actions impinge on their rights as Americans. We cannot just presume to know what is right for all people without getting input from those affected. We need Allies, not enemies.
This could be a representative group of members who can meet on behalf of the movement with city authorities, civic groups, and small businesses-- most of which fit under our umbrella of being part of the 99%. We can enjoy mutual cooperation in our efforts and move on to greater successes than might otherwise be achieved. If all sides openly listen to the others and if everybody speaks with a voice of reason, we should be able to resolve any differences peacefully and amicably, and come to some agreements that will benefit everybody. . Without meaningful communication, mutual understanding and cooperation, each side is likely to consider the other as a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution we all seek.
We can still have our meetings, our rallies, and our demonstrations. But we can no longer get away with appearing to be an angry mob, hurting local businesses and disrupting their patrons. They, too are part of the 99%, and most of them are well down the chain of command from their 1% overlords whom they probably have never even met. We need to gain broad community support and not lose any of it by making their lives more difficult .
We Need to Improve Our Image. When we demonstrate, we should project the appearance of the kinds of people that typical Americans can identify with, and not project ourselves as a rag-tag group of disorganized and unkempt ruffians. We should definitely not give our dissenters any reason to describe us as a mob of hippies.
Check Out the Vets. We can learn a lot by looking at the demonstration of the veterans. They were well-dressed, well-groomed, well organized, and they marched in a formation. Of course,they are military, and they have been trained to do that. But we don't have to do just the opposite.
Suggestions for Marches. It is time for us to change from loose demonstrations to organized marches. Marches are better received and don't look like or sound like something that can easily break into a riot at the slightest provocation. We can break into multiple groups, perhaps ten across and fifteen deep, marching and staying pretty much in step. The first group could have a color guard with a US flag as the centerpiece, flanked by the state flag of the state in which the demonstration is taking place, with another flag on the other side, representing the city or the name of our cause. The first row of each section of marchers could carry respectable-looking signs espousing a particular cause for that marching section. We could also invite police officers to march along side of us as escorts, to ensure that nothing got out of hand. They could also be right on the spot to summon other officers if someone decides to damage or vandalize any property. Wouldn't that be a nice thing to see police officers marching side-by-side with the demonstrators, protecting their free speech rights on one hand and the property rights of the businesses on the other hand?