I remember the beginning of The Occupy Movement; first came the stories, little blurbs on the news. People started talking and it grew and grew and what started in a park in New York City spread like wildfire and many cities, one of them my town of Portland, Oregon joined in the protests. It was new and exciting and no one could seem to know what to make of it.
I was stoked! I am a firm believer of Power to the People and all that. The whole movement had this air of fresh hopefulness. Looking back now I think I saw what I wanted to see; a grassroots effort leading to something big and changing the world. I admit that I am a sucker for that sort of thing.
However, I was not as exuberant about the methods of the movement which struck me as unsustainable. The entire concept of occupying didn’t sit well with me. I was cautious. I was afraid the fledgling movement would just make some noise, spiral out of control and then die on impact.
I wrote about the movement back then. I pleaded with the protestors in a series of posts, to be careful. I knew they needed a leader and I was hoping one would emerge…
To my dismay a leader did not step forward and the movement, like a chicken with its head cut off, ran around and around in circles making a huge mess and then just up and died. There seemed to be no clear goals or agenda, just occupying.
I visited the Portland camp a few times. I remember the people there. The hopeful and the not so hopeful. The extremes of humanity.
I remember the friendly man in the tie dye who welcomed us to the occupation, I remember the art tent, and the free condom jar. I remember the makeshift kitchen and the line of hungry and grateful people.
I remember the teenage girl in white shorts and flip flops, hungry, dirty and cold eating a glazed twist like it was heaven. I wonder what happened to her? I wonder what happened to many of them. I remember their faces. I remember the despondent man in the wheelchair and the little old lady who screamed at us, and the boy with the fancy rat…
I remember the kind people who showed up with a giant urn of coffee and the woman and the little girl who were passing out homemade cookies with the tiny M & M’s.
I also remember the number of obviously homeless and mentally ill staying in the encampment. Many of them seemed to be there just to “make the scene”. Most were not concerned with equality or social justice. Many just came for a hot meal, and who could blame them? Some came for a party. It seemed many had nowhere else to go and were just taking advantage of the situation…
Did the movement accomplish anything beyond becoming a parody of itself? A messy and expensive one at that. The same conditions are present, nothing has changed, our problems have only deepened.
In my opinion one of the core reasons the movement did not meet its objectives is because it had no objectives except to occupy; to take, to seize public and private property in the name of protest and damn everyone else.
We need more togetherness in this world.
The movement alienated the very people whose support it needed; your average citizen. The responsible adult who has bills to pay, perhaps a family to take care of, a job to go to (if they are lucky.) Who has the time or inclination to sit all day in a park and “protest”? I think frankly the whole thing scared and upset a lot of our citizens. To succeed a movement needs to be inclusive, it needs to bring people together, it needs to solve problems not create more.
The thoughtful voices calling out for fairness and equality, for rationality, were drowned out by the storm of senselessness the movement became. It became a circus and the media gave us all a front row seat.
The few who truly cared were striving for social change. I think they may have been in a bit over their heads and for all their lofty ideals and ideas, the practicalities of life got in the way as they have a tendency to do.
Perhaps in all reality, all it was just a bunch of angry and frustrated people, not knowing what to do about being angry and frustrated.
It is easy to sit back and judge. To say it was all for not and that it was a complete and total disaster…but I don’t think it was all loss…
What can we learn from this?
If anything, The Occupy Movement showed us the ugly side of our society. It shed the light on just how many angry and desperate people there are and what they can and will do. It showcased the need for equality and justice and what happens when our safety net of social services gets pulled out from underneath us.
I think recent world events have helped put it all in perspective for me. What we Americans deem important at the time can look puny in retrospect compared to what people in other countries have to endure. I think many of us, myself included, take our freedoms for granted.
Everyone wants, but no one is willing to work for it…it’s pass the buck, follow the crowd, don’t dare think for yourself and leave the mess for someone else to clean up.
They say revolutions can get messy, I will agree to that but revolutions bring change, The Occupy Movement in this country was no revolution–just a mess.
Life isn’t easy and our problems as a society cannot be solved easily. Our biggest strength as a nation, is our diversity. We live in a land of a million ideas and a million ways. This perspective makes us special and unique and this makes us strong. Whatever and however we solve our problems, and we will solve our problems, requires not just work but it requires…
We the people, by the people, for the people..
. The Occupy Movement showed us something about ourselves, it showed that We The People are a force to be reckoned with. There is power in strong emotions including anger, but that energy needs direction. True change requires work from all of us.
All 100% of us.
…and this reminds me of a quote. The author is unknown, consider it your typical everyday citizen. It came from a piece of graffiti on The Berlin Wall, it was found and recorded after the fall of that famous wall.
“Many small people, who in many small places, can alter the face of the world.”
The dream is not over, only postponed.
Much has happened since The Occupy Movement began….
Occupier’s Occupy woman’s home (citizenjournalistdotorg.wordpress.com)
Cameron Whitten from Occupy Portland to mayoral candidate to hunger strike (photo essay) (photos.oregonlive.com)
Occupy Portland Website (www.portlandoccupier.org)
The 4 posts I wrote on The Occupy Movement in order…
We The People (strawberryindigo.wordpress.com)
Occupy What Next? (strawberryindigo.wordpress.com)
What others are saying…
- Occupy the gap (mindmindful.wordpress.com)
- VIDEO: What did Occupy movement achieve? (bbc.co.uk)
- Weekly Writing Challenge: Mind the Gap (dailypost.wordpress.com)
- Lessons in Seeking Change – A Look Back at the Occupy Movement (theretiringsort.com)
- Tactics of Waste, Dirt and Discard in the Occupy Movement: A Photo Essay (discardstudies.wordpress.com)
- Occupy Movement, strong in spirit, is in disarray on one-year anniversary (oregonlive.com)
- Age divides Occupy movement, some older activists say they’re left out (charlotteobserver.com)
- Occupy’s protest is not over. It has barely begun | Frances Fox Piven (guardian.co.uk)
This was written in response to The Weekly Writing Challenge put on by The Daily Post.
To participate in the challenge, tag your posts with “DPchallenge” or leave a link to your post in the comments. We will keep an eye on the tag and highlight the week’s best posts on Freshly Pressed each Friday.
This week’s theme: Mind The Gap: “As we revisit the events of Occupy Wall Street one year later, or cover the new happenings, some WordPress.com bloggers have begun speaking about what the Occupy Movement does or does not signify for them. For this week’s Mind the Gap, let us know: What does the Occupy Movement mean to you?”