To Protesters of the Occupy Movement,
Greetings from Houston, Texas:
Greetings from Houston, Texas:
I send you my congratulations and encouragement. Congratulations on resisting violent reaction to arrests and police brutality, and encouragement to maintain your nonviolent occupation, something that is likely to become more difficult in days ahead.
The beginning of the movement in New York occurred at a time when I was recovering from a serious illness–and not paying attention to news of any kind. Thus I had to do a little catching up when at last I was ready to take it in. My first question was "What is this movement?" or "What are the protesters after?"
In a story dated October 2 the Associated Press quoted a number of protesters on this point. One said, "The bottom line is the feeling that the financial industries here on Wall Street have caused the economic problems, and they're not contributing their fair share to solving them." She said funding for education has shrunk to the point where her classes are as large as about 50. "These are America's future workers, and what's trickling down to them are the problems---the unemployment, the crime."
Another protester said, "We're not here to take down Wall Street. It's not poor against rich. It's about big money dictating which politicians get elected and what programs get funded."
As reported in the San Francisco Examiner on 10/19/11, economist and activist Robert Reich gave Occupy San Francisco's troops a pep talk, saying they are part of a movement that will change American society. "I really do believe we are on the cusp of a fundamental change," Reich said.
The Occupy movement has a broad cause, mainly for a more economically just society – but that concept cannot be boiled down into a list of specific demands, Reich said, adding that the message will become more refined as the protests spread and encompass more people.
After living with these vague notions for a few days, I began to wonder how they might relate to my own look into the future of change in My Ishmael and in Beyond Civilization: I called it Humanity's Next Great Adventure. As Reich said, "a movement that will change American society. . . " "…on the cusp of a fundamental change. . ." Certainly these descriptors call to mind a great adventure. . . certainly one that is too broad to be boiled down into "a list of specific demands."
In My Ishmael I called this adventure the New Tribal Revolution, the tribe in this case being the 99% represented by the protesters of today's Occupy movement. Ishmael cited seven characteristics of the revolution.
- It won't take place all at once. It's not going to be any sort of coup d'état like the French or Russian revolutions. Certainly the Occupy movement is not expected to reach its goal without a long, uphill battle.
- It will be achieved incrementally, by people working off each other's ideas. The first idea of this movement was the idea of gaining attention by the act of occupation, which spread outward from New York.
- It will be led by no one. The Occupy movement needs no shepherd, no organizer, no spearhead, no pacesetter, no mastermind at the top; it will be too much for anyone to lead.
- It will not be the initiative of any poli¬tical, governmental, or religious body. Anarchists and communists will doubtless want to claim to be its supporters and protectors, but the sparse, nonaligned language of the movement doesn't seem to me to support a claim that these groups initiated the movement.
- It has no targeted endpoint. Why should it have an endpoint? If we are "on the cusp of a fundamental change," as Robert Reich and I think, then no endpoint is either seeable or thinkable.<
- It will proceed according to no plan. How on earth could there be a plan? Changed minds among voters, legislators, and national leaders will have to grope their way step by step toward a restoration of economic justice for all. No plan will present itself all of a piece, fully formed.
- It will reward those who further the revo¬lution with the coin of the revolution. In the Industrial Revolution the coin of the revolution was literally coin--wealth; those who contributed much in the way of product wealth–new products or improved products--received (and continue to receive) much in the way of product wealth. The coin of the New Tribal Revolution is economic equality; those whose efforts promote economic equality will benefit from economic equality.
The Industrial Revolution was an individualist revolution; it benefited individuals. The New Tribal Revolution–or the Occupy movement–is a collectivist revolution; it aims to win economic equality for the 99% who constitute the middle classes and working poor. This broad goal will not be reached tomorrow or next week. Those who occupy Boston and New York and San Francisco and Rome and London and Madrid and other cities around the world must hang in there stalwartly and peacefully until it is clear to all that a fundamental and irresistible change is on the way.
The greatest danger you face is from local officials who will try to provoke violent reactions that will paint you as radicals and hoodlums. Meanwhile support from progressive groups like MoveOn, proven promoters of change, will be growing. Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Iraq War veteran, was critically injured by a projectile that struck him in the head during an Oakland police raid. When people tried to help him, an officer lobbed a stun grenade right into their group. As of this writing, on October 26, Olsen's condition was listed as stable but critical. Whether Olsen's condition worsens or not, these disgraceful police actions may well mark a turning point in the Occupy Movement.