Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupy My Imagination - Thoughts in Flux: A reply to Shoq

It is always a strange coincidence that I find myself with not only similar views as you, but similar trajectory in thought regarding politics. Maybe it's the demographic or maybe it's the DNA, but I just tweeted a link to the "Third Continental Congress" proposal with the lead-in, "Oh boy" (sarcasm).
    I was "on the fence" then I was "off the fence" in support to a degree. I wasn't quite sure how to express it, but I did blog it. Then I was confronted with the John Lewis issue. On the one hand, it makes sense to deny any elected official the opportunity to "steer the dialogue". In the case of John Lewis, the dialogue would immediately shift to the Civil Rights Movement. I'm a thinker, an ideas guy, and I can assure you this leaves OWS open to all kinds of spin and criticism with very little upside. Just as allowing Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich to be perceived as spokesperson and from that point, anything they say will be initially perceived as "endorsed" by the OWS. While I may agree with John Lewis regarding non-violent protest and the struggle, I haven't always agreed with the strength of his positions on legislation or candidates. My point is, the perceived "snub" actually does fit in with my perspective of OWS as a social, not a political "movement". But then I realized there is an alternative, a democratic alternative. That being, let ANY elected official speak and join the conversation. And the light bulb went on...
   I started by researching the rumor that Ron Paul was given an opportunity to speak. I didn't even confirm either way. I just kept thinking the movement is fundamentally exclusive, even though it's marketed, promoted or propagandized (take your pick) as an inclusive "99%". I was looking through the OWS forum when I found the "Third Continental Congress" and I finally just laughed and shook my head. It's an anarchist movement at the core. Sure, they utilize the language of democracy, but it isn't really democracy they want. They can't tell you what they want...for a reason.
  When I say "they" I'm referring to the core of the movement, not the additional thousands we recently witnessed. Those are well-intentioned people experiencing and expressing a catharsis. Most of them simply want to wash away the hate of our hyper-partisan government and politics. There's some blame being tossed around, but it's mostly a nonpartisan, collective scream of "ENOUGH!". And I'm fairly certain there are more Americans that will express themselves through OWS. But I'm equally certain that the numbers will not be sustained. As people "cleanse" themselves with a day of protest, they won't be returning at a high enough rate to offset attrition. It is still a useful "event" as it provides the opportunity for cleansing and serves as a reminder of the importance of being engaged and taking action. voting. And that has to be the focus for 2012.
   Does this mean I'm "anti-OWS"? No. I still see the positive as greater than the anarchist roots. It's still possible that the anarchist foundation could give way to a Liberal, political Leadership as well. Anarchists are fundamentally handicapped at leading "organizations", so it stands to reason that the "movement" will either be taken over or fall into bankruptcy of spirit. There is a concern, of course, that Pro-Left opportunists could position themselves to take up the torch and "the brand". This is something we all should be aware of and protect against, in my opinion. Should I see any indication that the "anti-Obama emoprogs" have commandeered this rudderless ship, at that point I become "anti-OWS".

Friday, October 7, 2011

Occupy My Imagination - Coming Alive

   Thursday, October 6, 2011. Because I had singled out the Portland, Oregon group for an unfortunate quote from one person regarding the need to "disrupt" the city, I made a point of following their march. CNN set up a live feed (sans audio) of video from a helicopter that gave an intriguing perspective of the number of participants. My first reaction was, "This is impressive". 
   In the previous 24 hours, the Mayor and the Chief of Police in Portland made very reasonable strategy decisions. They affirmed the right of citizens to demonstrate and air their grievances. They implored the group to follow the permitting process, but allowed a far less stringent process due to the essentially "leaderless" quality of the Occupy movement. In doing so, they received a map of the march route and a predetermined occupation area. There was cooperation.
   The march went very well. Only two arrests were reported and the participation was measured at roughly 10,000. It has been identified as the largest occupation outside of Manhattan. As I watched the coverage and read various live-blogs I suddenly realized I am no longer sitting on the fence, I'm actively engaged and I'm in full support. Just today, the Occupy group negotiated a "co-occupance" of Chapman Square. There is a Marathon this weekend that had a long-standing permit (those pesky permits), but an agreement was reached with the marathoners. 
   Now that I'm engaged and expressing support, I have a suggestion about the "politics". I view the movement as an opportunity to express grievances and solutions without any ideological reference point or filter. In a sense, I would like to see the movement be essentially apolitical with regard to our two party system. No "third party" or new "party", just a movement that expresses the desires of the majority, the minority and the individual with a common sense approach. No fancy intellectual terms, just common language. There's an old saying, "keep it simple, stupid" and that might be a good by-law. Of course, the hope would be that the political bodies would take notice and try to appeal to the 99%, rather than the 99% trying to appeal to the political bodies. There is leverage in a movement that draws 10,000 citizens on a weeknight, assume the leverage.
   It could very well be in effect right now, but I'm suggesting it be made known that ideology shouldn't command the debate, the discourse or the discussion. Maintain the movement as a "partisan-free zone". While individuals would be expected to participate in the elections as they choose, they wouldn't feel any pressure to vote for a certain candidate or party. Endorsing any candidates as a body would be the end of the movement, in my opinion. At that point, it becomes a special interest group, a political party or a "wing" of a political party, in my opinion. Even a candidate that emerges from within the movement should be exempted from any "endorsement" as a body. But at the individual level? By all means, express support and even contribute. The Occupy movement, to me is about Society and Justice. It's about shaping politics and government through freedom of expression and thought. Leave the ideology at the Waterfront.
   To be continued...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Occupy My Imagination - Fail

