November 2011 - Stuart Bedasso Radio

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Musings on #OccupyRochester

10:21 AM 5
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
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