Before I start, it's important to know that we stand in complete solidarity with the 99% Movement and feel it's an extension of the work many have been doing for generations.
I was lucky enough to stumble upon someone who was with the movement days before the Wall Street Occupation began. That quickly turned into a teach-in that was ready to go because s6k's educational arm, "Purpose Lounge," had many materials ready and teaches the history of a number of movements from the perspective of the people who fought and won them. From the beginning, I saw flaws that didn't address the issues I knew would arise; how to address: agent provocateurs, people who would attach themselves that don't represent the movement, homeless people, disruptive people, forward thinking strategies to achieve objectives, people getting arrested and the like. We have produced a guide to help people get an informative overview of sit-in's/occupations, non-violent tactics and how to create analysis to outstrategize the opposition. www.s6k.com/nva
Here's some bullet points that expand on the issue.
- The most obvious is the fact of not having..."a leader." If there had been a figurehead that person would have been discredited within a week of them being named.
- Naming it the 99% Movement was smart to make it ultimately inclusive. Though if one were to be accurate, it would be the 70%. It's really the top 30% that has all the wealth, and most importantly power, of the society.
- Although originally I had believed an agenda would help, I realized that would have played directly into the hands of the power structure because then it would be easy to buy people off to shut them up, as history has proven over and over again.
- I did feel that there should have been volunteer monitors that would have the task of making sure people like the people [idiots] who were yapping on about "Jewish Bankers" didn't get to have their views attached to the movement. That came to pass once I saw the commercial put out by conservatives to discredit the movement. But that exposed a larger problem; there was no real collective effort to dispel the validity of people like that being part of the movement except to have individuals argue that they weren't. That was a failing of the media arm of the movement.
- I knew the homeless issue would arise because it's obvious that most wouldn't be able to deal with the problems, mental emotional and such, that would happen.
- The drummer issue became a problem because the drummers took it as an eternal jam session that didn't consider and/or care about the negative energy they brought to the occupation. They were the worst for trying to execute a "good neighbor" policy.
- The focus of anything that would be part of a sit-in/occupation should be based in educating the masses about the issues...not arts and the like. That would stop vendors pimping their stuff, people just plopping down a bucket and asking for money for whatever and any others there for any other reason than enforcing the message of the movement.
- The free food should have been only for people who stayed there, homeless people and such; meaning people who really needed free food. That could have been easily posted and verbally repeated to make sure people understood that if they could afford to get a meal, they shouldn't get food there...and maybe should leave a donation.
- Getting arrested is one of the worst ways to protest in modernity. The strategy of "filling the jails" was used in the 1950's into the early 1960's. By the mid 1960's, it outlived its usefulness as Martin Luther King found out when the Albany, Georgia, police chief, Laurie Pritchett, carefully studied the movement's strategy and developed a strategy he hoped could subvert it. He used mass arrests but avoided the kind of dramatic, violent incidents that might backfire by attracting national publicity. Pritchett arranged to disperse the prisoners to county jails all over southwest Georgia to prevent his jail from filling up. The Birmingham Post-Herald stated that "The manner in which Albany's chief of police has enforced the law and maintained order has won the admiration of thousands." This proved that not all non-violent actions had the same outcome, although they may have been heroic efforts by those who chose to subject themselves to arrest and the like. Now, getting arrested only costs money to get people out of jail/legal trouble and has almost no social impact towards moving public sympathies in favor of the movement. On the other hand, the pepperspray incident, the Marine who was injured, the vet shouting down a number of overeager police in Times Square, and Bloomberg telegraphing his punch that he was originally going to clear the park, all those actually did sway public sentiment. Another thing that had that effect was the banks sending out notices to people to extort more money from people for debit cards, checking accounts and the like. That was a gift we couldn't have begged for.
- When I was doing teach-in's down there, it was clear that many people hadn't had the knowledge, or in some cases the maturity, to debate without shouting people down. There were a number of times that I had deescalated a situation that would have otherwise been another tool used to invalidate the movement.
Watch the 8-minute video below to get a better understanding of our critiques.
