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Occupy Pt 2: Tahrir, Lafayette or In Between
Author: Raine    Date: 09/29/2011 14:03:09

Earlier this week, I wrote a blog regarding my early feeling on the protests occurring on Wall Street. It was an honest and heartfelt ponderence, and one that has provided much good debate. Debate is something I enjoy.

I still wonder about what is going to happen. I cannot stress enough that I want this movement to succeed. Please allow me to further pontificate. I read this over at DU this morning:

For the most part these people are the next generation of the new American Left.

They are not protesting to change the way we currently do business in this world, they are protesting to raise awareness of this cause for THEIR generation and future generations. Although they all seem very much down for a revolution right now as well.

They are trying to shape a new world-view among their peers. A world-view that will shape their future and the future generations after them.

After speaking to many of them my consensus is that their vision of society is one that would be considered further Left than many of the posters here.

Something else I noticed, many of these protesters are 17, 18, 19 yrs old. Some even 16. Some even 50+. Yet are smarter and more aware of this situation and whats at stake than 99.9% of any teabagger/conservative right-wing ignoramus and most of the general public who are still blind to Wall St. criminal acts.

Brush these protesters off at your own peril, but they are directly raising awareness to a whole new generation of voters and shaping their peers world-view into one that would benefit all citizens and possibly bring far more Progressive candidates into power in the future. These protesters MAY even be our future candidates. These protesters for the most part are further Left than just about any politician in their world-view of American society.

When I asked 'What would a victory here look like?' a 17yr old boy who chose to remain anonymous said "An awareness of being more self-sustaining individuals and less hyper-consumerism and...", then he was cut of by his girl friend (girlfriend?) who said "Less corporate rule in our Govt, less fascism in our Govt and true Democracy for all individuals!". The boy then stated "We are occupying Wall St. because Wall St. is occupying DC".

These are our people, people. These are our people.
Please forgive me for posting from another message board, but this was a first hand account from an observer. I wholeheartedly agree.
This is a brand new movement. It's in its infancy. And with all of the debate I have had with some very dear friends, I am left wondering who will nurture and feed this infant? I know it's cliché to, well, use a cliché but I think this is at the heart of my concern.

I have seen many people say that awareness and awakening this generation is enough, and I think in spirit it is good. Perhaps I am getting a little older, but I have walked past the White House many many times and always see this:

I'm sure you have seen it. I'm sure you have walked past it as though it were a moment in history. It always makes me a little sad. My fist time seeing it was September 24, 2005 at an anti-war march. Many of you were there; it's where we first met, or nearly met (smile). We did not end the war that day, but we brought awareness. We still kept working and eventually, we elected a man who would start the withdrawal. It's been 10 years. No it isn't over, but the tide has turned. I remember before that 2005 protest, there were factions and opinions by many people on who was to lead the charge of the protest. Was it going to be A.N.S.W.E.R or United for Peace and Justice? They came together for that historic march, but shortly after cut ties with each other:
Although UFPJ worked with A.N.S.W.E.R. to build the September 24, 2005 Washington, D.C. rally, by December 2005 the two groups had definitively fallen out. A December 2005 statement by UFPJ says that "engagement with A.N.S.W.E.R.… [has been] …a difficult and controversial aspect of our work," and that UFPJ "has decided not to coordinate work with ANSWER again on a national level." The document discusses events surrounding the September 24 rally, charges that A.N.S.W.E.R. "violated the terms of our agreement in ways that substantially and negatively impacted September 24’s message and impact," remarks that "co-sponsorship with ANSWER on September 24 was welcomed by some in the antiwar movement but limited or prevented completely the participation of others," and explains, "We did not have consensus" about the decision not to work with A.N.S.W.E.R., but had "a more than two thirds supermajority … We make no recommendations or mandates on this issue to UFPJ member groups in local or constituency-based area…"

A.N.S.W.E.R. responded by saying that "UFPJ has publicly proclaimed its intention to split the movement," and accused UFPJ of "a false and ugly attack on the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition," and of doing so for "embarrassingly petty and astonishingly trivial" reasons. Besides giving their own version of the events surrounding September 24, A.N.S.W.E.R.'s statement indicates some less trivial differences between the groups: they criticize UFPJ for its willingness to embrace even moderate politicians, such as John Murtha and conservative politicians like Ron Paul, who are disaffected with the war, while A.N.S.W.E.R. "considers it harmful to try to tailor the message of the progressive movement to please the long-awaited but fictional support from the politicians."
Since that time, we have seen many groups against the war, but - to the best of my knowledge - there have been no major anti-war protests since then. I was in NYC with LivingOnLI and a few friends that fall, but after that, I haven't seen the numbers we needed to keep the movement going with the ferver that was needed.

Now, I would never assume or present President Obama as an anti-war President. But it took the election of 2008 to finally start seeing the draw-down and change of attitude we wanted back in 2003, 04, 05 and beyond. The movement fractured because there was no cohesive leadership or common vision to how the movement should be approached. Once again, I stress, this is my opinion, and I welcome it to be challenged.

