What's Next for Occupy?
Friday, March 30, 2012
Occupy doesn't have 99% of the population supporting it, or, far more importantly, 99% participating in its endeavors. Instead, Occupy has some significant support, though not very deep, and still has quite low participation in its endeavors. To win anything, and especially to win a new world, it needs much more support and involvement.
Continued: See earlier post.
Many have responded to this article, and particularly the statement above. The problems of support and participation must be solved, I think, before Occupy can move forward and become a significant vehicle for positive change in the USA. As we move into the “American Spring” with promises of national strikes and other massive actions, I fear that many of these initiatives will attract a relative handful of people. The reasons for this lack of participation are complicated and have to do, among other things, with the lack of clearly defined goals and strong leadership. Occupy has been driven so far by dogmatic anarchists who have focused on the establishment of encampments, general assembly “democracy” where small groups end up defining and implementing actions that do not represent the needs of the majority of 99% , and the employment of violent, confrontational tactics that alienate most Americans.
The general tone of responders to the statement have focused more on what is believed to be the “nature” of the American electorate: “True, the 99% do not support Occupy because 90% of those people are either stupid or too cowardly to stand up. As long as their cable TV works, they could care less, except to bitch and moan about how bad everything is then go back to their PBR and American Idol.” Perhaps.
The United States was founded on revolutionary ideas and action, and we have a long history of successful organizing and protest. The labor movement is one excellent example of the people uniting for change and creating powerful protections for American workers: child labor laws; the 8 hour 5 day work week; pensions; reasonable living wages. What separates the current batch of workers – the jeans and flip flop rather than work boots generation – from their grandparents’ generation?
One big difference I see between the 19th century worker and our work force is the addition of the notion of consumer-driven economy. The old workers and new share the same lack of preparation for political life: narrow training and mediocre levels of literacy. While the 19th century worker was, frankly, too tired to engage, the current workforce is mesmerized by the yearning for the perfect Thing that promises to enrich life and concretize dreams. The Thing keeps changing, however, and the worker lives in a state of perpetual yearning. Horror. Doesn't matter if you ever achieve ownership of any Things. The high priests of Things, the politicians/corporations and their media manipulators, promise over and over again that better times are almost here and soon you may have the honor of standing in lines for hours to acquire the next iThing. I don't think the 19th century worker spent much time dreaming about big houses, horses and hogs simmering on the spit. It was the recessions and depressions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that galvanized our grandparents’ 99%. Starvation and homelessness are great motivators.The capitalist system is deeply flawed and the realities of poverty and fear eventually intrude and the blind begin to see. In Europe, especially Spain and Greece, iThing has been replaced with iSurvival and the emblems of consumption are set afire. It is only a matter of time before American workers, like those in Europe, are stripped of their “entitlements” and workplace protections to pay for the mistakes of the banks, corporations, and their bought politicians. Reelecting Obama will only prolong the illusion of prosperity and safety with his masterful manipulation of false hopes and hidden lies. I say elect Santorum or one of Objectivist conservatives. Experience the elimination of women’s' rights. Watch mom and dad die without insurance in some poor house. See the implementation of Objectivist capitalism move forward with leaps and bounds: no public education; labor for less; experience falling through what was the safety net and smashing into the concrete of capitalist realism. Then there will be revolution. Even Ayn Rand couldn't retire without Social Security.