Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rx for Occupy

You have most of us largely on your side, at least as far as these points are concerned:

Corporate influence and money determines political outcomes. The system is corrupt. Massive inequity exists.

The next logical extension is this: how do you address these issues, and where do you go from here?

The current tactics you employ, those of the pure revolutionary, will not work--at least in the context of American society. Look to your progenitors that succeeded to some degree. The Civil Rights movement did not advance by arming themselves against the police or the government. They succeeded in the American consciousness in those images from the Edmund Pettus bridge, where firehoses and dogs were loosed on people who simply demanded their legitimate rights. Therefore, eschew offensive confrontation. Stop throwing bricks at the police. Most of us recognize the police as a necessary element of society. As you yourself observed at the onset of the encampment at Zuccotti Park, the police are part of the 99%. Let their overreaction redound to your benefit, as the students at UC Davis did, by bowing your heads and taking abuse. You will accrue sympathies. Be aware that your actions determine our perception. Learn some basic PR. Reject the rhetoric of your fringe would-be co-opters, like the SWP, who refer to police as "legalized killers."

Develop a legislative agenda. There are currently eleven drafts extant in Congress of a proposed 28th Amendment to nullify Citizen's United, which established corporations as people, and money as speech. These issues have built-in popular appeal, and champions to make them happen. Attach yourselves to these.

Draft a slate of candidates for office that reflect these values. The most nationally visible of these, currently, is a Republican--former Louisiana Governor and representative Buddy Roemer. Find your own.  Concentrate on local and state legislatures. Draft candidates for Congress. Participate. And oh, are you registered to vote? Expressing your rage without these channels is sound and fury, nothing else. It may make you feel better--for a while. Without a practical path, rage will either seep away or spin out of control. It is not sustainable.

Abandon your purity. Your version of democracy, an admirably pristine one that may have made sense in tribal enclaves, village squares, or town halls, is impractical and irrelevant on a national or global scale. By clinging to it, you consign yourself to obscurity. Work with what exists, and do not concern yourself with what should be. Focus on movement towards a goal, not wholesale implementation of an unrealistic one. The revolution you seek simply will not happen, not here. Deal with it. If you persist in your present course, the greatest goal you could attain would be chaos, the fall of an entire system with nothing concrete to replace it--which could lead to your greatest fear, authoritarianism.

Build bridges with constituencies that are already organized. Your natural allies exist in labor, civil rights organizations, and advocates for the dispossessed. They have been in place for many years, and will open access to a much broader movement. Yours is an insular and isolated movement, perhaps popular in principle, but not yet truly populist. Again, abandon your purity and join the real world.

Use your tools and considerable organizational abilities in hypermedia to facilitate and advertise coalitions. Another natural breeding ground exists on college campuses. Students shutting down a campus to protest tuition hikes is far more effective than closing a freeway and pissing off your potential allies in the middle class.

And please recognize this lesson from history: the melee in Chicago in August of 1968 and the "Days of Rage" in October of  '69 granted two terms to Richard Milhous Nixon. Your actions entail responsibility for their consequences.

Don't screw this up.

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