Friday, February 10, 2012

Comments on the Evolving Occupy Movement

Pictures this week are copies of Smithsonian museum display items,
also street art found in Mexico/

I continue to keep an eye on the Occupy movement – When it first emerged the leaders were filled with a vision of optimism – At the time, their was great national angst with our run-a-away banks and mortgage companies who follow policies of “do anything you can get away with”. We have seen millions of Americans lose their homes due to “Robosigning”. Even the recent legal penalties against the large agencies are not nearly sufficient to restore people to their lost homes…

Tenaments - c. 1930

We have seen "Fanny Mae" ( established by the US government ) establish policies that led to their benefit from each foreclosure. We have seen large American companies, aided by relaxed restrictions under past Republican administrations, able to move their operations off shore to increase their profits by employing cheap foreign workers. ..a major contributor to our large unemployment problem. It surfaced this week that President Obama asked Steve Jobs ( a year ago ) to consider moving iPhone operations back to the US – and Mr. Jobs answered that it would never happen… Republican policies are fiercely fighting to weaken unions…

American Worker -
Who makes work place decisions the "Company" or Union Collective Bargaining

So the record is clear – roughly 99% of American people are suffering due to the policies that benefit the top 1%. And we have a Republican party ( and many Democrats too!) focused on the wishes of the 1% because thats where reelection money comes from… Recent demographic studies show that the top profit earners (the 1%) are getting richer…and the incomes of the poor continue to drop. The “Middle class” is slowly disappearing.

So when the Occupy movement appeared I thought that this might send a message to our leaders that there is “a lot of unhappiness in the heartland”. Maybe our elected reps would take their eyes off the big money Super PACs for a moment and feel the frustration of the people.

Worker in Mexico with few rights - "Take what the boss offers"

At first the Occupy movement was centered in tent communities with daily discussion groups, free lending libraries, free volunteer services, and whatever else volunteers chose to share – When the tent communities were broken up and the movement became more mobile the focus of the group also changed… Now “actions” were voted on in community gatherings. The actions then started to become more disruptive.

Rise Up - Farm worker

If an action results in workers or small shops not being able to work that causes loss of support within the community. Any large street action will have a very few folks just bent on causing disruption – they may not even be part of the movement – these are the ones to break windows and paint nasty graffiti, and start the violence. Police response has repeated been disproportionally harsh against mostly peaceful demonstrators. I am concerned with the growing number of demonstrators willing to respond with violence against both the police and against property. I am concerned that these folks feel like if it OK to do what they choose with someones property because they hold a "democratic election" to do so...

Street art during a protest

History tells us that mass protests are more likely to be successful when the participants are committed enough to be totally peaceful. Gandhi’s movement was able to gain freedom from Great Britain through total commitment to nonviolence . Great commitment and strength of character was necessary to stand up to the British army - many were injured or killed.

Civil Rights March - MLKing

The same can be said of the movement to end Apartheid in South Africa. Martin Luther King also found success by following principles of non-violence. The decision by the Occupy movement to permit violent responses causes the movement to begin to feel like the Weathermen movement (read about them here: Underground

I fear that the lack of focus within the group , the non commitment to non violence, and shrinking support from the general public will lead to the failure of the group… I dont think the anger will go away -

Rise Up Son of Corn

The goals of the movement have shifted – from education and sending a message to politicians to one of disruption of the powerful agents of capitalism. I hear various reasons for the morphing of the movement. Some say that the change is due to the frustration that the many in the group feel with their inability to bring about any change. Some say that the movement lacked a single clear goal, also no defined leaders.. I have heard that problems were incited by government provocateurs to which police can respond with a heavy hand and crush the movement. Perhaps it is within the nature of large leaderless groups to drift.

Sign on Garage Door: " You respect my drive way - I'll respect your car"

Is it possible for an amorphous group of individuals – self-selected by their anger at the government and their willingness to take action … if it possible for this group to be guided by democratic decision making processes. The group making the decisions is not representative of the American public who is feeling the pain and led to the original movement. I hope that this man-power and energy can be focused into working in the upcoming election. Now we have to see what effect the super pacs have on the potential for an honest election - Is it true that American elections can be bought by the vast money of the Koch Brothers, et al.