Since the Occupy Movement began last September, I’ve watched with bated breath. I love a good revolution and have spent most of my adult life hoping to see one, but in this day and age, especially here in the United States, I view these kinds of uprisings with a wary eye. I’d love to see this movement grow (if only we were in Egypt, it would be a sure thing) and become powerful and change forever the way Washington and Wall Street do business. But we’ve all been down these roads before. Where was the Great American Protest Movement during the Iraq War?
As I’ve said before, it takes more than signs and extended camp-outs to change the world. It might be a good start but it has to appeal to a much broader base. It’s supposed to be about US—the 99%. But so far, I see very little to suggest the Masses are bonding.
It’s been interesting to follow the Occupy Movement on facebook. I’ve saved many of these “un-groups” to my page favorites so I can monitor their progress. I love rhetoric as much as the next guy and can get pretty rhetorical myself under the right climatic conditions, but some of it has been incomprehensible. For example, in January, in anticipation of the planned Occupy Congress march, the occupycongress.info group declared:
“Tens of thousands of people chanting outside the Capitol would be hard to ignore, and it doesn’t matter what we chant, because WE are our demands! If Congress started working for the 99%, reckless corporations would be restrained, not bailed out. Come to Washington on January 17th, 2012 .”
I could not understand what that meant—“it doesn’t matter what we chant, because WE are our demands?” It’s not exactly a focused message. Or, I believe, the right one.
On the anadora.org/freepresspage, they announced that, “Protesters say they hope to set up 1 million tents in front of the Capitol.” Sad to say, less than a thousand turned out.
The protesters claimed they were being ignored by the mainstream media and they were probably right. But there really wasn’t all that much there to ignore. I followed the LiveStream on several channels on the web and there was nothing there to rally around. I watched protesters taunt and yell obscenities at the cops and most of the comments flowing in from citizens who watched the live show complained that they couldn’t let their kids watch because the language was too raunchy. If that sounds prudish, or conservative to some, you need to remember that the point of this global protest is to unite the 99%, not fragment it. What is the point in unnecessarily alienating those who might otherwise share our views?
In Moab, Utah, the Occupy Moab group took a resolution condemning the Supreme Court’s decision that gave “personhood” to corporations to the City Council. The Council agreed to create a draft of its own but wouldn’t allow the petition gatherers the chance to speak. Apparently only a relative handful of citizens showed up for the meeting and one of the Occupy Moab facebook administrators expressed bitter disappointment at the small turnout, only to have the post removed a short while later. He/she could not understand WHY there wasn’t stronger support for the Movement.
It’s actually very easy to understand why the Occupy Movement stays so fragmented—
WITHIN THE 99%, NOBODY LIKES EACH OTHER VERY MUCH.
We keep claiming unity within this new all-encompassing brand, but there’s no unity at all. Within the 99% we despise each other to a great degree, or at least much of what many of the 99% stand for. Let me offer some exhibits:
I went back to the social media, to see what Republicans and Democrats were saying about each other on facebook this afternoon. In the 15 minutes I devoted to this task, these are some of the epithets and insults that were being hurled back and forth, via the comments, through the fiery rhetorical ethereal glow of cyberspace. They called each other…
“…thugs, trolls, outlaws, liars, criminals, shills, thieves, sheeple, mindless, pukes, crazy, RePUKElicans, decayed, DEMONcrats, racists, dumbasses, dicks, Socialists, Fascists, Commies, brain-dead, stupid, Obamatons, spoon-fed morons, haters, ignorant, ignnoramuses, un-American, SOBs, a joke, loon, delusional, deceitful, BS, mean-spirited, forked-tongue, Obumma, jack ass, asshole, lazy pieces of crap, and big fat turds.”
After a while I gave up. Clearly, there’s not much love being lost within this portion of the 99%. Republicans hate Democrats. Democrats hate Republicans. Conservatives hate Liberals and Liberals hate Conservatives. There are the Obama Haters. The Gingrich Haters. The Romney Haters.
And we can get more specific, out in the Rural West…
—are Christians hate non-Christians. And vice versa.
—are Pro-Life hate the Pro-Choice people. And vice versa.
—are for closing the borders to immigrants and deporting the illegals despise the Americans who want a more liberal immigration policy. And vice versa.
—support gun control hate those who oppose gun control. And vice versa.
—support the military hate those that do not. And vice versa.
—want a national health care policy despise those that do not want one. And vice versa.
—support the oil and gas industry don’t like Americans who oppose it. And vice versa
—support coal hate Americans who oppose it. And vice versa.
—oppose ATVs on public lands hate people who DO drive their ATVs on public lands. And vice versa.
—support Wilderness hate people who don’t…and vice versa.
And so on. And so on. Ad nauseum.
In short, it’s a war out there in America and the idea that 99% of our citizens are somehow mystically bound in a righteous war for Truth and Justice and Equality against the Forces of Evil strikes me as a bit absurd. You may think I’m just being cynical or counter-productive, that’s fine.
In these insanely, embarrassingly politically correct times, if the point is to make the Occupy Movement successful, then its strongest adherents should want to hear all viewpoints from all directions, no matter how uncomfortable it might make us feel. After all, no matter how contradictory the criticisms, they’re still coming from our fellow 99%ers. The secret to success here is not avoiding scrutiny but standing up to it. And maybe, by some miracle, learning from it.
If the ‘99%/Occupy Movement’ wants to succeed, it has to find a way to reach out to the vast majority of that 99% who they are otherwise, and in so many ways, at odds with, or this nationwide protest will sputter and fail.
For starters, the movement might think about the notion that while it’s easy to lump all of us into one basket and declare OUR ‘demands,’ it might be far more effective to stand on behalf of the millions of Americans who are really suffering.
I have never made more than $25,000 in a year, I drive a 13 year old car, and my wife and I get most of our clothes at thrift shops, but we own our home and have very few debts. We are comfortable. Part of it has been luck and part of it has been timing and another part has been avoiding dangerous financial traps that have befallen so many Americans.
Before I start worrying about others like myself within the 99%, instead of offering lists of “demands” for US, I’d rather devote my energies and righteous indignation for THEM–the Americans that are homeless, hungry, and without any visible means of support…the citizens who worked hard and, through no fault of their own, lost their jobs because their companies found it more profitable to take their operations to China. I want to find ways for US to help the abused and forgotten children in this country, the ones who don’t even get a decent breakfast in the morning. I want US to reach out to the veterans who can’t find jobs and are still paying a price for their service, years and decades after they came ‘home.’ I want to help young people find a way to get a decent education without burdening themselves and their families with a lifetime of debt.
In short, I want to help the people who long to have SOMETHING good in their lives before I start worrying about so many of us who just want MORE. This movement should be, first and foremost, about helping those Americans who have so very little.
As for all the hot rhetoric and denigrating language that flies non-stop, day after day, across the multi-media fruited plain, the divisiveness that keeps the 99% divided and fractionalized, I don’t know how you stop it. Clearly, I appreciate a good argument, based upon the facts and an earnest desire to express oneself. But sooner later, somebody has to make the first move and lay down the stones. Who’s it going to be?
To read Jim’s other “Take it or Leave it” articles from this issue, follow these links:
To read the PDF version of this article, click here.
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