Ok, so that’s actually not the name they’ve given themselves as far as I’m aware, but it seems fitting. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or haven’t used the internet or talked to anyone who has, you’ve heard of the Occupy Wall Street thing that’s happening. Well, there are all sorts of offshoots all around the world, in fact there are even 8 people occupying where I live (a town of about 10.5k people!).
I’ve heard all sorts of opinions and read several articles on what this whole thing is about and whether it’s good or bad. I would say there has certainly been faults on both sides, between protestors and cops for example. However, before getting to that I decided to research a bit of what this was all about.
The first website I found is called Occupy Together and that’s how I found out about the 8 people occupying my town. The website has a lot of information in the same way Wikipedia does, it’s all over the place and anyone can provide it. I attempted to sift through some relevant headings but felt a more official approach was necessary, so I went to their FAQ page. I found this page to be filled with some very interesting things. For example, one of the questions is “What is your agenda? Are you anarchists/democrats/republicans/independents/etc.?” and their response provided some insight into the movement as well as the site. First, they made clear to differentiate themselves from the main group, that being occupy wall street, and so they only existed to provide information on what is going on there. Fair enough, except if that were the case, then I think they may want to more closely monitor their articles. For example, the head article at the time of this blog is calling for the creation of a human rights day, exclaiming that these movements are a push for true democracy and human rights as based in the 1948 universal declaration of human rights which the writer says is the basis of many of our constitutions and it was approved by most of the world’s governments. More on the irony of this later, but the point is that such articles aren’t exactly neutral.
The FAQ page also wants to be sure, under the same question, to point out that it’s not about them, it’s about the movement. I find that fascinating, because prior to doing some research, my general idea was that there wasn’t much of a central point so much as just protesting for the sake of protesting. More on that later too (this may be somewhat longer than I originally intended.)
Before moving on, I found one more question interesting: “What should I do if there are two (or more) groups organizing in my area?” This is the exact response, “It is incredibly important to remember that this is a leaderless movement and that, in the spirit of solidarity and to create a more unified movement, it is best to put aside any personal grievances, self-interest, egos, and grudges to come together to form one solid group for your community. When people band together, no matter what their differences may be, the cause is strengthened in their numbers. Should this occur, the groups should communicate civilly to decide which group to absorb into and delete the other groups/pages in order to prevent confusion amongst others would would like to join you. However, this is only our suggestion. There are multiple groups organizing in one city in many areas for various reasons. Do what makes sense and everyone agrees on.”
This seems to be (one of) the Achilles’ heel(s) for this movement. There is an overwhelming drive to “stick it to the man” and be a “leaderless movement”. Why is this a problem? Well, you can start to see it in the very paragraph quoted above. First you have some truth “in the spirit of solidarity and to create a more unified movement, it is best to put aside any personal grievances, self-interest, egos, and grudges to come together to form one solid group for your community.” this is certainly the case, since if you want to start a movement, you need to first come together on what you want to say. Later on though, issues start to arise when they say “When people band together, no matter what their differences may be, the cause is strengthened in their numbers.” paired with “Should this occur, the groups should communicate civilly to decide which group to absorb into and … However, this is only our suggestion. There are multiple groups organizing in one city in many areas for various reasons. Do what makes sense and everyone agrees on.” It seems we have an issue: if what makes sense, according to what everyone agrees on, is to not be unified, but to have separate groups that perhaps even oppose one another, would it still be just as good as that whole idea about solidarity? This is postmodernism and relativism eating itself.
“Yeah ok, but nobody would do that.” Fair enough. So why is being a leaderless movement a problem? Well, there seems to be a general ethos of the movement, with a bunch of specifics thrown in varying by movement. On a basic level, who gets to decide what the ultimate goal is? I think they answer this by pointing to occupy wall street, since they were first. They might also be the biggest, but don’t quote me on that. Why should they get to decide? Because they are the first or the biggest? Isn’t that just a “might makes right,” or perhaps a “speed makes right” mentality?
To answer that question I decided to jump over to the official Occupy Wall Street movement’s page. Their “About” page is most helpful in determining just what this all is about. They cite the official start of the movement as taking place September 17th, 2011. The official reason for all this is stated rather clearly in stating that the movement “is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.” There’s a lot in that statement.