   Today was a big day for #OWS, the Occupy Wall Street "movement". Roughly ten thousand protestors, demonstrators and yes, agitators (don't deny it) descended upon Manhattan with the addition of Union support. MSNBC and other media decided to give a closer look and do their best to interpret the "message", but the bottom line for OWS was an opportunity to get the nation's attention. After watching the Ed Schultz show, I was left with a nagging feeling of disappointment.
   While I'm generally supportive of the collective endeavor to raise awareness of the level of pain, suffering, anxiety and anger regarding the widening disparity in income and wealth distribution, I'm not actively supportive. The primary reason? The failure to recognize that voting for candidates that share your values or express a willingness to advocate for your cause is essential to democracy. Also, the complete disregard for one of the most basic problems leading to this crisis in corruption, abysmally low voter participation.
   Ed Schultz took his show to the streets and at the very end allowed a fairly well-spoken individual to explain why he was there. He finished by saying that "consensus" is the answer and that elected government is just "there". I understand the idealism, just as I understand the libertarian ideal. The likelihood that I would actively support either ideology is the same, zero percent chance. But there was another development that concerns me even more.
   Let me say right now that I don't expect #OWS to be overly concerned that I "approve" of the underlying goals or behavior in general. I'm only offering my observation and opinion as constructive criticism. As I was looking at various occupy websites, I came across this article . The Portland group has decided to ignore getting permits in a misguided effort to more thoroughly "disrupt" the city. This will inevitably lead to some confrontations, some mace and flailing arms with mouths screaming "Who are you protecting?!". To which the answer is quite simple, they are protecting the rights of citizens that kindly request that you get a permit and not DISRUPT their daily activities. The permit is basically a communication to the police that lets them know the areas of demonstration, the path of any march and a guess as to the size of the crowd. This gives the police the opportunity to minimize the disruption to all of the other citizens through notifications and signage. It's also a function of our democracy.
   The article raises concerns regarding police "brutality" and the events leading to it. It suggests that a goal of some of the protesters is to create friction with the police. Instead of creating a valuable alliance with members of the 99% that are employed as public servants and "Peace Officers", the focus seems to be alienation. Making the police part of "them" and "the others". Making them an easy and highly visible target of misdirected anger. Am I saying this would be happening 100% of the time? Absolutely not. But it's a perspective that I guarantee the Tea Party and the Republicans will exploit. Worse, it's a perspective that the majority of the 99% will adopt. They will adopt it because the majority want our police force to be effective. Chaos and "consensus" aren't mainstream for a reason and it really isn't due to a lack of "educating oneself" or becoming enlightened. It's because chaos and consensus are primitive, inefficient and cumbersome. It is because there are viable alternatives, including our present form of government. The real issue is the money that leads to corruption. Stick to the basics. Avoid the manipulative strategy and the temptation to wallow in playing the victim to garner sympathy support.
   Although I'm not an active participant, that doesn't mean I'm "against" the movement. Nor does it mean that I won't become active in the future. I'm literally "on the fence". But I can say with confidence that if the true goal at the core of OWS is to radically alter the "system" toward a consensus, that will be a tough sell to the 99%.