Matt and I just returned from Firehook and our coffee conversation is still in my head. These thoughts are not completely coherent, and not all of them are my own. Matt may blog about it too, if he does I will let you know. His thoughts will be definitely be better written.
Here are some of my thoughts on the Occupy Movement. *Note: I have a friend that, at the moment of this writing, is part of the Occupy Wall Street protest and is providing Facebook updates and videos. I wish her the best of luck and hope she is safe, however, I hope she understands there are prices associated with actions and convictions.
– I support the Occupy movement’s rights to free speech and assembly. This is not the Prague Spring, nor is it August 21, 1968, when Soviet forces rolled in to end the Czechoslovakian political reform movement. This is the United States of America, and there is a significant history of protest movements here. One significant difference between this protest movement and other American protests is that it is not filled with disenfranchised individuals; it is filled with people who do have other options. One may wonder what would be the result if the man hours used in protesting were transformed into political action such as petitioning Congress or working toward the election of politicians that are sympathetic toward the Occupy movement’s beliefs.
– The impact of these occupations will be negligible. Unless true political and societal changes result from these protests, this will just be another blip on the television screen. CNN and Fox are having a field day covering these events. If these protests do not result in votes, they will have been for naught.
– These occupations are not bringing attention to an ignored issue. White voters in the South during the 1950s and 1960s did not discuss segregation or voter disenfranchisement. Civil Rights protesting brought an ignored problem into American homes through television images of police dogs and fire hoses. Civil Rights protests were the only avenue. American voters are very aware of today’s fiscal realities… and it is being discussed. What is also being discussed is the drum circle. No one thought Civil Rights protesters were a joke, they were viewed as a threat. The Occupy movement is close to be considered it is nothing more than a joke, or a bad case of bored youths.
– If you are occupying a location, arrest or bodily harm is a significant risk. Believing and acting are things that shouldn’t be done lightly. If you are out for a good time, or interested in joining a mob mentality… you may be in for a surprise (that being a pair of zipper cuffs or a baton to the face). If the price is worth it… go for it, but don’t protest with a faint heart.
– When does your right to protest cross the line? Does affecting the daily life of other Americans qualify as a disqaulifier? If you destroy private and public property, are you causing more harm than good? I do not support a protest that hampers a single mom’s work commute. I definitely don’t support looting and vandalism. That would be hooliganism… this isn’t fucking England during a football match.
– If there are 10,000 protesters, then there are 10,000 different reasons for the protest. Picking up chicks would be my reason to attend a large-scale protest. Coherent mass movements are hard to manage… ask the Libyans and Egyptians.
– There is a hypocrisy in protests and politics, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it distracts. Yes, the Occupy movement is filled with individuals who are using corporate researched and produced smartphones. Yes, they are wearing Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy apparel. Yes, they are the recipients of the good life… but that doesn’t negate their views or their rights. It just shows how complicated this world, and living in a free society, can be. I would rather see a protester using a smartphone than a Christian protesting an abortion clinic while cheering the death penalty.
Thoughtful civil disobedience is a wonderful tradition in America… I hope the Occupy movement will be remembered as such.