Mind the Gap–The One Hundred Percent

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.

Occupy Portland, October 21, 2011

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.

Strawberryindigo.

Based on :Image:Peace Sign.svg, drawn with thi...

Much has happened since The Occupy Movement began….

‘Occupy’ costs U.S. cities at least $13M – USATODAY.com

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)

We The People (strawberryindigo.wordpress.com)

Occupy What Next? (strawberryindigo.wordpress.com)

Occupy Standoff (https://strawberryindigo.wordpress.com)

Occupy Moves On (https://strawberryindigo.wordpress.com)

Occupy Portland, October 21, 2011

 What others are saying…

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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?”

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21 thoughts on “Mind the Gap–The One Hundred Percent

  1. I too am saddened to see and hear what has happened to the Occupy movement. It will take a lot more to fight “the establishment” that has practically everything that matters in our country in their pockets or in their payroll. The media have not helped hype up the vilification of this movement, sadly. But, guess who owns the media?

    Could this be why there seems to be upsurge of post-apocalyptic themes in novels and on TV? There’s just so many of them! Are many saying this may be what it would take to make these money-grabbing bunch screech to a halt? I wonder…..

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  2. I have to say that what you describe is not what happened in NY. The OCW crowd were escorted off the park by NYPD and there was not violence; or a least minimal … The difference between the OCW movement and those of the past is that the old movements were like what we saw in the Mid East; focused, organized, had some leadership, and people stuck to it even to death… Maybe too many of us in the US are disaffected, and we sit on the sidelines waiting for others to die for us… Good job!

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    • Hi E: The Portland Police were under investigation by the FBI for using excessive force on people (especially the mentally ill) at the time of Occupy, I think that influenced greatly how they handled the situation.
      I hear what you say about sitting on the sidelines. We have been resting on past laurels for too long. We are Americans on a whole are pretty whimpy compared to others. (You never heard me say that)
      Thanks for the comments. 🙂

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      • TY for your update… We must all be overwhelmed by the downturn and are too tired to protest or gotten so comfortable with our lifestyle that we don’t bother… Either form of apathy is giving me pause. 😦

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  3. Thanks for describing the gradual change in your attitude as the Occupy movement developed and increasingly attracted some (or many) people who had nowhere else to go. My blog is devoted to nature photography in central Texas, but this year as I’ve wandered around I’ve come across the detritus of homeless encampments in at least three places where I’d never found any before. Signs of the times.

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    • Hi Steve: I too have been finding more and more homeless here in Portland. I am amazed at how many there are and how much their numbers have swellled just in the past 6 months. A sign of the times, indeed, Steve. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

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  4. I am old enough to remember and to have participated in the anti-war protests of the ’60’s and ’70’s. I think there are similarities in the two movements, in that both attracted people who felt that they had no place in society, who were looking for a “tribe” to belong to, who needed to be a part of something bigger than themselves. One clear difference in the two is that the anti-war movement had a clear goal: get the US out of Vietnam. And leadership emerged from the grassroots that kept the focus on that goal. I never discerned that the Occupy movement had a goal other than saying they were unhappy with the current systems. In the end, it seemed to be more like a collective temper-tantrum about economic disparities than an effort towards social change. Change involves action and work, not sitting around saying “I am unhappy with how things are.”
    For most of us I suspect it is the small things we do, the everyday decisions that we try to make conscious, that will impact the current economic system. One drop of water seems to have no impact, but the collective impact of millions of drops of water across time wears away stone, creates the Grand Canyon. I buy as much food as I can at my farmers’ market, I use a credit union instead of a bank, I shop at locally owned stores and refuse to shop at Wal-Mart, I try to re-use instead of feeding into the consumer frenzy. I won’t put Wal-Mart out of business, but maybe I can help my favorite hardware store stay in business by paying 10 cents more for furnace filters.
    You wrote a very thought-provoking article. I don’t think I ever wrote this long of a comment before!

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    • Hi Janet, Drop by drop is what it takes. All of us doing our part, whatever that is…sounds like you are doing yours. You seem very socially conscious–I really like that.
      I spent the day today at a Farmer’s Market registering people to vote. It was very interesting and I met lots of fascinating people. It was wonderful to be able to talk to different people about our right to vote and about the state of the country/world. I feel great because of it.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comments, you are a gem!

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  5. What an excellent post! I found the Occupy Movement to be one of inspired people but lacking in direction. And I did wonder how those folks had the time to simply occupy for weeks or months on end – how did they pay they bills and take care of their families? The sites they occupied reminded me of makeshift homeless shelters or Joe Arpaio’s tent city. There must be a much better way to get across the frustrations and fears that many people across the country have.

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  6. An excellent post Strawberryindigo. We have heard very little here – actually nothing! – about the movement in the last few months. I have also wondered if it ever achieved anything. It certainly made a few people in Europe look twice and listen to America’s problems… briefly. The last quote is so true, and I have always believed the little things count, even if we can’t see the overall effect. But for a protest movement you’re right – you need a leader. Thanks for such a thought-provoking article. Brilliantly written! 😀

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    • Hey Cathy: Thanks. I know what everyone thinks about Americans and I have to say that we have probably earned every bit of it–good and not so good.
      I think it will be the little things that will and can make a difference in this world. At least I try to believe that.
      Thanks for the comments, Cathy. I appreciate that a lot.

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  7. I loved the impulse behind the Occupy movement, but I think the media and the 1% managed to make it into a parody of what it was meant to be. They quickly learned that using pepper spray just made more folks angry. These days the movement has been marginalized simply by being ignored. So what would you suggest we do to right the wrongs we currently face?

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    • Hi Gunta, What do I suggest? It’s easy to just say stuff like I am about to do. What am I doing personally? I am not part of the problem nor am I part of the solution, so basically I am all talk at this point. I think there is much we as people can do…lots of small things; Working within the sysytem to change it. Voting with Money, by that I mean, if you don’t like the big corporations or banks, don’t give them money. Don’t like our dependance on oil, ride a bike.
      I think the politicans who make this obcene amount of money and then spend it on attack ads and whatnot should give the money to feed hungry people and fix bridges etc..
      ( I feel a future post coming on…)
      I failed to mention in my post that Occupy Portland killed the lovely green grass in the parks they occupied, cost the city 130,000 to repair plus much more, they abused a poor Elk statue too. 😦
      Sorry this was so long winded.

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      • I’m as frustrated as you are. I pretty much agree and do the things you suggested… pretty much always have, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. The thought that frustrates me so much is that nothing seems to change, just gets worse. Yes, a charismatic leader for the movement would sure have been nice, but what to do when one doesn’t appear or materialize? Thanks to the Citizens United Court decision, money can now buy the elections unless enough people get committed and vote, but then the choices we’re given seem only marginally different. Wall Street still has far too much money and influence over the rest of us.

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        • It’s frustating Gunta…What can we do besides our small indivdual parts? I spent the day today registering voters and I talked to a lot of people about the state of the country and voting. I heard many viewpoints but one common theme–we are too divided. I will probably do a post about my experiences today.
          Those with the money and power want to keep it and they will do anything and everything to keep it. Most people are too distracted to see what is really going on, but people are waking up. I have hope–I have to.

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