Monday, October 17, 2011

Talking About Occupy

Perhaps the single most important action you can take right now is to talk to someone about the Occupy movement. Two tactics come to mind. The first and the easiest is to find out if your friends, your political allies have heard about Occupy. If not then you must engage them with the facts, not the mass media message. Only about 50% of the population has heard of Occupy right now, so basic information needs to spread. Be the spreader.

The second conversation is more difficult but much more productive to everyone - have the conversation with someone who disagrees with you. Doesn't matter if you support Occupy or are against it. Doesn't matter if you don't have all the information, facts, figures and spin. Just begin the conversation.

I am engaged with several people. One card carrying liberal democrat, an ardent Obama supporter, who sees the Occupy demonstrations as helping the republicans. On the other side I trade long emails with a man whom I respect as open, honest and well informed. He is also an arch-conservative and is currently rereading Atlas Shrugged as a guide to everyday living. A third conversation is with an old college friend who actually has worked inside the Washington beltway for many years; his predictions in '08, '04 and '00 were right on the money, I value his insider observations. By the way, his prediction at this stage of the presidential scrum - Romney outwaits the republican fringe candidates, wins the nomination and defeats Obama for the job.

I learn from all of these conversations, that's why I started them. My arguments are both refined and tempered by engaging with a variety of opinions. I am still searching for a strong middle of the road friend to take up yet another back and forth exchange.

Please talk to someone, even a whole bunch of someones. And write, don't let the corporate media sway your opinion with their propaganda. It is not true that Occupy lacks a clear message; it is true that CNN, Fox, NYT and others don't want to hear that message because it puts them squarely in the crosshairs.

Talk about Occupy. Write to the sources of power and information. Engage in Your Democracy. It was the Arab Spring but we are entering the American Autumn and the American Winter and by next spring - everything could change.

Here's a link to what Occupy has accomplished in the first month.
political cartoon from The New Yorker


The Shrink said...

Got this great note from a reader:

"I watched part of President Obama's speech in which he said protestors were "foot soldiers for justice" and they "brought about change few thought was possible"... of course he was speaking at the dedication of the MLK monument."

BJ Nemeth said...

I haven't seen anything about Occupy Wall Street on TV, because I don't watch TV anymore. The first I heard about the movement was when you first mentioned it in your Twitter feed several weeks ago. (You were the first of the people I follow to talk about it.)

I'm intrigued by the movement, and I have since looked into it to try to learn more about it. From the point of view of a passive outsider, there are a lot of similarities to the Tea Party movement, in that it is tapping into a lot of anger, but it's completely unfocused.

One thing that I find interesting is that a lot of people are actively trying to keep the Occupy movement unfocused, and I think that's a fascinating strategy. (And very different from the Tea Party's strategy.) It's easier to grow when it's unfocused, because there is no "wrong" reason to be protesting. Anybody who has general anger about the economy, or corporations, or unemployment, or rich people, can join the cause. If they had a specific list of demands, it would turn a lot of people off.

So right now it just seems like a bunch of people who are protesting to provide visual proof to politicians and corporate leaders that they're mad as hell and they're not gonna take it any more.

But what's the next step?

There's an often paraphrased "South Park" episode about Underwear Gnomes who try to teach the kids about business. Here's the plan of the Gnomes:

Step 1: Collect Underwear
Step 2: ?
Step 3: Profit

The joke is that the Gnomes, like many businesspeople during economic boom times, have ideas and start businesses without actual business plans to achieve the standard business goal of making a profit. (Twitter fits this description, actually.)

Here's how I currently view the Occupy Wall Street movement:

Step 1: Public Protests
Step 2: ?
Step 3: ?

Personally, I don't want to participate in any political movement until I know what Step 2 is, and I *definitely* won't participate until I know what Step 3 (the goal) is.

Like I said, this is only my outsider view of the situation, and I could be wrong. The lack-of-focus strategy fascinates me, but the lack of goals worries me.

Once the movement gets large enough, people will identify with it strongly, and when activists and politicians begin assigning their own goals to the movement, a lot of people will be so invested in the movement that they'll follow along. And even those that drop out will still be "claimed" by the future self-appointed leaders as supporting the cause.

You know a lot about this, and I know a little. I should probably just email you to start a more focused back-and-forth discussion about this.

Anonymous said...

My main concern about this worthy cause is that it might turn violent, not by the marchers but by the police or other authorities.

The Shrink said...

BJ - Happy to engage in email or here in the comment section. You might be interested in my post coming this Wednesday. Another open letter, this time to my apathetic friends.

The Shrink said...


Unfortunately the reality is that we can only limit the violence. So far the various occupations have been self-policed rather well, but you're right the corporate controlled police are a problem in many cities.

The Shrink said...

On the subject of police, I would also add that the local departments are very often on our side. They know most of their jobs are one layoff away from being gone. There is a lot of support out there from people coming from all walks of life.

BJ Nemeth said...

How about this -- I will read a little bit more about the movement, and then after your post on Wednesday, we'll begin an email dialogue so you can fill me on the things that I'm missing. (And I imagine there's quite a bit.)

I feel like this movement is big and growing and important, and that it will (eventually) lead to something. So I definitely want to learn more about it.

Anonymous said...

There have been arrests in Phoenix. I would cut and paste details, but the format of this comment form does not allow it.

Wolynski said...

Boy, it's exhausting talking to people about this - exhausting to remain polite, but that's the only way.

The problem is libertarians, conservatives, whatever, have no heart - they still think it's every man for himself and if you're not doing well, it's your own bloody fault.

I happen to think if you were born disadvantaged or just not very smart, you still should be given some opportunity for a comfortable life. Level the playing field a little.