Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

There are many problems facing our world today. Our economic system is no longer functioning. Our environment is being systematically destroyed. Our government is dishonest and dysfunctional. Our world is ravaged by curable diseases, famines and wars. Adults and children are diagnosed with mental illnesses at an ever increasing rate.

Perhaps one of the most shocking aspects of all of the statements above is how easily one can get the average person to agree with them. The question then turns---so how can we solve these problems? In order to solve problems, you must accurately and precisely determine their cause. And you must be willing to follow that cause wherever it may lead you--even when it means doubting the systems you hold so dear.

How bad do things have to get before we ask ourselves--why do we have all of these problems? At what point should we be forced to consider it is the larger system which puts these things in motion that is the cause, and all of the current issues are just symptoms? Just as taking off the top leaves of a weed is pointless if you leave the root, attempting to solve individual problems is ultimately useless if we don't address their causes.

I believe it is the systems we have in place that cause these problems. Systems that are rooted in unjustified hierarchies that disempower individuals and create inequalities.

Of course, stating that 'the system' is the issue has its own problems. For one, the systems are so vast it is difficult to pinpoint where one begins and another ends. But I think that is just an issue of definition, and could be accomplished through time. But there is another large problem: it is terrifying. These systems are the foundation for how we understand ourselves and interpret our world. To change them would be to shake every individual to their core.

Because suggesting a change in systems is so difficult and terrifying to people, I do not believe that such a change could or should occur by destroying the systems we have in place. The only thing that makes sense to me is the old IWW idea---to build a new world in the shell of the old.

And thus, the occupy wall street protests.

Almost everything you read about the Occupy Wall Street protests criticizes their lack of organization. Bemoans the fact that they don't have a clear mission. Wishes a more broad based coalition was there.

I feel like everyone is missing the point. I'm very glad that the protests aren't the normal, top down organized events where individuals march in protest with a single demand. After all, when is the last time we saw a protest like this actually accomplish its goals?

The black bloc protests in Seattle in the 90's resulted in the continuation of the WTO. The large scale protests of the RNC in New York did nothing to cease Bush's 8 year reign as president. The hundreds of thousands of people who marched on Washington against the Iraq and Afghani wars did nothing to cease the armies from fighting. And what about Troy Davis? Today he is dead.

People from my generation have not lived to see traditional protests work. That is why Occupy Wall Street is exciting. Its backbone is general assemblies, where individuals are allowed to speak freely and suggest actions to the group. Group actions are not taken until all voices have been heard and a consensus has been reached.

Occupy Wall Street does not have a single demand because it recognizes the futility in that when the overall system is the problem. Further, it recognizes that there is something deeply wrong in dictating to people what the demands should be. To proclaim a single demand without the tiring, endless, tedious work of actually listening to those who are present and coming to consensus of what to do would be a waste of time. It would just perpetuate and reflect the same behaviors that have brought our country and our world to the state it is in today--non-justified authority making decisions for others and thus disempowering their voice. 

So to me, the protests are not really protests. They are, in the purest sense, demonstrations. They demonstrate to the world that you can accomplish goals (Occupying Wall Street) using horizontal organizational principles and through non-hierarchical means. They demonstrate to those that have already been trying to create new systems--of food production and distribution through collective farms and food not bombs, of education through free schools or democratic schools and collective libraries, of health care through radical collectives and free clinics, of production through democratically controlled businesses, of community by creating spaces where individuals feel respected and loved and where each voice has a chance to be heard--that they are not alone.

What is their demand? A process, as was explained in this video. The protest is demanding that a new process be put in place, a new way of organizing ourselves, that denies unjustified hierarchies and seeks equal empowerment and liberation for all.

The protests provide a space for the creation of a new world to occur. They are not attempting to dictate what that world should look like--and that is exactly why you should join them. They are giving every interested individual the chance to say what a new world could look like.

The protests are an invitation. What is holding you back? Do you believe the systems are the problem? Are you will to experiment to find what the new system might be like? Occupy wall street.