Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Musings on #OccupyRochester

If you’ve been listening to the podcast the past couple of weeks, you know that I’ve been involved in the local Occupy movement, hereto referred to as Occupy Rochester.  I have some observations that focus just on the local movement, but could be tied to the national one or other locals as well.

There are folks who are participating and some who are just observing who are commenting that the Occupy Rochester isn’t making demand for anything and that has been frustrating for them.  I understand their frustration, but I think these folks are missing the point of what is happening here.  Those goals are relevant, but even more so is the process of how we get there (to go New Agey…the journey).  How OR operates is even more important than the specific things we want changed because we are modeling a new way of decision-making for most people.  It’s messy, it takes time and it’s hard work.  But if we don’t take the time to get our decision-making process down in a transparent manner, we risk the danger of becoming a top-down faux-movement. 

On a pragmatic note, look at the growth of Occupy Wall Street.  Their process was slow and deliberate, but it just seemed faster because they have General Assemblies (GA) every day.  They did not immediately start making demands or working on specific issues and their group became exponentially bigger.  Why?  Because when you start narrowing your focus you lose people who don’t care about those issues.  Let’s be honest, the daily GA’s in Rochester have a large number for Rochester, but do not represent the people as a whole in this town.  Far from it.  For the numbers to get bigger, we cannot start narrowing our message and right now our message is that government is broken.

Our government doesn’t listen to us, they take away our rights.  THAT is what we are fighting right now.  The occupation of Washington Square Park IS our fight at this moment.  It is a meta issue that will allow us to continue the process of democracy.  The Mayor of Rochester is saying that we can have all the free speech we want as long as it is on HIS terms.  That’s huge!

Now, the local media isn’t getting it.  They are covering this as a traditional news story.  “If there are only 4 people camping out at WSP for #occupyrochester, does it warrant so much attention?” goes one Tweet.  TV cameras come out for their 15 second backdrop shot around the 6pm news and that’s about it.  There hasn’t been an in depth look at why people are here.  They exist to make money and a long, ongoing analysis of what we are doing doesn’t make them money.  We will continue to be dismissed by them for a while, which is why we should be more focused on grassroots organizing to get more people involved.

Now, there are some things I would like to see OR do.  And as an activist my instinct is to just go ahead and do it on my own and see who wants to help, but that’s not going to benefit the movement in the long run. 

I want to see us handing out lit every day at the Liberty Pole and the Public Market on Saturdays.  If I were to just go and do that on my own, it could go against a decision of the group without me knowing it.  So I am going to get to a GA as soon as I can and try to suggest we start handing out lit that has been developed.  If the GA thinks that is a good idea, I will ask for volunteers for help in printing, folding and distributing it and together we will make a schedule for when and where it will be done.  WE will be doing this together if there are people who want to see it happen. 

There’s a perfect example of that happening right now as people posted the letter being given to the Mayor on FB about a meeting when it was agreed that it wouldn’t be publically released until 11am.  Not a huge mistake, but it is an example of how we are not working together for the greater good of the movement. 

I would also love to shout down or just ban all the spammers and trolls on the FB group, but commenting just bumps up their extraneous stuff to higher up on the page.  For better or worse, this IS what democracy looks like.  Wouldn’t it be great if Facebook had an app that would take all of your postings and put a different name on them, then make you read them so you can see if you make any sense?  I don’t know if it would be effective, but it would sure be nice to try.

Here’s the thing that most people don’t talk about in an (allegedly) free society.  You have the right to say almost anything you like, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should say it.  There are a number of posts on the OR Facebook group that I think are off the point, destructive and show a lack of understanding of human nature.  And if I were to comment on every single one of them it would do nothing but tear down what we are trying to build.  That doesn’t mean people should keep their mouths shut, but it would be nice if folks thought more and reacted less.  I wonder if the way some people interact on FB is the way they talk to people face-to-face.  I actually hope not.

It is imperative that we have a base in which to work, to show the community what democracy looks like.  That is why our fight for Washington Square Park is so important.  Our government doesn’t dictate our rights, we dictate what our government does for us.  That is our first struggle that we have to overcome before we can get to the other stuff.  But that “other stuff” is coming, if we do this right.  We can’t compare ourselves to other Occupy movements.  Every one is unique as we all have different personalities, resources and situations.  We can learn from each other, share ideas and support, but let us not compare ourselves to each other.

We’re making a difference!  We just have to keep reminding ourselves of that.  Keep up the struggle sisters & brothers!

ADDENDUM:  A nice article from the UK that has a similar take.

                                                                                                - Dave

6 comments:

CJ Miller said...

Hi, Dave, thanks for your thoughts.

I think we should propose an Outreach working group. I will be in it with you. It will coordinate things like that. What do you think?

CJ

Luis Miguel Luna said...

Thank you very much for this post. I agree with you on the meta issue thing, we shouldn't even really have to fight for it if only because every other sane administrator in the state has permitted camps, but there it is. I thought it important to establish that we are the ones with power. We are the governed from which consent is derived. I don't necessarily agree with the way it was conducted, but I think there were more good things than bad about the way the situation was handled.

I saw that tweet too and it kind of pissed me off but that is the kind of consciousness we need to shift with the outreach you're calling for.

Again thanks for the post and your insight goes a great way toward me thinking I'm not the only one with similar views.
-LML

P.S. I see you run a podcast. I've been wanting to get a podcast going for my own site miguelsmusings.com and for a side project that I've been mulling over for a while. I'd love to discuss podcasting with you sometime and pick your brain for experience.

jana said...

Love this. Well said. As a Rochester native who now lives in Massachusetts, I've been watching Occupy Rochester via Facebook. Watching the trolls trying to both tear the group down- and more dangerously trying to tear the group apart is disheartening. The people, United, Will never be defeated---- United being the key word.

Luis Miguel Luna said...

I don't think they're trolls per se. Trolls act specifically to tear down and hassle people just for the sake of doing it. I think many people on the facebook site have legitimate, practical concerns evidenced by their force and depth of argument. Like Dave originally said, this is what democracy looks like, for better or worse.

Dave said...

@CJ - I think there is/was an Outreach WG...or that could be for Move To Amend - Rochester. I'm a bit mixed up in the groups I'm working with. We can ask at the GA today if there is one.

@Luis - absolutely! Next time we bump into each other at WSP I'll talk podcast as much as you want...maybe even more than you want. :-)

@Jana - Thank you. It's hard not to respond and I agree, I think most of them really believe in what they are talking about. But I really am curious if they talk to people face-to-fact like that. I'm guessing not, but I sure do wonder.

mango1531 said...

Well put, the way you say everything makes a lot of sense.. Thanks for making it a little clearer.. I'm going to tweet a link to this post.