Most of the ideas seem to come from a set of ideas that has had great effectiveness on one side and lacks analysis on the other. There are many ways to stop the machine from functioning, but most of the tactics deployed thus far don't really effect the people/targets in question in any real way. Blocking the ports was a meaningless action that only stopped working-class people from doing their jobs. Getting arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge in mass was a bad idea. It only puts money into the system and gives people records that they don't know or understand how that will negatively effect them later.
But it should be stated that the people who seem to have disdain for the movement haven't done much on their own to better the world we live in. Many just want things to go back to the way thing were; people being docile, taking to heart that it was okay that their livelihoods were and are being ripped away by greedy people who don't have to live by the same laws...since they help write them. NEWS FLASH; That's NEVER going to happen. There is an old aphorism from the 1960's, "If the movement doesn't motivate you, your situation will." No one needs to be told about how bad things are anymore. Even the conservatives in Florida learned a valuable lesson when they elected people to cut taxes and government spending, and then saw their elderly homes and centers close and get cut back.
Whether you fit the [false] categories of rep or dem, conservative or liberal, you still mostly want to have a job that pays you enough to live and maybe start a family, live indoors in a home of ones own, have food in the fridge, maybe have children and see them do a bit better than yourself, have good schools in your area, and have enough money left over to help your community grow as well as to be able to stop working at some point and not have to eat food meant for your pets and/or the imprisoned. That is the factor that will unify many people who never thought they would even talk to each other.
Our movement has helped to free people of the pessimism of believing they have no voice and there's nothing one can do to change the social dialogue. Whether in the streets, Online or wherever, our voices will only multiply as injustices become more visible and human suffering becomes more pronounced. So when people ask if the movement has achieved anything, the idea that they are asking proves it already has. Our collective thoughts of despair and weakness are being transformed daily into a blueprint for our collective liberation from the hedonistic capitalist that have chosen greed over country, and a quick deal for personal aggrandizement over the laws, national and international, we are all alleged to be bound by. Young people around the world are seeing people stand up against those who have exploited our laws to their own advantage, which is probably one of the most important things we can give to the following generations; changing their visions of what power, democracy, and being an active concerned citizen looks like. That is the success of the 99% Movement.
Though there will be many more tactical errors to come, one thing I do know; people are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Globally, people know that something is wrong, whether they can articulate it or not. A German economist had stated on Euronews that "The 7 billion people on Earth can't be at the mercy of or ruled by a small group of people in the global financial industry." The mistake of the American system was that it was created on free/cheap labor and never really swayed from that...it only changed the people who were expected to do the work. It also forgot the Henry Ford adage that people needed to make enough money to buy the products they make. In that equation lies the flaw in our system. Our current system, which was changed over the 40 years between the late 1960's to the early 2000's, decided that people didn't need to work [or at least it wasn't the responsibility of the country to make sure people were employed] and that companies are global, although they are based here and were started here using our resources and infrastructure. Now we have huge under/unemployment throughout the society, massive debt, fragile elder care, a shell of an educational system for the majority of our young people, and an infrastructure that now has a "D" rating and the majority of our roads and bridges are either structurally deficient or unsafe...and no way to pay for any of it.
As an optimist, I believe the people will eventually do what's required to remove the shackles from their minds. The pragmatist in me says that people will continue down the road of intentional helplessness until there is no chance of repairing the multitude of issues we simultaneously face. Only time will tell. I just hope when we are told...time isn't screaming at us for wasting every chance we've had.
I'll end with a quote that is fitting for anyone who feels that non-violent protest only hinders their day and has no other import.
"You may well ask: 'Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?' You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word 'tension'." Martin Luther King Jr.
Pace yourselves because it will take years, not months, to achieve an honest structural change of the society toward the "more perfect union" we are supposed to be striving for as American citizens. Also, if we want to keep forcing our children to take a pledge of allegiance to the United States of America, even before they can truly comprehend what they are taking an oath to, the United States of America better start making "with liberty and justice for all" more than a slogan of a country no one currently inhabits.