"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Letter to The Occupy Movement

To my compatriots and comrades in the Occupy Movements Everywhere:

I am writing this out of urgency, and a desperate desire for the 99% to succeed in bringing about the changes our world needs. I've been following the growth of the movement with great interest and enthusiasm, although I must admit my frustration is growing with each passing day. I do not agree with the detractors who say The Movement needs a solid list of demands or a "clear" message, because the issues and problems which the Occupy Movement illuminates are too numerous and varied to pinpoint, and besides, I am glad the Occupy Movement has refused to be limited in its scope and wanting.

I am writing today, not to request any clarity or focus in message, but in action. I believe The Occupy Movement has the power and potential to transform our society, if we put our collective weight behind decisive action. And now is the crucial time.

The Occupation Movement is about to come up against two of the greatest momentum-killers: 1) institutional recess and 2) desensitization. Both of these are issues of time.
The first is a problem familiar to student organizers: you've worked so hard to build your movement and mount pressure on your target, only to find yourself with only a few days or weeks before Spring Break/Winter Break/Summer vacation. Often, in these cases, administrations just have to play a waiting game before the student organizers all go home and the rest of the student population forgets what happened. When the students return from vacation, they have to start all over, trying to build enough momentum to push through their demands before the next vacation hits. It's the same with congressional recesses and politics, too. There is always a built-in timeline, whether institutionally situated or not, that dictates the rhythm of actions. In the case of the Occupy Wall Street movement, we have about 2-3 weeks, at most, before the harsh New York winter hits. At that point, what happens to The Movement? Even if OWS decides to continue camping in Zuccotti Park, there is a question of purpose. Is the point of the Occupy Movement to camp together in public spaces indefinitely? What does it achieve in doing so?

That brings us to the next problem, which is desensitization. Right now, the Occupy Movement has newness and the spectacular as advantages. A social movement of this size and diversity has never been seen, possibly, since the beginning of modern society. The Movement has the media and people around the world in rapt attention because it's new, it's exciting, and it's all of us (we are the 99%). But how long will this last? My guess is: not very long. Unfortunately, we live in a society that is extremely short of attention span. And one that is easily bored and desensitized. Which is to say that the longer this goes on, the smaller our window of opportunity for change becomes. We cannot afford to let something of such importance be forgotten or dismissed as a fad. We must harness the power and potential of this movement, while public interest and opinion still remain strong are still growing, to make something daringly transformative happen.

Malcolm Gladwell touches on the importance of swift action in his article for the New Yorker, "How David Beats Goliath" (May 11, 2009):
“And it happened as the Philistine arose and was drawing near David that David hastened and ran out from the lines toward the Philistine,” the Bible says. “And he reached his hand into the pouch and took from there a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead.” The second sentence—the slingshot part—is what made David famous. But the first sentence matters just as much. David broke the rhythm of the encounter. He speeded it up. “The sudden astonishment when David sprints forward must have frozen Goliath, making him a better target,” the poet and critic Robert Pinsky writes in “The Life of David.” Pinsky calls David a “point guard ready to flick the basketball here or there.” David pressed. That’s what Davids do when they want to beat Goliaths. [emphases mine]
If we want to win, if the Occupation Movement is going to amount to some everlasting change, we need to act quickly.

The greatest advantage The Occupy Movement has in its arsenal is the power of the people. The Movement has been exercising this power (as in the frequent use of The People's Mic), but rarely applying it. We are the 99%, are we not? What we lack in material and economic wealth we make up for in human capital. We can overwhelm and overpower the 1% if we remember to act in unison. The 1% needs the 99%, not the other way around. And that is the source of our power.

I propose that we start direct actions targeted at the 1%. For example, what if the Occupy Movements decided to unanimously boycott companies owned or affiliated with the 1%? The misconception has always been that the 1% determines the health and strength of our economy. The truth, however, as we all know, is that it's the individual consumer and taxpayer who actually contributes to society, that it's our money that goes towards bailouts, and it's our money that goes into the stock market. I propose that Occupy Wall Street make a large banner, "Boycott of the Week! This Week, the 99% Boycotts: _____________" and fly it in Zuccotti Park, and that other Occupy sites do the same, and then watch as the 99% proceed to withdraw their money from said bank, or stop buying said brand, or sell said stock. Imagine the dips the market will take, and the blows to the fat cats' pocket books! If the 1% was mostly ignoring us before, we will force them to listen to us now.

We must continue to push and build pressure on our targets and find a way to win our government and economy back.

We are too big to fail, and this is too important to be ignored.

Onward, the 99%!


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