Ramblings on the Occupy Movement

Just a letter I wrote to a friend regarding the Occupy Movement.

Disorganized mess isn’t neccesarially a bad description.  There are any number of groups involved in the Occupy Movement at the moment.  There are unions and immigrant rights groups, there Student pissed off about tuition hikes and Members of Anonymous pissed off about the corporate and state suppression if information, there are ex-home owners pissed off they got booted out of their homes and home owners pissed off their mortgages are upside down, there is the ACLU and La Raza and there are Anarchists and Communists and libertarians.  And they are all there with their own agendas and they all want their own things, but today, for now they are all unified under a mast head: Taking control of the country from the 1% of wealthiest people and putting it back in the hands of the 99%.

Now I know that last sentence sounds like alot of hogwash and empty rhetoric. But if you look at the numbers over the last, 20 years there is no way to slice it where the top 1% of the population haven’t seen an insane rise in wealth with the middle and lower classes are either growing either at or slower the the Cost of living. In 1976 the top 1% of the country controlled 9% of the wealth, today they control 24%. 1995 to 2005 average works pay rose 4.3% while the average CEO’s rose 298%. I can keep going but I’m sure you get the point. Couple that with massive cuts in social programs and massive reduction in taxation and regulation for Corporations and well, the lives of people are really starting to suck while corporations and executives are rolling in money. There are alot of complex reasons for this; globalization, NAFTA, deregulations, lobbying, really aweful financial regulation,  the wars we are fighting and so on but in the end none of those reason really matter and most people can’t articulate them. The truth is most of the protesters in the Occupy movement can’t articulate them either.

What the people in the Occupy movement can articulate is, “I can’t afford to go to school”, “I lost my home”, “30 years of my retirement savings were pillaged and my CEO walked away with millions”, “I don’t feel safe in my neighborhod”, “I have no hope. I can see no future. There is no way for me to get out of this mess.” and “Why do we support the wealthiest through hard times and let everybody else fend for themselves. Why do I have to sacrifice while while the rich are getting richer?” And so that is what they are doing and saying.

The structure of the occupy movement isn’t the easiest thing to comprehend. I’ll confess quite honestly that from the outside it looks like a mess. If you are used to looking for leaders and followers you’ll miss the entirety of what is happening down there. My experience at OccupyLA is an experience in Direct Democracy. As one of the speakers at the General Assembly put it the other night, “They say we are leaderless, I say we are leader-full” it’s a sentiment that is echoed through out most real grass roots social movements. People come together and then they work out their organization. Look back at the Civil Rights Movement, the labor movements of the 30’s and 1800’s, Ghandi’s India, Mandala’s South Africa,  even the American Revolution all started out as a disorganized bunch of rabble rousers with various agenda’s who through consensus worked out and achieved goals. Did they know the goals when they started out, no. They knew they were pissed off, or unhappy, or starving, or oppressed.  The “goals” of these movements came later. First they joined hands, and then they set out to change the world.

I understand your desire not to support a movement when you do not know where it is going. I share it. From the outside, and to some degree from the inside it looks like a revolutionary movement hell bent and destroying the American way of life in it’s entirety. There is some truth in that, there are people with that goal in mind. There are always people like that. Extremist always gravitate to the early phases of movements. They are in many cases the progenitors of such movements. But it takes a larger body of people to act, it takes growing a large concensus to get a mass of people to act. The people who want to overthrow the country or go burn down Bank Of America never get the popular vote and so they are forced to act alone or work with the group to achieve what they can agree on.

As for leaders and conformists, I agree to some degree. We don’t know everything and in a specialized society we have no choice but to rely on leaders.  I don’t know near enough about the economics of the country nor about - oh let’s say particle physics to make good decisions in those fields. I require and trust the authoritative knowledge of others to make those decisions.  The key word is trust, I grant my leaders trust which I reserve the right to withdraw.  The people in the streets right now are withdrawing their trust.

Have we benifited from the current social order. Of course we have, the thing is the number of people who are benefiting from the social order is decreasing and it has decreased to a point where those who have fallen or at risk of falling through the cracks are starting to assemble.

Ah man this is way to long way way way to long and it’s way way way late. I hope you’re aren’t totally fried. I guess I am using this to kinda work out some of my own thoughts and of course I’m just happy to talk about something I really do care about.

One Response to “Ramblings on the Occupy Movement”

  • Heather Federman Says:

    Vance, this is very insightful and well explained. I really enjoyed reading this again and learning from it. Thank you for sharing this.

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