“What is the Occupy plan?” I hear it constantly. What is your agenda, what are you doing and why?
I’ve struggled with this one a little myself, so I go back to trying to cite historical precedent to put things in perspective. I am reminded of the Civil Rights movement. They were heavily criticized, especially early in the movement, for not having clear goals (after all “equality” is a big, abstract goal, that many interpret differently—much like “financial change”), but those goals solidified in time. They were criticized for public disruption—much of which directly impacted the very people the movement sought to empower—just like Occupy. Many active groups shouted for “equality” and reduction of racial segregation (just like we shout for “financial change” and reduction in economic stratification) without a clear plan.
In fact, the Civil Rights movement could be said to have started in 1955 with the Montgomery Bus Boycott shouting for desegregation of buses. So was the Civil Rights Movement just about buses? Was this even the first bus boycott? No. Criticizers said the movement wouldn’t last or spread. They said that it was a big to-do about just ‘buses’. They said that changing the system just wasn’t ‘practical’. This dissent came from many people of all races that were just trying to live their lives, work, and support families. Many people just preferred to live quietly within the system than disrupt their families and risk their jobs by fighting for change.
City officials retaliated to the Bus Boycott, under the banner of ending public disorder (sound familiar?). They tried to end the boycott by enforcing cab fare increases (raising the cost of transportation from 10 cent per bus ride to over 45 cents for a cab—more than 4 times what ‘normal working people’ usually paid—and if taxi drivers charged less, they could go to jail under the law). Thousands of people suddenly had no affordable way to get to work because of a technicality that city officials only at that moment decided to enforce . Is that the way our system should work? A thousand laws on the books that only apply when it is convenient for the city officials (think of the recent enforcement of Section 11-45 of Wilmington City Ordinance requiring us to remove “Street Furniture”—how many time have you seen any group setup a folding table on the street? But only now do we choose to enforce that ordinance—now when it’s convenient for the city)? Thousands of normal, working people that were not involved in the Civil Right Movement directly were impacted—a huge percentage of those being the very people the movement was trying to help and empower.
The Civil Right movement disputed the course of normal, day-to-day life for many people. So will Occupy. Shouting for change interrupted many daily lives, many business activities. It will now. Short-term negative impacts on many of the very people these movements try to empower will, unfortunately, happen (think racial violence that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement).
But now, would anyone say that Civil Rights was pointless, or disorganized, or a waste of time? No, because despite all of the negative things that happened on both sides of the movement, in the long run it paved the way for what was right under our Constitutional law. It helped people for decades to come, and made it so that they did not have to be the ones standing in the streets, sleeping in the cold, arrest and beaten just for fighting for the basic rights that should be theirs already under the Constitution of America.
I would hope the same thing for Occupy. It is unfortunate that some of the very people that we would like to empower are against the movement, are disrupted or disturbed by what we are doing. We all are trying to avoid this as much as possible.
But for those of you asking why your children, brothers, sisters, and friends are out on the streets getting involved, please remember that it takes a lot of bravery for individuals to stand up and fight for something not because of personal gain, not because of reward or praise (even from the people you are fighting for), but just because what you are doing is right under our Constitution. Even though it would be easier to be apathetic, to turn a blind eye, don’t you think that’d what got us into this mess? Why millions have lost homes and jobs and the largest corporations in America required federal bailout? Can we really afford to do nothing anymore?
None of us have the perfect answer for “What’s next?”. We are doing our best to support the community and nation, cause minimal disruption, and keep our own jobs, families, and property safe in the process. Every action we take each day IS the next step.
Banks and corporations are not evil, but the corruption within them and our government right now is wrong under our law and Constitution—which is a point I think most of us can agree with. Please support those that are willing to sacrifice from their own lives to stand up for that as Americans. We may not always make every decision right—this movement is made of people—but we are acting to make those decisions right, to correct, to improve, and to consider local, national, and global impacts on the 100% of the people.
I truly believe that history will see this movement in a positive light, though there may be many clouds in the sky in our day-to-day battles. People will be negatively impacted, but think of those that already have been (lost pensions, lost jobs, lost homes, lost careers…. the list goes on for so long). This must change. Doing nothing will not change it.
- The Montgomery Bus Boycott ttp://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/civilrights-55-65/montbus.html