Getting Their Act Together

18 Oct

It’s interesting how one of the most common themes taken up when people talk about the Occupy Wall Street movement – aside from marvelling at its staying power – is its lack of focus. At the same many say they support what they’re doing, they complain about the fact that they have no concrete demands and no leaders.

One Idea

So I have been thinking about this lately, after hanging around Toronto’s Occupy Canada site for a while on Saturday, and following a lot of the comments all kinds of people, from my FB friends to Paul Krugman to even a PR expert, have been making. And oddly, I think the point has been lost: namely, that we’re talking about it!
We’re all thinking about the fact that an ever-growing group of people is saying what none of our so-called leaders in politics, business or the media are saying, that there is something very wrong with the status quo. That the wealthy have inordinate power over democratic processes, to the point where the whole shebang is being called into question.
I can’t help but think about some of the social movements I have been following for several years now, from urban poverty activists to La Via Campesina. Often, those movements do not set up a hierarchy of leaders, and purposely so. They want to keep the ideas and opinions of their members bubbling up and flowing to the surface. They want just regular folks to know they’ve got space in there to voice what they think.
The results are always going to be dispersed – but broad. If you look at the Sept. 30th “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City” (helpfully provided by a guy on the sidewalk near King subway stop on Saturday), you’ll find a long list of observations and complaints, from the corporate bailouts to illegal foreclosures to media control to a monopolized food system based largely on animal torture. And at the end of that long list there is an asterisk. Below, the asterisk is explained –“These grievances are not all-inclusive.”
Personally, I am hoping that this whole phenomenon is a process, one in which demands will coalesce, and strategies and solutions will – ideally – evolve. We often forget that real democracy is not a small group of people “leading” a far larger one and speaking on their behalf. It’s all about discussion and argument and time, about realizing that, if you want something to change, you need to think about what and say so. I may not have the same issues an unemployed person does. I support the movement because our current government bugs me so much, with its smug, small-minded and self-serving actions, whether that’s denying a union of (mostly female) flight attendants the basic right to demand better conditions and wages through a strike , spending $35 billion on battleships instead of something useful, like infrastucture – or in a recent, under-reported move, blacklisting a Canadian artist named Franke James because her work criticizes the oil-sands project they love so much. (Ms. James said their meddling has caused sponsors in 20 European cities to withdraw support for a tour she was preparing. A nice day’s work for diplomats whose salaries we pay.)

What will happen as the weather grows colder and staying in a park outdoors just becomes crazy? Sure, many people will probably need to move. But I have a feeling that new methods of protest – and above all of getting us to pay attention to the massive injustices that go on around us every day – will manifest themselves. So let’s stick together, and not let the complexity deter us from keeping this great act on the road.

And Another Idea

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One Response to “Getting Their Act Together”

  1. Deb October 19, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    Right on! Thanks for this window on on the ferment of Occupy ideas in Toronto ….

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