We’ve all been watching in awe, shock, and admiration as Arab youth have risen up together, in country after country, demanding a better tomorrow. But not many of us can relate to the experience of rebellion against an oppressive dictator. Well, today I saw something amazing: I watched ordinary Americans, my friends and family, rising up with the exact same fierce determination and belief in the possibility that we can create a better world. We don’t have a dictator to overthrow here in America, but we live in an oppressive political & economic system - a corporatocracy, to be specific - that needs to be changed NOW.
Quick reminder: who are we, you ask? Like the 13 colonies, we are the 99% who are being cheated by the very government that is supposed to protect and serve us. And we won’t take it anymore. We are taking things into our own hands. Enough is enough.
And so last night, November 17th, since I couldn’t be there myself, I watched livestreams of NYC’s massive Occupy mobilization. What I saw was the most inspiring thing I’ve seen in a long time.
I watched aerial views of the 30,000+ - THIRTY THOUSAND PLUS - protesters taking up blocks and blocks and blocks of Manhattan streets, as well as a constant broadcast from an independent reporter, Tim Pool (@Iwilloccupy), who should get a Pulitzer for his amazing coverage on the ground.
Tim spoke with everyone as he moved among the crowds, catching conversations with people - people that look like my friends, my professor, my mom, my dad, my neighbor, my doctor, etc, etc. People eager to share their ideas, beliefs and hope for a better system, a better future. The crowd is peaceful, yet enthusiastic and celebratory. Marching bands scattered through the crowds keep everyone around them, even police, dancing to their beats. As cars and taxis drive by, a constant beep-beeping of support and encouragement keeps the demonstrators alive and energetic. The scene was truly beautiful; tonight I felt proud of being an American.
Tim eventually had more than 700,000 unique viewers following his broadcast, so many that the cell towers got overloaded with too much data and his stream was sporadically down. But when he was live, he led me along with the thousands of people just like me, sharing their stories, their ideas, their demands, their authenticity.
Everyone is excited and confident in their commitment to a better world, a world free of corruption and greed, a better future for all. Despite what some “news” sources want you to believe, Occupiers, in fact, have a great many specific demands - you can find lots of their ideas on the internets (try starting here: http://ninedemands.com/petitions/working-america). Sure, maybe our demands are so large-scale that they sound utopian - that’s because we are daring to tackle large-scale problems. And what, may I ask, is wrong with that? That’s what government should be for - to brainstorm, to analyze, to dare to think about real solutions to real, giant, obvious problems in our society, imagining a better future for ALL of its citizens, and having the intelligence to reinvent itself.
At what seemed like the climax of the night, as the throngs of protesters swarmed the streets of Manhattan and began pouring across the Brooklyn Bridge, messages began to appear projected on the giant Verizon building by the water. A very large, simple 99% logo rallied the surrounding crowd in cheers.
Look around / You are part of a global uprising / A cry from the heart of the earth / Don’t be afraid / This is the beginning of the beginning.
Then the names of all the cities around the country and world where people are seizing this opportunity to do something that is great and that is right, not only for our generation but all of those to come: NYC, Oakland, Portland, Boston, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, the list started spinning so fast, it became “Occupy [blur]” until it stopped with Occupy Earth.
And finally, on slow repeat, with the crowd chanting along:
We are unstoppable / Another world is possible LOVE / LOVE / LOVE
Here’s helicopter footage of the beautiful display of hope:
EDIT: I’m not going to talk about the horrific coverage of this in the “news” media. We’ve already proven that attempts to downplay our uprising are only going to continue spurring us on. It doesn’t matter. Our puppet government & media are irrelevant now. This is the beginning of the beginning.
EDIT #2: Check out this excellent infographic slideshow that answers the question, Why Occupy?
NYTimes has a new article by Arthur Brisbane out today attempting to figure out what Occupy Wall Street is - which is good, because at least they’re acknowledging the fact that the media still has no idea. But Brisbane is still looking for a way to squish the movement into the traditional paradigm of a top-down organization, insisting there must be a leader at the bottom of all of this.
Well, Mr. Brisbane, unfortunately you still don’t get it. I am a confident supporter and occasional participant of the Occupy movement, and I can’t name a single leader either. Guess what: that’s the point. That’s why you hear comments from “a spokesman from the media working group” or minutes from the daily General Assembly meetings. Because there is no belief in a system that works from the top down anymore. That system has proven to fail, because inevitably the top disconnects from the bottom - from the 99%. And so this movement is emphatically “leaderless”; but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have structure, process, systems - a system that is clearly succeeding in organizing this unprecedented movement with unbelievable momentum.
Media portrayals of the consensus process that is at the heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement have expressed amusement and bafflement, at best, but more often ridicule and scorn. One line descriptions of the system emphasize the fact that meetings often take hours and claim that they often end making no progress. I’m sorry? Making no progress? In 3 months, this “leaderless” movement has mobilized hundreds of thousands of citizens, gathered more than a million dollars in support, created professional media and outreach, the list goes on. (Oh and - what has Congress done in that time?) The enormous growth, maturity, and momentum of the movement is proof enough of the success that the system is enjoying. And it works on 1 founding principle: the belief that EVERYONE is interested in the success of the group as a WHOLE. With that basis, the consensus process ceases to seem like an inane, free-love exercise bound to fail, and can be understood as, actually, the most ideal situation: all opinions on all issues are taken into account by all people, and the group can, under the structure overseen by rotating facilitator positions, proceed to agree collectively on a final outcome.
Yes, this process can take time - but not as much as you’d think. Just because everyone can speak doesn’t mean that GA meetings are full of crazy people rambling on and on about anything and everything. Remember, there is a structure. Proposals for action are proposed, concerns and objections are raised and discussed, general opinion is gauged with quick straw polls. If there are multiple conflicting discussions going on, often the issue will get passed on to a particular “working group” - a group that, again, anyone who cares about can join - that continues the discussion separately. The working group then presents their revised proposal at the next GA, explaining how they took into account every side of the coin. After some final tweaks, the proposal gets unanimously (or >~90%) approved - and everyone has the satisfaction of knowing that they are all behind this collective, cooperative decision, together.
If you want to cover Occupy Wall Street well, then, you have to experience the system. Don’t dismiss it as a naive attempt at direct democracy. Occupy Wall Street IS direct democracy, and it seems to be the only democracy left in America these days.