I’ll start by noting that I’m about as liberal/progressive as they come. To be sure, the list of liberal/progressive causes I support is quite extensive including but in no way limited to: universal health care, universal college education, legalization of “drugs”, ending unnecessary wars, increasing foreign aide and support for the UN, and of course the obligatory increasing of taxes on the rich as well as corporations. So it clearly goes without saying that I support much of what the Occupy movement stands for and advocates. That said however, I just really can not see this movement accomplishing all that much. Here, allow me explain why.
First and foremost, I just don’t believe this movement has what it takes (at least in its current iteration) to reach a true critical mass to motivate real change. Yesterday I visited the Occupy encampment at my local state capitol where I found a dozen or so tents and a small collection of people milling about not doing much of anything really. If you’re sitting in a coffee shop a block away without a direct line of sight on the camp you wouldn’t know anything of significance was happening at all. There were no vocal protestors continuously marching up and down the city streets around the capitol building, there were no banners hanging off buildings directing people to the encampment or points of protest and there certainly weren’t any large gatherings of people listening to speakers with megaphones or sound systems.
Now this isn’t just any small town mind you, this is the state capitol we’re talking about, the place where our laws are made. The state capitols (and DC of course) should be one of the primary focal points for a movement like this and yet, there’s hardly anyone there let alone paying attention on the streets. Some might say “Well you just came on an off day when other things were going on or people were busy”. But you see that’s just the thing! I wasn’t there on an “off day” I was there on a weekend, Nov 5th to be precise, a day which was supposed to be a big anti-corporate bank day where everyone was closing their accounts and moving their money. And I’ll note again, it was a weekend, a time when you think more people would have the free time to make it to a protest. Unfortunately that didn’t seem to be the case and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why Occupy probably won’t accomplish all that much.
The second reason there probably will be little to no change is because protests (or in the case occupies) don’t in and of themselves change all that much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people getting out there and having their voices heard but the protesters when its all said and done don’t make the changes, they merely draw attention to the changes that need to be made. There is ample evidence for this in other recent protests around the globe. Let’s take the Arab Spring protests as a pertinent example.
The protestors in each of the countries helped to bring the world’s attention to the plight of the people but in the end one of two things brought down the regime. The changes in question either came about due to elements within the regime itself turning on it (Egypt’s military establishment, Tunisian leadership) or because the protesters took it upon themselves to take up arms and force the ouster of the dictator(Libya). This of course is not to negate the sacrifices made by many involved in the protest for it is the protesters that created the atmosphere in which such events could occur. However, in the end they only facilitated the changes, they did not create them themselves.
In contrast however, the Occupy Movement fails to even check that box. And certainly, no one currently in a position of power either in government or on Wall Street is in any real mood to make significant lasting changes. Without a doubt, changes of one kind or another will be made but those changes will be nothing more than trivial reforms giving small bits of red meat to the crowd. The status quo will by and large be maintained, the rich will continue to get richer, the poor will continue to get poorer and the disparity gap will continue to grow until everyone not in the top 1% may as well be a peasant. That is unless of course we can enact real change.
What is needed in this country is not a revolution of arms, but a revolution of thought, a revolution of the mind. Until that time though, we will continue to wallow in the servitude and blindness that is the ignorance that currently blankets this country. We as a people have become too complacent in our time and that must change. The Occupy Movement is a good start, but it is far from enough and I fear it is already dying a slow death. What we need is to start getting people to think critically again, to realize the interrelationships that surround us all as well as how important civic/political participation and activism really is. We must go to the halls of power and not just speak to them but co-opt them and return them to the people rather than them co-opting us as they have done for so long. Our politics should be a politics of the people, not of corporations or monied interests.