Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Being Honest

The #OccupyWallStreet crowd has been successful, from a visual and attention-seeking standpoint. And yes, their "movement" is growing.

But I'm still very confused as to what this "movement" hopes to accomplish. Besides serving as a solidarity snapshot of the American center-to-left, and providing a cathartic blowing off of steam at how things suck now, what is going to be accomplished? These men and women can get on all the news programs, say whatever they want about Wall Street, and live in a park for three weeks, but they still didn't even affect local school boards or city councils from a "power" standpoint.

The problem in this country has never really been getting people into big crowds for a big purpose (sports and music festivals do that), the problem has been how people feel they have no agency to govern themselves, but have difficulty realizing what agency they do have. For the most part, however, it is there for the taking, and has always been. I've never been denied access to a local political meeting, a school board meeting, a city council meeting, or any meeting regarding the community interest. Governing decisions are made in such places.

Camping out in the park may reignite some of the passion for being a liberal in the same way that attending a Tea Party protest gave catharsis to the cultural panic of older white Americans. But at least the Tea Party had an end goal: take over all elected offices everywhere.

For those keeping score at home, that's just what they did in 2010.

I wonder if the #OccupyParks folks will ever turn the corner from participation in spectacle to participation in governing.

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2 comments:

EcoGeek said...

You're confused about what this group seeks to accomplish because they themselves don't really know. There hasn't really been a spokesperson or head of the group to really identify what they're trying to do.

That said, injustice is injustice, and you don't need to have an answer to point out that shit ain't right. This is a complex issue, and the solution isn't something that you can just chant on a streetcorner. Even after there is a consensus that this is a problem (if that ever happens) It's going to take considerable work by policymakers to address it.

I agree that without a spokesperson or a specific agenda, it's going to be hard for this movement to bring about any concrete change, but that's as much or more a result of the issue they are protesting than the movement itself.

As a postscript, I'm just happy to see young people actually getting off their couch and giving a crap. Our generation is far too complacent about the shit that goes on around us, and I can easily see a future where things get so bad that they won't be solved by either elections or peaceful protest.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

What really confuses me is why they think they'll accomplish their "goals" by marching in the streets as opposed to participating in government.

Marches worked in the Civil Rights Era, the Women's Suffrage Movement, the Labor Movement, Solidarity, the Eastern Bloc's Collapse, and the Arab Spring becasue every one of those people was shut out of the governing process. They had no choice but to march.

Most of these folks are in the streets today because they can't commit to participate in their local school board meetings.

Democracy does not look like a protest, democracy looks like a bunch of bored people crunching numbers, trying to get everyone on board the latest proposal, and taking minutes at a meeting where no one really wants to be. The monied interests have outsized power in that process because they can pay someone to attend that boring stuff. They've always got someone in the room.

The door is always open to the engaged citizen, however seldom that invitation is acted upon.

In this system, we are the policymakers, and that is the disconnect that drives me crazy when it comes to these folks. They would rather make a spectacle than participate in governance.

That's why I think events like this are about as effective as sitting on the couch - you have to take things to the next level of involvement to actually affect policy change in this country. I don't have much faith that the folks marching the streets today will take that next, most important step.