Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's the #Occupation That's Sweeping the Nation

There was a time when timidity kept me from joining things.  As time goes on, it's become more curmudgeonly distaste than fear that keeps me flying solo. There are a number of political and social issues that move me, but I always end up disinterested in aligning myself with the official movements that support  my positions.

There are a lot of reasons for that, but at the top of the list is my overwhelming aversion to the doctrinaire thinking and the kind of accidental complacency that creeps in when people align themselves under a philosophical flag.

Which is why I really like the #Occupy movement.
Given the respectful, dignified and diverse face of the this movement, the opposition's at a bit of a loss to find a critique that gains traction, but the standby seems to be the lack of coherent message, the old, "but they're not accomplishing anything," attack, which really misses the point.

For starters, there may not be a list of demands but guess what? This is a protest movement, not a hostage negotiation.   As far as there not being a message...isn't a little bit farcical to pretend the message is indecipherable?  The bottom line here is that the American public has become a marginalized minority by its theoretical representatives in government and the undue influence of corporations on same.

At this early point, the over-arching goal of this movement is to win the hearts and minds of the American public.

Because while morally dubious political decision-making and corporate malfeasance are the direct roots of our current malaise, we, the 99%, need to take a little bit of responsibility here too.  I'm not talking "you can't complain if you don't vote," because voting is a pretty bare minimum of involvement and is, as we've seen, pretty ineffective.  It's not enough to check a box on a ballot if elected officials know there'll be no consequences if they let us down.  The corporate/political complicity that #Occupy stands against didn't happen suddenly, it happened incrementally and as a nation we were a) not paying attention or b) too lazy to respond beyond bitching to our friends. 

There were people protesting, the proverbial canaries in the coal mine but average Americans were either a) not paying attention or b) too lazy to think critically about what they were saying.  The message that corporations have a dangerous hold on politics is not a new idea.  We've watched G8 summits and IMF meetings turn into chaos and rioting and we've seen a steady stream of furious hippies and punks railing against the man and his money and the control it has in our lives.  The thing is, they were preaching to the choir, or at the very least to lapsed members of the congregation.  The people who heard the message were the people who already understood the dynamic.  The people who needed to hear it saw a bunch of very angry people with weird hair and insufficient personal hygiene with whom they had nothing in common.

So here we are, having fallen rather far into the rabbit hole of economic and social decline and finally, finally waking up and taking a stand.  To my mind the real target of the #Occupy movement (at least at this early stage) is only nominally the 1% and its stranglehold on government.  It's not so much against something as it is FOR a great awakening of the public consciousness, FOR the creation of an educated, engaged populace, FOR a sense of unity to replace the binary us vs. them, liberals vs. conservatives, white collar vs. blue collar narrative that has effectively paralyzed our capacity to act together.  We've spent a very long time misdirecting a lot of dogmatic, impotent rage at each other instead of valuing the things we share and working to achieve common goals.

To change those attitudes, particularly as deeply entrenched as they are, is no mean feat.  #Occupy has made impressive inroads already, and if it keeps on apace, it will have achieved something far more valuable than revoking corporate personhood or prosecuting some crooked CEO; it will have changed the culture that created the conditions for these shenanigans in the first place.

And so I'm putting aside my natural aversion to joining and heading down to New York next week.  I have faith it's going to be engaging and inspiring.  I'm excited to meet people and talk with them about what's going on and I'm sure there'll also be a bunch of people and things that drive me crazy. Which sounds like democracy. It sounds good.


  1. This is beautifully expressed, and my sentiments exactly (though you've said more articulately than I would have). To me the Occupy movement is bearing witness to the mess that's been created in our society by the belief there's no societal interaction that's not at its heart corporate-- by the idiots who want our government to be a corporation. But they're wrong. We're America. We love corporations. They've helped us all to be much better off. That does not make us a corporation. Corporate values are dangerous and destructive. Corporate personhood is interesting (and useful) as a legal framework, but we have to remember these are pretty limited "persons." A person who acts the same way as a corporation would be considered at best damaged-- narcissistic, OCD, extremely selfish, and unable to get along with others.

    Occupy understands it is not useful to present specific demands, because that reinforces the mistaken impression the current power structure is the source and administrator of policy and power. It's not. Power in the USA is specifically placed in the hands of the people-- including, and especially, the 99%. It's not possible to give it up-- it's only possible to not claim it.

    I see Occupy as a stern 3rd grade teacher standing in front of her obstreperous half-a-roomful of clowns after recess, arms crossed, waiting for order to be restored. You don't negotiate with sugar and hormone addled grade schoolers, you just wait them out. Send one or two to the principal.

    And what's more-- and this is rare for me-- I think this will happen. Peace! And Power to the People!

  2. Excellent post, Meghan. Truly excellent. What he said. And good for you heading down there. Good luck.

  3. High fives all around!

    Please note, Jay, that I suffer from "swervy" title syndrome as well. I tried really hard to take your topical title advice, but I just can't help myself.

  4. I find it's hard to keep myself from using the swervy titles too. The search spiders should read our whole blog posts and suggest search visits based on that. Google SEO (search engine optimization) for hints about being more visible. Recently, I'm a little paranoid of people looking for copyright violations. They're trying to pass a new, even more draconian law to protect IP (which mean the revenue value of intellectual property owned by corporations). Gack! Whenever we turn around, our legislatures pass useless or corrupt laws. Drat! So, maybe it's good to be a little bit invisible.