We must first realize that the real Occupy Movement started in Tunisia and then Egypt at the beginning of 2011. We know this because some of their activists, along with those from other countries, came over here and helped set the stage for Occupy Wall Street (OWS) in September of 2011. Significant protests are still occurring in Egypt, Greece, and Spain. In addition, some communities in Spain are beginning to self-organize using principles from anachism.
In NYC, we still see the Occupy Movement going strong. What makes it seem invisible is that it no longer is a headline grabber. But it still provides teach-ins, such as the ones at the Free University of New York, it helped with the Russell Tribunals, and since Hurricane Sandy hit, the Occupy Movement has been focusing its efforts on helping the storm's victims in part by being where the government is not.
In the meantime, those in the Occupy Movement from some of the other cities have seen a huge drop off in participation and with that is disillusionment for those who were involved. With that disillusionment can come a hopelessness or a reluctance to participate in another similar movement. And so the following reflections are aimed at such activists.
First, we must ask ourselves what result did we expect from the Occupy Movement? Did we expect the masses to immediately join us? I remember my first, and only, night at the encampment at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. Compared with the number of people available, there were relatively few protesters and that was despite what was promised to me by one of its founders at the beginning of Occupy Wall Street.
Why were there so few, relatively speaking, people at that encampment? The reason why is the same as why there were so few participants in the rest of the cities. The Occupy Movement was asking people to do the most difficult task in the world to do: change. Change takes the most energy of any human endeavor we engage in. And thus, people would do anything, which usually means interpret their world in any way, possible that does not necessitate change. This pretty much follows Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance. This theory states that when people are confronted with contradictory ideas, they will usually pick the path of least resistance or energy in resolving the conflict. And since change requires the most energy, change is usually the last option chosen by most people. And when are people most ready to change? Historically speaking, it is when their dissatisfaction with the status quo is great enough.
This reluctance to change does not bother those revolutionaries who intend on replacing one elite regime with another because such a reluctance is not seen as an obstacle. But when we want to replace an elite regime with a real democratic process, we need to be ready to wait. This is because it is only in waiting until enough of the audience is ready that we break the pattern of using revolution to replace one elite regime with another. Those who cannot wait usually try to force the issue and this results in either resignation because of disillusionment or in a willingness to resort to violence. In either case, such revolutionaries follow the same failed model from the past.
We should also note that waiting does not guarantee breaking the chain of abuse that comes when we replace one elite regime with another. Egypt is a prime example here. Though their move to overthrow Mubarak started ten years before it succeeded, their revolution is endanger of being co-opted, as was the Iranian Revolution, by those seeking to maintain elite rule but with a change in the lineup. Egyptian revolutionaries now know what it takes to overthrow an elite-centered regime. The question becomes will they be willing to continue to suffer through those methods to secure a truly democratic system. We should only note what has been said before that: "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance."
So we should note that our one demand is the process, not the policy. Certainly the process needed here to install a more democratic system in America does not imply OWS style General Assemblies. But what is implied is a process that involves a participatory democracy. And the choice we must offer to the rest of the 99% is whether the time and energy required to maintain such a democracy is worth sacrifices in individual prosperity and patriotic pride. We should also note that we are sitting on a ticking timebomb. We know that if we do not pick democracy that emphasizes collectivism in time, it is "game over." This is because of the consequences being amassed by elite rule. However, it is "game over" if we try to force the issue as well. This is because if we force the issue, we only make it more likely that what we want will be replaced by others who will force the issue for their agenda.
So our initial wave of occupations, encampments, and decision by General Assembly consensus did not bring the change we want, so what! It is as John Lennon said after the failure of "Flower Power," we try again. We gain nothing by giving up because we could not win over a critical mass of the population this time. Again, the Egyptian overthrow of Mubarak took 10 years. And, not only that, if we are doing things right, part of that target audience whom we wish to win over must include our unofficial sworn enemy, the "1%."
From the beginning, the "1%" of the wealthiest Americans have created their own economic apartheid. They live under different rules and thus in a different world. This is because they can buy the rules made by government. They can do this by funding lobbyists who significantly contribute to the laws that Congress writes and passes. They can also write the rules because there is a revolving door for those running or working in our financial institutions and government appointed positions. One only needs to consider whom President Obama appointed to be in charge of the Fed, the Secretary of the Treasury as well as to other advisor positions to get a glimpse of how this works.
In addition, the "1% have arranged things so that our economy revolves around their desires and resources. This separates them from the rest of us in that they have become the sun of economic solar system while the rest of us are planets, if that. Their ability to regard the government as a rescuer further shows how the "1%" is another difference that separates us. More and more Americans are finding that that their pleas to the government for help are falling on deaf ears while the "1%" find themselves saying, "oh my, what big ears you have" when pleading the case to the same audience.
But it was our, those in the Occupy Movement, mistake to further this chasm between the "1%" and the rest of us by portraying them as enemy to conquer and punish rather than as an opponent to win over. If we were to follow Martin Luther King's example of dealing with those who would do one harm, we would be inviting the "1%" to join the rest of us rather than pushing them away by painting a target on their backs. The first word in the title of the song Brother, Can You Spare A Dime tells us how to address the "1%." Certainly those in the "1%" need to change with regard to being legally and morally accountable; but threatening them by singing "we will rock you" rather than beseeching them to bridge the abyss they created makes matters worse. The question we must ask ourselves is are we more interested in punishing the "1%," which is well merited, or do we prefer see them change their ways. Is this participatory democracy we desire to only include the "99%" or should it involve everybody?
If what we want is a change from elite rule to democratic rule, then we must continue doing what we are doing. We must persist in educating people on what is happening and the consequences. We must continue in serving and helping those in need. And we must never give in to frustration and disillusionment. So what if we don't have encampments now or if attendance at General Assemblies is low. The only way to have a chance at success is to never give up. We must look to expand what the Occupy Movement is currently doing and to add to that what any new movement, which is working for the same goals, requires. And we must remember that what took 10 years to happen in Egypt is now being co-opted. This means that if we are really working for a more participatory democracy with a greater egalitarianism, we have job security.