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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupy Movement: New Age Protest?

The Occupy Movement that started out on Wall Street has made it's way to my part of the world- at least to the "big city", where a group of perhaps 100 or so has pitched tents in the down town core and established themselves as part of the Occupy Movement.  Like everyone that isn't involved directly in it, and perhaps some that are, I am trying to make sense of this event.

I realized this attempt to "figure it out", is kind of a Cherry Plum World View  I struggled to find reason, a purpose, a point of control, in what seems to be pretty loose, impulsive action. I have been guilty of all the stereotypes and criticism everyone has put to this movement.; they lack purpose, they aren't really "doing" anything, what's the point, what do they want to achieve. My biggest question was: "How will they measure success "?

I watched a media interview the other day with one of the protesters and gained a new perspective. Not really because of anything the interviewer asked, or  anything the protester explained, but maybe something just clicked a bit for me. I watched how unemotional the protester was. Pretty amazing.  There was no anger there. She wasn't suggesting corporations were bad. She wasn't demanding a job. She wasn't suggesting corporations should fold. She had no demands. She did have a couple of possible ideas including tax changes, and sustainable activities. She didn't seem "flaky" or unsure of herself.  Dispute some pretty tough questions she didn't get rattled or appear embarrassed.  She just "was", and I got the sense that she believed in herself and didn't really care what the audience thought or how people were measuring her. I admire that.

If I understand the movement correctly, they are wanting to raise awareness on the inequality between rich and poor, and they believe that inequality has some roots in big corporate business. They believe "we the people" have lost power to big business and they would like to have power redistributed a bit more.  They don't have the solutions.  They don't claim to have solutions.  They have a number of ideas for change that seem as varied as the people involved in the movement. 

When I really thought about this whole movement, and listened to some of the protesters, I found myself changing my view a bit.  How can I argue with the fact that there is great equality in the world. How can I argue with the fact that corporations are making some pretty big money that sometimes affects the world in negative ways- and sometimes good.  How could anyone argue with the fact that we might be able to make small and big changes to improve the good of us all.  Hmm...

I don't think anyone really knows how to "deal with" these protesters because they aren't asking anyone to take a side.  There is nothing to be argued. They aren't doing anything illegal. It seems to me they are just raising awareness and that actually seems like a good thing. That seems like the direction the world might be shifting towards anyway and they are just addressing the change or perhaps calling attention to it.  They are encouraging you to think- about what you think, is your choice. And if you can come with a good solution for equally distributing power they think that's a good idea and they applaud that.

Some people complain that the group is just a bunch of unemployed young people camping out. From the interviews I have seen, they have been pretty honest about their employment situation.  A lot of them are unemployed. But they don't seem to be asking for handouts or making those kinds of demands.  Would we rather they were home watching T.V. and hoping the phone would ring offering them a job?  Seems to me they are doing some networking, talking with like minds, and perhaps getting some ideas out of their activities. Some of them are getting some great media experience. I'm willing to bet someone will come out of this movement with a new job, or an entrepreneurial idea. Perhaps it's making them feel good to be a part of something in a time when they might otherwise be feeling pretty isolated and disconnected.

It's a marketing strategy to pull your focus towards a product by introducing something without giving you the full details.  You see an add on a bulletin board on your way to work for instance and you wonder what they are actually advertising.  It's a tease. You start thinking about it. We're curious and we try and attach reason to things.  You wake up a bit on the drive and ponder it.  Maybe over coffee you ask if anyone else knows what the bulletin board means, or knows anything about this new product. It's the "made you look" strategy of getting your attention.  When the product finally comes out you're already so curious you figure you might just try it out. 

I don't think the Occupy Movement was planned along any kind of marketing lines, but it seems to me this is the effect they are having.  A lot of people are trying to figure out what they are about. We're talking about it, we're thinking about it.  We aren't totally ambiguous to them.  We are forming opinions. They are a news story. They are "making us look".

Maybe if the impulsive actions of a few meet with the "reasonable person" phenomenon we'll find some ground in the middle.  Maybe we will find multiple solutions to a pretty complex problem.  Maybe we will redistribute some power. Maybe we will wake up a bit to whatever it is, we as individuals, not as a collective, need to wake up to.

Some people claim this movement needs to be more organized, more structured if they want to have any impact.  I think if that happens, it will be a shame. I think that kind of collectiveness draws people to sides and invites conflict in an "us against them" mood. It seems to me this group is personifying the idea of individualism and celebrating individual awareness as the first step towards action. They aren't directing us towards anything. They are hoping we might see what they see, or see something they haven't been able to see. They want us to question what they question, and ask other questions, and perhaps have some input.  At least, that's what I think when I look at the movement. And if someone else sees something different, then that's their reality and that's just fine too.

This group is not about control.  They seem to be suggesting we reconsider control and power and find ways to balance reason and impulse and therefore take back some individual power.  The groups I saw don't even have an answer as to how long they will remain.  At first I scoffed at that. Now I see it from a different light.  I think they will just stay while it feels right to stay and leave when it feels right to leave. Maybe this really is a "new age".  Maybe that is success.

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