Everyone that is familiar with Occupy Wall Street seems to have an opinion on what they need to do next. Not surprisingly, I have a few thoughts myself. But let me back up for a minute and reflect on my observations of what #ows has done so far.
Everyone agrees that #ows has succeeded in changing our national conversation. Before #ows, we had to endure daily conversations and maneuvering over debt reduction. An issue that exactly no one in America gives a shit about. We didn’t give a shit about the debt when George W Bush was exploding it, and we don’t give a shit about it now. Occupy moved the conversation back to what we do give a shit about; jobs. Actually, the conversation went far beyond jobs. Until #ows came along, I would have been downright orgasmic if we were merely talking about jobs. No, #ows took it s step further and got America talking about income inequality and the growing chasm between the rich and the middle class, let alone the poor.
That accomplishment alone was nothing short of a fucking miracle. But that wasn’t all they did. They inspired millions of people all around the world to take to the streets and join them. How they did this is the key to my thoughts on the future of the movement. I was having a conversation with a fairly brilliant friend of mine (you know who you are) last week, who pointed out that #ows are the 3 year old in the room, pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. They didn’t craft a list of demands, make the movement even remotely political, or appoint a leader. They remained purposefully ambiguous. This, in my opinion was fucking genius. If you’re reading this blog you most definitely can’t relate to this, but most people hate politics. They hate the lies and the liars, don’t understand policy, or simply don’t have the time to invest in figuring out what’s going on. I believe that by remaining apolitical, they’ve succeeded in appealing to a much broader segment of the public than they otherwise would have. Let me pause for a moment to acknowledge the fact that I’ve made a complete reversal on this point. I originally believed that it was essential that they coalesce around a single message. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Advocating for a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood, for example, would have severely limited the appeal of the movement. It would have limited the appeal to people that understand the issue, and understand how big of a factor that issue plays in the corruption of our government. It would have limited the appeal to liberals and independents, since republicans are reflexively pro-corporation. This (among many others) was the big mistake the teabaggers made, even before they were co-opted and Koched up. They were anti-Obama, which meant that right off the bat, 50% of Americans were opposed to whatever they were up to. It would have limited the appeal, and put the protestors in the position of having to educate people on the issue. No, it was much smarter to camp out and merely point out the fact that the emperor has no clothes, because most Americans can plainly see it.
Camping out was also a really important component of their strategy. It showed their commitment, but it also highlighted how dire the situation is. It drew far more attention than daily protests would have, and it served to recruit more people into the movement than marches would have.
Now that the encampments are being violently torn down all across the country, everyone has some advice to offer the movement. Let me throw in another observation here, I am not among those that believe that these occupiers don’t have a fucking clue what they’re doing. Not because I’m a sunny optimist, but because of what I’ve observed so far.
They have outsmarted my billionaire mayor at every single fucking turn. Emperor Bloomberg tried to break up the camps early on, with a unilateral decision that didn’t include a discussion with the corporation that sort of owns the park. It turned out that the owners of the park weren’t opposed to the occupiers. Oopsie, Mikey. You should have checked on that first, rather than assuming that you’re the king of New York City. When tearing down the camp didn’t work, he and his lapdog Commissioner Kelly decided that they would create the most hostile environment they could. That spectacularly backfired when daily video of NYPD brutality spread around the world like wildfire. Then they tried mass arrests which led most Americans to ask, “how could 700 people have acted in a way that merits being arrested, in a single day? Are the NYPD trying to muzzle free speech?”. When that caused worldwide outrage, they decided to try and destroy the movement from within by sending the city’s homeless, drunk, drug addled, and mentally unstable down to live with the protestors. While that created a cultural clash in the camp, the protestors managed to overcome that too, forcing Bloomberg to up the ante. His next move was to have the camps’ generators seized on the eve of a big (and rather ugly) storm, claiming that they were a fire hazard. What did the protestors do? They brought in some bicycle powered generators.
The final move by Bloomberg was to violently tear down the camp once and for all, claiming that conditions were “unsafe” and that there was violence and drug abuse happening in the camp. This is something we’d been hearing from mayors all across the country. It was an angle that actually got some traction among supporters of the movement. I watched the “unsafe” mantra ripple among my social networking circles. This was the angle that I found most insulting to my intelligence. Let me get this straight; there are rapists and drug dealers in the camp that are making it dangerous for everyone else, so you have to shut it down? Are you fucking kidding me? Your inability to keep the peace means that the movement needs to be dismantled? I believe that the job of law enforcement is the same within the occupy camps, as it in society at large. Their job is to identify, arrest, and make a case against criminal elements in society. This job isn’t any different within the #ows camp. Claiming that they can’t do that job without decimating free speech is total fucking bullshit. 50% of all drivers on the road in most major cities are legally drunk between the hours of 10pm and 3am on weekends. We could virtually eliminate all drunk driving deaths in America by imposing a curfew barring anyone from being on the road from 10pm to 6am on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Does that seem like a reasonable solution to anyone? Why would anyone buy into this bullshit excuse on the police’s part for why the protests need to be shut down? Whats their goddamned incentive to keep make sure the occupations are safe?
Anyway, back to Occupy’s response to Bloomberg’s latest move. Five hours after the raid began, attorneys for the movement slapped an injunction on Bloomberg preventing him from blocking the occupiers’ access to the park.
This group has their shit together. Anybody who doesn’t realize that, just isn’t paying attention.
Moving forward, I don’t believe the encampments are crucial to the movement any longer. I feel as if it’s time to spread out among the community and broaden the base. Most people that are of the opinion that Occupy needs a clear message now, I believe, overestimate its current reach. We live in a bubble, and I don’t think that there are as many of us as most people think there are. I think that the focus needs to be on raising awareness. They need to organize marches all across the city.
I believe that espousing an agenda is the most effective way to limit Occupy’s reach. They need to keep pointing at the naked emperor. No matter which agenda they adopt, they immediately reduce their pool of potential recruits by 50%. I’m not convinced that they’re anywhere near the point of needing to create a solution. We need to get the percentage of Americans that are involved in the movement up into the double digits before even thinking about putting forth a policy paper.
I don’t believe that they should appoint a leader. Doing so would just give the opposition a target to focus in on. So far, the attacks on the occupiers have been blatantly lame attempts at deriding them. Putting forward a single person will only serve to focus those attacks and muddy the conversation.
All of that said, I believe that the occupiers have a plan for the future. I don’t believe they intended to stay camped out forever because that just wouldn’t be consistent with what I’ve seen from them so far. They needed to have their camps violently torn down. They needed for the world to see the militarization of America’s police forces all across the country. Most people wouldn’t have believed it if they hadn’t seen it. Some still don’t. I don’t believe that they were caught off guard by these raids, and I don’t believe they need my, or anyone else’s advice because I haven’t seen them fuck up yet.
I mostly offer up my advice because I wouldn’t be living up to my pseudonym if I didn’t. But I have faith in the movement that helped to give me hope. Not the bullshitty Obama, corporate owned, kind of hope. But actual hope. The kind of hope that comes with Americans coming together, rather than screaming at each other across partisan divides.