Does OWS Have a Future?
Does OWS Have a Future?
By Mike Emery / adbusters.org

Tuesday marks the four-month anniversary of the Occupy movement. Perhaps it’s time to ask the question: Is it working? In four months, has progress been made toward realizing the movement’s goals?

As much as I would like to be able to answer with an emphatic “yes,” reality is much less encouraging for Occupiers, who haven’t been able to maintain a consistent focus.

On July 13, 2011, Adbusters bloggers proposed an occupation of America’s financial center, slated to begin on Sept. 17. “[W]e want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months,” the post read.

So far, so good.

“Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices,” according to the post.

And that “one simple demand” is the problem.

That original proposal was based on the Egyptian uprising and the Arab Spring in general. The organization proposed that OWS should demand “a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”

Such a commission could have had a great and immediate impact on American politics or made proposals to lay a foundation for future reforms, like the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Instead, the idea was abandoned.

On Sept. 29, the 13th day of the Occupation, the General Assembly at Zuccotti Park issued a declaration listing 23 grievances against major corporations. Nowhere did this declaration call for a Presidential Commission, or for any action, except to suggest direct democratic participation and an admonition to “[e]xercise your right to peaceably assemble.”

We have seen peaceable assembly in the months since; we haven’t seen political action.

Compare this to the Tahrir Square protests in Egypt. Protests began on Jan. 25 and on Feb. 11, President Hosni Mubarak resigned. The revolution continued, and democracy is still at risk. Nevertheless, in less than a month, the Tahrir protesters did something that the OWS protesters haven’t yet done: They gave their country an opportunity for real change. They achieved their first major goal and then moved on to continue fighting.

The Occupy movement has tried to keep organization loose – the various local Occupy protests are linked in name and in spirit but have no obligation to support a particular political agenda. This has led to political fragmentation, as each group of protesters agitates for their own particular reforms. Some of these reforms have stayed on the target of reducing corporate influence in American politics, while others branch out unnecessarily.

For example, among the 23 grievances listed by the General Assembly at Zuccotti Park, there were references to corporations blocking renewable energy, mistreating animals and perpetuating colonialism. A flyer for an Occupy UMaine rally in November stated, “The Greedy Government & Corporations should be feeding & clothing the hungry, homeless, & struggling hard working American families.”

While I applaud the various groups of Occupiers for trying to keep these issues in the spotlight as long as the Occupy movement has it, the lack of focus on one singular, powerful reform has allowed Occupy opponents to paint the movement as one of radicals and hippies, letting inattentive members of the public gloss over the fundamental idea of the protests: Corporate influence in government perpetuates unhealthy levels of inequality.

Every other complaint, every proposed reform, stems from this issue.

As we’ve seen in Egypt – where protests and grassroots political action continue almost a year after President Mubarak’s resignation – a political movement doesn’t have to stop when it achieves its first goal.

Social activism is a task that never ends. As it stands now, the Occupy movement is showing us that without focus, a social movement with its heart in the right place and international support can squander its political potential.

Mike Emery is a fourth year sociology student at the University of Maine. His political columns appear every Wednesday in The Maine Campus.

What do you think? Does our movement have a future? Can we brainstorm/network through winter and come out swinging in the Spring?

Mike Emery is a sociology student at the University of Maine. This article first appeared in The Maine Campus.

4.0 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 11,472 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
Brené Brown on How to Reckon with Emotion and Change Your Narrative
Brené Brown · 9,436 views today · The most powerful stories may be the ones we tell ourselves, says Brené Brown. But beware—they're usually fiction.
What's Wrong With Being in Someone's "Friend Zone"?
Samuel Granger · 7,151 views today · I once read a Dear Abby column responding to a letter from a girl who, as I recall, was in middle school. She was asking for advice about an awkward incident that happened to...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 6,956 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
Law Professor's Epic Response to Black Lives Matter Shirt Complaint
Social Design Notes · 6,554 views today · A first year law school student wrote a complaint about her professor having worn a Black Lives Matter T-shirt during class. The professor’s response is priceless. Scans of...
How to Resist the Pressures of Conformity
10 min · 5,427 views today · The social psychology of conformity affects us all, but there are ways to maintain our independence, as explained in this animated short.
Jill Stein Censored on PBS NewsHour
3 min · 5,200 views today · Jill Stein's criticism of the TPP and Hillary Clinton was cut from the PBS Newshour August 23, 2016. PBS cut out nearly two-thirds of Jill Steins answer to the last question!
"Desert Goddess" Remembers Arizona's Glen Canyon
7 min · 4,859 views today · In this excerpt from the award-winning documentary DamNation, filmmakers Ben Knight and Travis Rummel interview the "desert goddess," Katie Lee. When the Glen Canyon Dam was...
Willie Nelson Has Some Advice for You: Don't Be An A**hole
2 min · 3,382 views today · Since childhood, Willie Nelson has been living by the golden rule. In this episode of "Hey Willie," the superstar talks about applying the golden rule to his everyday life and...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,977 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 2,724 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Time for Degrowth: to Save the Planet, We Must Shrink the Economy
Jason Hickel · 1,809 views today · What is so refreshing about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is that they recognise the inherent tension between economic development and the ecology of our planet. Or so...
North Dakota Gov Cuts Water Supply to Native Americans as DAPL Protest Swells in Number and Spirit
Lauren McCauley · 1,779 views today · Thousands join protest camp as supporters are holding a rally in Washington D.C. on Wednesday outside of Army Corps hearing
If You Want to Say Thank You, Don't Say Sorry - And 6 Other Examples of Beautiful Communication
Yao Xiao · 1,495 views today · Appreciate others for what they have done, don't apologise for simply existing.
Alan Watts: What If Money Was No Object?
3 min · 1,243 views today · How do you like to spend your life? What do you desire? What if money didn't matter? What if money was no object? What would you like to do if money were no object? Spoken...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 1,184 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,037 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Understanding Patriarchy
bell hooks · 627 views today · Patriarchy is the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation. Yet most men do not use the word “patriarchy” in everyday life...
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 539 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Powers of Ten - Fantastic Film from 1970s Takes us on Journey from Macro to Micro
9 min · 473 views today · Powers of Ten takes us on an adventure in magnitudes. Starting at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago, this famous film transports us to the outer edges of the universe. Every...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Does OWS Have a Future?