The first thing to notice is that it is not a rational, proof or argument, but an assertion. I am as dissatisfied with this (US) government as the next guy and would probably agree with many of the issues they raise, but their claims need to be proven, not just asserted. The general feeling I get from that statement is “the world’s going to crap!” ok, “the people in charge are the problem!” eh…that’s an unsubstantiated jump, but ok, “we need to get rid of all of them! power to the people!” …wait a minute. Who was it that elected these people? Who created the system? Psst…it was the people. Believe it or not, there’s a system for changing government called the democratic process and voting. “All politicians are corrupt bureaucrats!” Well now, that is an interesting problem. Who do we put in power if we don’t have politicians? Certainly it can be nobody from the occupy movement, since they are a leaderless movement. Perhaps the scientists? Economists? (Italy’s trying that right now. Google it.) Perhaps the everyman? Seems rather like Plato’s philosopher kings doesn’t it? Perhaps we put nobody in power, and we move to a sort of anarchist world. Maybe read some history on where that’s been tried.
You ever wonder what happens to all the stuff after stores have their “everything must go!” sale? Yeah, neither do I, but that’s the issue. It seems this movement has taken the approach of the everything must go, without considering what step two is. Ah, but wait a minute, it seems this movement was inspired by the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt known as the Arab Spring. To just focus on one, let’s take a look at what’s happening with Egypt. They succeeded in their goal of ousting their dictator, all in the name of democracy and fairness, and what happened after that? Currently, the military is in control and sees no reason to give up that control. There is a saying which says “power corrupts. absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Are we so naïve to think that if the occupy movement were to be successful, something similar would not happen to fill the hole left by the current systems of government? Perhaps for some it is naivety, but I think a lot of it is actually arrogance. We, as humans, have a tendency toward chronocentrism, which means that we think our generation is far more enlightened, smarter, etc. than previous generations.
Think about it. The underlying ideas are simply that we won’t repeat the mistakes of the past. “Yeah, but that was Egypt, this is America. “That was the USSR, this is the UK.” “That was in the 19th century, this is the 21st century.” “That’s just what my parents/grandparents think.” “That was in the Old Testament.” It’s everywhere. This whole idea of secular utopianism has been tried again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and it hasn’t worked every time. Why do we still try it? Because we think we can do it better. Why did the league of nations come about? Why did the UN come about? Where has everything gotten us? These are not new ideas, but they seem new to a generation unwilling to take the effort to read that boring history stuff.
There’s also all those pesky rich people, the 1% that are “writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.” Seems like a good idea, but it doesn’t work. An easy way to figure out why? Go to YouTube and search for “Eat the Rich”.
So why do people do it? Well, I think there are a number of reasons. Anger and worry at the sorry state of affairs, wanting to be a part of something bigger than themselves, feeling a sense of entitlement (largely unearned), etc. It also could be the desire to be on the inner circle. Look up CS Lewis on that. Or, it could be the fact that people are trying desperately to find a universal in a world of particulars. Look up Francis Schaeffer on that (or this guy, for a shorter version).
Ultimately, I think what would do the movement some good are the following:
Research – Historical, philosophical, financial, economical (can I use that word that way?), and cultural.
Direction – Ditch this whole “leaderless movement” idea. Contrary to popular belief, a whole bunch of people not knowing where they’re going isn’t better than one person not knowing where he’s going. If you’re not going to have a leader, at least have something. Get a bunch of people together and draft up an official list of complaints and an official plan of how to fix it. Fully fleshed out, not just “get rid of government”.
Remember way back at the beginning when I referenced the article and how I was going to throw in some irony? Well, the irony is that the writer of the blog feels that many of our constitutions were based on a document that came out in 1948, and that she’s pushing for certain things while belonging to a movement which doesn’t want a leader. Maybe that’s not so much irony as it is inconsistency. However, I know what she means by that. The ideas contained within that document are what many of our constitutions are based on. However, there is there is one important issue in dealing with that, particularly with the American declaration of independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”