Friday Feedback: What’s Next for Occupy?

friday feedbackEach Friday, LA Progressive presents a comment we editors find to be most profound, insightful, or just plain irritating.

This week, Mark Halfmoon comments on An Open Letter to Supporters of Occupy Wall Street by David Kristjanson-Gural:

Mark said:

The man in the photo has a sign stating that in his second fight for his country, he at last now knows who the enemy is. That may be so for the gentleman. That may be true for many or most of the people in the Occupy Wall Street movement. It may be true for author David Kristjanson-Gural. But not only is it not true for a large number of Americans, the slogan on that sign itself was carried by Vietnam War veterans at least 45 years ago.

occupy veteranWhile learning that the capitalist system run amok in the hands of a cruel heartless oligarchy ruling over a plutocracy disguised as a democracy may be a surprising, eyeopening epiphany to a whole new generation of the newly awakened, there are many of us who have been well aware of this reality for a long time.

I think it is fantastic that a critical mass has been reached and masses have taken to the streets and educated, drawn in more people and got them politically active. That is a huge first step for a lot of folks and the most commendable aspect of the Occupy movement.

But since to continue to just hold signs and chant about being the 99% and it being so unfair may have reached the point of diminishing returns while the mercurial attention of the American media and public is turning to the next shiny object, the movement appears to an outsider to be scrambling for ideas to prolong its relevance.

On the West Coast, Occupy is joining the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to shut down all the ports because they have become the “economic engines for the elite,” though the union’s president appears a bit wary, saying in a letter to his members that protesters were out to co-opt the union’s cause to advance their own agenda. Some support the shutdowns but others feel they harm already struggling workers.

Personally, I don’t think shutting down ports or clashing in the streets will be very effective this time. If the power establishment wants the ports open, they will use more than the necessary degree of violence to make it so. In my opinion. The only way to have any meaningful impact on the corporate and banking giants is to have a negative effect on their bottom line.

If it is really true that the people, the so called 99%, are really sick and tired of them, it should be possible to spend all that port-blocking, getting-shot-and-pepper-sprayed energy into successful campaigns to get the public to stop supporting them with their dollars. The money voluntarily given to the 1% by the rest of us is more powerful than our votes. It’s what votes are bought with.

If we really have reached this turning point where the 99% are really ready to rebel, how do we explain the largest amount of money spent, and the largest corporate retail sales profits made in US history in a single weekend this past “Black Friday?”

To me, educating the public about how their consumer habits directly effect the power the 1% has over them more than laws do, and getting them to act on it, would truly be a way of putting the power in the hands of the people. That would be revolutionary.

Then there are the actions of the OWS people who took direct action to make a concrete difference in at least one building in Harlem:

And the Occupy Our Homes Movement that was inspired by OWS:

I think it’s time for more of this. Now that all of this enlightenment is taking place, it’s time to get

define necessity

down into the trenches and work with the people who are suffering as a result of corporate and banking greed. It may not be as exciting or get as much non-internet media coverage or express as much rage or blow off as much steam as taking to the streets, but it is a sure formula for winning hearts and minds, little by little, by word of mouth and social media. How can riot cops defeat that? What kind of negative spin can the corporate media put on it?

Are we content to use all of our energy to go out in the street, pitch a tent and holler at the greedy and complain that the plutocracy is unfair while not lifting a finger to help save its victims? Can we afford to ignore the fact that it is our rampant consumerism that really fuels the “economic engines for the elite?” That the drive to satisfy our insatiable desire for more cheap stuff makes us complicit in a dance with those who would do whatever is necessary to provide it for us, for the right price, no questions asked? That it makes us investors in our own oppression? That as the gentleman’s sign suggests, “We have met the enemy and he is us?”


  1. says

    Well, you know Scott Peer, that’s my point. I and the vast majority (let’s say at least 99.9%) of Americans have not and will not step foot in Occupy LA. So while you may feel something amazing was happening in the midst of your fellow Occupiers, surrounded by leaderless, inclusive, and participatory support, the incredible awesome amazingness was just not reaching out and touching the hearts and minds of as many people as profoundly as those of you in the in-crowd are convinced it was.

    Like I said, I think it is fantastic that masses have taken to the streets to educate the clueless, urging more people to become politically active. But there is a political inertia that often occurs in movements whose members pretty much spend most of their time talking to themselves or each other. There is a danger of an inflated sense of relevance. Just because polls say that most people agree with your complaints doesn’t mean they are ready to follow your agenda.

    So those who have “actually gone to Occupy LA” may indeed know a great deal more about it than I who never have. But I do still have a perspective outside of the insular world of the Occupy camps. And from the looks of how this holiday shopping season is progressing, the minds of the American people are not appearing to be Occupied with what you may think they are.

    I do not advocate being a passive political spectator. What I do advocate is spending some of that Occupy energy working directly for the people who are suffering due to cruel corporate and banking practices. Help them keep their homes, keep their heat on, keep from being evicted and carry on a massive campaign to publicize their plights on social media. Show the human faces of the “99%.” And Occupy the high ground. Occupy action. Show the 1% and the corporate media that they cannot get away with calling us whiners. Show that we don’t need to wait around for some political wind to shift or some oligarch to have a change of heart.

    When demanding economic justice, sitting in a tent or waving a sign just doesn’t carry the forcefull intent that the pissed off weary red eyes and rolled up sleeves of the advocate in the midst of the righteous fight for the weak does.

  2. Scott Peer says

    And so “Mark Plus” sounds rather like the “Mark” who made the original comment, neither of whom appears to have actually gone to Occupy LA, but both of whom like to pretend that they know something about it. I think the comments could be boiled down to the equivalent of “I never played softball but think it is a stupid sport and I prefer to sit at home and watch Major League Baseball on my TV.” In sports, being a spectator rather than participant commonly leads to making you overweight, in politics being passive tends to make you a subject.

  3. Mark Plus says

    Give it up on legitimizing the Occupy hoax, guys. It had no legs to begin with, especially when the young men involved realized their mistake in advertising their loser status to the world, and generating the mockery of more successful men – and young men generally hate it when their elders and betters humiliate them and question their virility. The male Occupiers might as well have identified themselves as an organization of 20- and 30-something male virgins.

  4. Scott Peer says

    I’m going to make a wild guess: Mark never stepped foot in Occupy LA. For me, the main thing about the movement was that it was leaderless, inclusive, and participatory. I use past tense, because after the breakup of the encampments it is not clear that this will remain the case for occupy 2.0. It is not clear that the homeless will remain part of it. It is not clear the people will not become leaders. It may turn into the chanting that Mark refers to. But what it was really threatened “leaders”, and so it was crushed.

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