This brings me back once again to the Wall Street protesters. My friend Pat has been providing me with alternative articles that challenge my opinion this week. One in particular was this:
Why Establishment Media & the Power Elite Loathe Occupy Wall Street (snip)
The organizers, who pride themselves in being “leaderless,” have sought to bring together a diverse crowd of various political persuasions. They have rallied behind the slogan, “We are the 99%,” to show they will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the top 1% in America. They have rallied against banks that engage in tax dodging while at the same time foreclosing on Americans’ homes and charging exorbitant interest rates on student loans putting young citizens in deep debt. They are rising up against increased unemployment and war against the poor in America. And they have used what is known as the General Assembly process to make decisions, which democratically gives all people present an opportunity to influence the continued organization of Occupy Wall Street.
To whit, I have agreed on this all along. It goes on to this paragraph:
Liberals have shown scorn, too, suggesting the occupation is not a “Main Street production” or that the protesters aren’t dressed properly and should wear suits cause the civil rights movement would not have won if they hadn’t worn decent clothing.

The latest show of contempt from a liberal comes from Mother Jones magazine. Lauren Ellis claims that the action, which “says it stands for the 99 percent of us,” lacks traction. She outlines why she thinks Zuccotti Park isn’t America’s Tahrir Square. She chastises them for failing to have one demand. She claims without a unified message police brutality has stolen the spotlight. She suggests the presence of members of Anonymous is holding the organizers back writing, “It’s hard to be taken seriously as accountability-seeking populists when you’re donning Guy Fawkes masks.” And, she concludes as a result of failing to get a cross-section of America to come out in the streets, this movement has been for “dreamers,” not “middle class American trying to make ends meet.”
This is criticism. I am left to wonder if we, the ones who are involved with activism are allowed to be concerned and allowed to offer criticism to what is going on in NYC? Personally, I have been trying to use critical thought to this movement. As was said in the Main Street link above:
I get the anger driving the protest — boy howdy! — but I don’t see any specific appeal to folks on Main Street yet, and I don’t see Main Street Americans responding. Anonymous, which has pushed this campaign to “occupy Wall Street,” has no clear set of goals, preferring to think the crowd will magically produce a set of demands by consensus. The “theory of change” seems to be (1) protest (2) ????? (3) change!
Perhaps that is a bit harsh, but -- if this is to gain steam -- should we not WANT Main Street to feel attachment and identification to the idea that people "are occupying Wall St. because Wall St. is occupying DC"?

Oliver Willis was more critical, stating
If you dress up like a dope-smoking hobo, expect to be treated like one and not be taken seriously. Get a haircut. Wear a nice shirt. Carry a sign with a message that makes some kind of sense to an average American.

It might work.
Yes harsh, but it was said within the prism of the civil rights movement. The proper dress was a result many time of people attending marches after church, but it was also trying to make themselves look respectable in the eyes of the people whose minds they were trying to win over. It also goes to what Osbourne said about Main Street. For a movement to grow, it must be inclusive, even in the face of bitter critique. That doesn't mean rolling over and giving up. It doesn't mean capitulating.

I believe in what they are doing on Wall Street. I want to be a part of it. I want to know that I am welcome to be a part of it, even if I have questions and criticisms. As of today, I am not feeling it. If the only response to questions is responses like this:
Criticism of Occupy Wall Street is just a way for establishment media, the power elite and those who believe in their views to defend their ideology on how politics is supposed to work. It is their way of affirming their conviction that at some point the children need to leave the streets and the grown-ups must be allowed to work in peace. It is also part of the culture; expressing support for “hippies” or a “plurality of voices” preaching against capitalism will not win friends and influence people in the Beltway. And so, they will make criticisms whether there is evidence to support what is said or written.
then I have to wonder how democratic is this movement? I am FAR from the establishment, nor am I the power elite. I consider myself liberal. I am not the general age demographic of what is happening in NYC. I am older. I am not a hippie that marched against the Vietnam war. I wasn't alive when they marched to Selma. I am someone who marched against Iraq and Afghanistan and the policies of the Bush administration.

I have seen the success and failures of the protests in my day. In my life I have read of success and failure in history when it comes to social change and protests. I read, learn and understand history to allow me to make clear choices and form opinions.

I don't think I want a Tahir Square moment in this nation. That may be cowardice on my part. There is a difference between revolution and being revolutionary. That said, I know that I don't want a Lafayette Square. Right now, it's sadly, a tent in front of the White House. It's been there for over 20 years, and is barely acknowledged by people. I don't know what change it has made to the public conscience and the danger of nuclear weaponry.

Those that are criticizing Occupy Wall street are not doing it to stop the movement. I believe that -- even if they are not presenting the argument in the nicest way, are doing so to offer constructive criticism. I don't think ANYONE on the Left wants to see this movement fail. We've seen too many fail in the past for lack of cohesive ways to obtain objectives.

Our system is broken. Making that point and waking people up to this issue is critical. The question still remains for me: What happens next? Does it get fixed it or does it get torn down? I prefer the former. THAT is why I ask these questions. I think that is fair. If we are all in this together, people should be able to ask such questions and not be dismissed as outsiders, or those that are part of the problem. Not all of us are, we just have questions. Many of us have known of these problems for decades, and are happy to see Wall Street being protested. Once the sleeping giant is finally awake, how will it be taken care of?

No more Lafayette Squares.


86 comments (Latest Comment: 09/30/2011 03:34:44 by livingonli)
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