Saturday, November 26, 2011

The New Revolution

Here's the thing about a revolution, a revolving object returns to what it once was. Is that the goal of OWS?

The OWS "movement" seems to be using the model of 1960s civil rights and counter culture protests. However, unlike the civil rights protests, and much more like the counter culture protests, OWS lacks unity, direction, or goals. The goals seem to be an end in themselves: to protest.

Nevermind that nobody knows what they are protesting in most cases or what they want to change specifically other than the world becoming a nicer place to live for everyone on it. Which of course makes me a cranky citizen for criticizing them for it, I know.

I think it is clear that OWS needs to rethink what little "strategy" it has, that is to say the sum of their "strategy" is to "occupy" places around the world and draw upon that energy.

The pointlessness and aimlessness of these strategies are understandably driving myself and others batty. Mostly me though.

However, what's more important right now than my general irritation level as a cranky citizen, is that OWS supporters rethink themselves what they are doing and how.

The 1960s and 1970s models of sit-ins and counter culture did produce something. The 1980s. The height of Republican Utopia. Top three candidates for "best president ever" according to most Republicans includes Lincoln and often Bush but almost always is topped out by Reagan.

Is that what we mean by Revolution? We want to do the same things and have the same results, revolving right back to where we started?

Or do we want to do different things with different results? To be radical, to change the game, one must change the game-plan and the method. I'm not saying these protests will produce the 1980s, but what I'm saying is that they will be more persuasive and get a lot more done if they don't focus on being loose and directionless and if they mis-color the nature of the protests by the style of their protests.

First, that means having a plan. A radical plan. A specific plan. Or is the radicality the lack of plan?

Second, that means clarifying the plan and drawing awareness to it. Right now OWS is drawing awareness to itself and NOT THE ISSUES.  Let me repeat that because I think this is a serious problem, TO ITSELF NOT THE ISSUES. How many people know what's going on other than some kids getting maced in the face and people camping in tents and complaining about rich people? This isn't just a problem of citizens not paying attention. This is a problem of not knowing themselves what OWS is about, why, what they hope to do, and several key examples, long term and short term that they hope to change, affect, develop, and implement.

I could be wrong about this as some of our interviewees suggest. But I'm still irritated.

Third, this means rethinking the format of the protest. It seems to me outdated to focus on "occupying" anything. That's not practical, helpful, safe, clean, beneficial, or forward-thinking. The ways of the 1960s and 1970s aren't ideal to the ways of the 2010s. Forty and fifty years later, can we not choose better formats for our protests? Better organized, more powerful formats? I don't see radical thinking here and this is what troubles me. I see people doing the same old thing expecting different results.

Is anyone helped by NOT having a specific, or even close to a set of specific, goal, beliefs, plans? Is anyone helped by doing things the old way? Is anything helped that most people don't understand what the issues are that OWS supposedly wants to change or draw attention to.

I really don't think so.

If this is the "beginning" of something, what is it the "beginning" of? What's next?

How did other social movements begin? Consider civil rights, women's rights, gay rights. What stands out to me as different is that people took brave and decided, purposeful and intentional measures that were aimed at something and that risked violence, the passivity was the key.

The silent protest of students and professors lining up while the UC Davis Chancellor Katehi walked to her car after watching videos of students being pepper-sprayed in the face was a thing of beauty. It was powerful, poignant, and meaningful. That protest and the form of protest, made sense and had purpose.

Non-violent, silent, intentional and organized. The demonstration essentially aimed to shamed Katehi in the eery shame that silence can bring, and draw attention to the elaborate difference between the silent student protest and the pepper-spray violence of the police in full riot gear she inflicted upon the students 'for the safety of students'.

ANYWAY, this is a way of saying, yes other movements (not all) MAY have started out messy, but they had clear purpose. So perhaps once source of irritation for me is the ineffectualness of a group of people that have NEITHER organization nor purpose. Why does it irritate me? Because when lots of people get pissed off and actually want to do something about it, but put all that initial energy into something that has no goal or organization its going to flop like a fish out of water, and expire.

I'm not pissed off that people want change. I'm pissed off that people don't want change enough. Enough to go about it differently, think differently, get organized for chrissakes. Get off the lawn and get organized!!

Do it differently, be creative, show invention and innovation, be radical. Be new! Be persuasive.

One concern is that these protests will do nothing, change nothing, and fizzle like the "don't buy gas on Tuesday" crowd that essentially critiques and tries to organize a slap in the face at large corporations and a way of life. However, they don't make an actual difference or change people's fundamental way of life.

Does anyone even care? Or is the point of the movement to burn out, having made no difference whatsoever other than making progressives look crazy, weak, and disorganized? We already do that sufficiently well in the House of Representatives.

I am tired of disorganized protest. Groups on the left have historically been so difficult to organize, and such a challenge to focus toward a common goal with any direction. Its why we lose elections. Its why conservative think tanks and republican news "speak" is able to define moral principles, define what is newsworthy, and spin most of the news effectively (if not truthfully) to most of America.

I wish for once the left would stop embarrassing itself. It isn't enough to simply sit outside and feel good about the people sitting next to you and cry for change.

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