That definition (Dictionary.com) rings pretty true for the current Occupy movements around the country. I have genuinely sought to understand the Occupy movement - I am certainly not in the wealthiest 1% so maybe this is my movement, too. As I was sitting in a heinous traffic jam on Sunday caused by the Occupy DC folks trying to erect a wooden structure and resisting police’s efforts to remove it — a far kinder interaction than the midnight raids in other encampments — I began to wonder what does a Win look like for the Occupy movement? What do they want to be different when they are done leaving their mark (literally and figuratively)?
The most successful protests/movements in history had specific outcomes as their raison d’etre — end participation in a war, offer equal rights for minorities, change a specific law, free a political prisoner. The recent protests in countries facing economic challenges may be more relevant, since the reference to the 99% is economic and not political. The protests in Greece, Italy and other countries were about opposition to specific austerity measures being proposed by their governments to prevent economic catastrophe. Since our government can’t agree on anything these days, we don’t have those.
Perhaps the Occupy movement relates more to the collective energy behind the Arab Spring and the protests in Tahrir square. Those movements took on the daunting task of overthrowing corrupt dictators and ushering in a new era of more democratic leadership. One of the beautiful things about America is that we don’t need armed conflict to accomplish this — we elect our leaders at every level of government on a frequent basis - we need only exercise our right to vote.
The OccupyWallStreet.org website defines the movement as “an affinity group committed to doing technical support work for resistance movements.” I get that and understand the passion and purpose that could inspire. I would imagine that group would want free space in the cloud (for data and apps) or servers — and to recruit lots of developers. But when you click on the Donate tab, they want money, water, food, weather supplies (blankets, etc.) and art supplies. The “How Can I Help” section makes no mention of technical skills or resources — only to join, spend the night, and talk to others about why you like Occupy. Oh — and give food and money.
I read many of the stories on the We Are the 99 Percent blog (here on Tumblr) and I understand why people are frustrated, tired and angry. I can certainly relate — I work in IT and have been hit hard by the recession — financially and professionally. I can understand frustration with a valuation scale that leads to huge wage and income disparity. One would think then, that the movement would be Occupy the NCAA, NBA, NFL, etc. But I did not see Occupy the SEC Championship. Nor have I seen Occupy Urban Meyer (full disclosure: I am a Michigan Wolverine).
The Occupy movement formed a human chain across K Street this week, snarling traffic and causing a kerfuffle. Help me understand what was supposed to come of that — were all lobbyists supposed to either wither away in shame or be instantly fired or lower their rates — just because neither they nor their clients could get to their offices? I find the fact that the Occupy movement is happy to accept the services of lawyers to help them when they are arrested - many of whom practice on K Street - to be a nice irony.
The Occupy movement has made various statements about being against paying college tuition, against paying for medical care, against foreclosures (meaning against paying mortgage). Yet many of them attended college, receive medical care and have lived in a house - none of which are considered inalienable rights. They have also stated that they want equitable income distribution — the 1% have everything while the 99% have nothing. News flash — that was Robin Hood’s plan and it did spawn books and movies but was not ultimately successful in toppling Britain’s feudal system.
There is a “sister” movement called Occupy Capitol Hill and folks are visiting lawmakers’ offices demanding to meet with their elected officials. At last an opportunity for meaningful dialogue about the potential solutions the Occupy folks are proposing, the specific changes they seek, and their proposed Plan of Action. Clearly, the Occupy movement has answers that our best minds - both here and in Europe - have missed in the months they have been focusing on our current world economic situation - I am all ears. If I were an elected official I would meet with these folks — and videotape the meetings — and broadcast them on You Tube.
I would like to know what the Occupy movement has to offer us (the “other” 99%) in exchange for our donated parks, port-o-potties, money, food, library books and other largess. If they were truly the 99%, then the opportunity cost to America of the Occupy movement would be monumental.
*Addendum: Barely two months into the Occupy movement, Time Books has published “What is Occupy: Inside the Global Movement” and Law and Order has an episode where the protests are featured. Occupy Capitalism indeed!