Not to be devil's advocate too much, but if that was the case then why was nothing ever done?
To the outsider, Occupy (Wall St, at least) was the very opposite of "getting shit done"- it had the world's attention for a number of weeks and appeared to do absolutely nothing with it, before fading away.
You've been misinformed, on all fronts, and that's not surprising, given the way it has been portrayed in mainstream media. It's endlessly amusing, but also a little disturbing, to me that Occupy has been declared dead, continually, since almost its first few days of existence over a year ago. And, yet, every time an Occupy thing shows up (which is frequently; Occupy events and actions are happening every single day across the US) the news reports it as an isolated anomaly ("Occupy Wall St. had one last gasp today." and a week later act shocked, or, more likely, simply ignore it, when some new Occupy event or action happens).
This is another example of that downplaying of the reality of OWS; "Oh, my goodness! You mean OWS still exists? I had no idea!" While thousands of Occupiers help the poorest neighborhoods get back on their feet...the only reason you hear about it, is because it's too big to ignore, though there's certainly plenty of folks trying to continue to ignore it. Maybe you should be asking why the media you trust is misrepresenting a mainstream movement like this on a continual basis, and for whose benefit?
OWS changed the political landscape in pretty dramatic ways, and continues to do so (and to deny that is to deny reality). But, for the folks who expected OWS (and Occupy groups nationwide) to take up the "Tea Party of the Left" mantle, and do politic-y things, like electing candidates to office, it looks like a failure. But, it wasn't and isn't a Tea Party of the left, and baked right into its very being is a set of values and a culture that would make such an outcome very unlikely (and undesired by most of its participants).
Occupy folks are very likely involved in every activist community in your city, right now. They may not even be involved in an Occupation anymore, and there may not be a very active local Occupation in your city (though you might be surprised; there's one still quite active here in Austin, and I know SF/Oakland, NYC, Chicago, and many others are still active)...but OWS or a local Occupation is what turned them from an armchair activist into one who goes outside and does things. That's true for a huge swath of people, and I think its impact has been wildly underestimated.
Have you considered how much this point of view is 'church like' ? If you boil it down to the basics, of "big idea that we're all important" plus "help by doing, not by talking" you will see a lot of churches organizing their volunteer efforts around those same exact concepts. And the ego check? well they usually ask you to accept that God is in the driver seat, you're just there to be His agent.
The message here is "life isn't a spectator sport" and I'm glad to see that message take hold regardless of its origin.
Yes, churches have often fulfilled a similar role in communities. But, for many folks, the superstition that comes along with church is distasteful or uncomfortable. At least, for me, I feel as though it would be dishonest to participate in most churches, as I don't believe in gods. I don't have a problem with religious folks who respect my own beliefs (or lack thereof), but most churches are pretty clear in their messaging that their community is for those who have common beliefs. Occupy has no such barrier; you can believe anything and everything and Occupy will still welcome you (yes, even party functionaries from the Republicans or Democrats are welcome, though their message is rarely well-received), as long as you're respectful.
So, I don't do church very often, but I have participated in Occupy Austin's Interfaith group on occasion, and I've learned quite a bit about some faiths I was ignorant of. Churches have played a pretty big role in Occupy from the beginning, and a few of the most active participants in OA are also very active in their church. So, one could argue that the kind of people who seek out this sort of volunteer work in churches are also the kind who seek it out in secular forms, like Occupy. OA does a lot of the same things that churches do in our area: Feed and clothe the homeless (about half of our active occupation is folks without housing, and it's empowering for them to be able to help others, even as they themselves sometimes need help), offer community and support in times of need, and try to teach and share and demonstrate values that create a sustainable, healthy, equitable community (all without the use of force or violence or intimidation).
I'm not sure if your point is that Occupy is unneeded because churches already fill that role for some people, or if it is that it's surprising that folks at HN (who are predominantly non-believers) would be involved in something "church-like", or if you're simply pointing out the similarity.
If the latter, I'll add a point that might interest you, and further confirms your argument:
The consensus process that is used for making decisions within most Occupations is modeled after the process found in the Society of Friends (Quaker) church, with a few changes to handle larger groups and a wider diversity of views. Many of our facilitators studied the Quaker church process, and a few went to visit a Quaker church to discuss it and learn how the process works, and one of our facilitation trainers was trained in the Quaker church. Because of all this, I did quite a bit of reading about the Quakers, and found that I'm basically Quaker...without the belief in a god. It's a pretty interesting faith, and I'm glad Occupy gave me a reason to learn more about it.
"I'm not sure if your point is that Occupy is unneeded because churches already fill that role for some people, or if it is that it's surprising that folks at HN (who are predominantly non-believers) would be involved in something 'church-like', or if you're simply pointing out the similarity."
I was pointing out that our community changes because "we", and by that I mean the people living in the community, go outside and change it. Spectating, and commenting loudly about how screwed up things are never changes anything.
I think it is wonderful that the Occupy efforts are helping to teach people this very important truth. This teaching, which has nothing to do with gods or mythology, is something that has gotten lost with people who have never been part of a Church community service group. I literally brought tears to my eyes to see folks in the New Jersey shore suddenly get this bomb this goes off in their head that there is no "government" or "them" who know what you need and how to fix it, there is just "us." And suddenly they become catalysts for huge groups of people who want to help but don't know what needs helping with. The CBS news story of the sisters who lived there dispatching volunteers with tasks because they knew the people, they had found out the things needed doing, and provided just enough guidance to let people do what they wanted to do, help.
I've found you can tell people that but they don't always believe it, they will say "Oh right, if I go out and start painting this three mile long sound-wall which is a blight because its covered in graffiti like anyone is going to help with that." And then they start painting and people just show up and start painting with them. It is easier for folks who believe in God because they just assume God will help them out, its much harder for folks who don't have faith. Occupy lets people experience for themselves the raw power of community action. That is a good thing.
"With the internet it would be easier than ever for OWS to get their message out, but they're not."
Really? You honestly believe they're not? How?
There are hundreds of occupy websites, hundreds of Twitter accounts (some with tens or hundreds of thousands of followers), facebook pages and groups (again with tens or hundreds of thousands of followers). There are online radio shows, there are hundreds of livestreams, printed newsletters, wheatpasting, banner drops, overpass light brigades, thousands of different posters, and more. What would convince you that occupy is trying to get their message out? What tactic aren't they using that would make you take the effort seriously? Or are you speaking based on something other than a sincere assessment of the movement?
Which idea? That it's easier than ever to get a message out? Or that OWS is failing to do so?
The person I replied to said, "You've been misinformed, on all fronts..." and then made a bunch of claims that OWS is doing stuff, but didn't provide any references to back it up. Supposedly, "OWS changed the political landscape in pretty dramatic ways, and continues to do so (and to deny that is to deny reality)." I'll stop denying it when I see evidence of it.
The Google News results I linked to contain plenty of examples of Occupy getting its message out and doing things. This thread is based on a story about Occupy doing a thing and getting its message out.
I'm totally with you - I was super skeptic of Occupy and was definitely a hater during the wall street protests. With that said, I've been impressed by what they have achieved compared to the likes of FEMA and Red Cross here in NY.
And yet here we are on a thread months later discussing the occupy movement. A movement like this is async and concurrent. Promises declared are not immediately kept (opportunity must arise) - but that does not mean you can treat them as broken.
Movements take a while to get started, especially when they start with few resources and a lot of resistance. The movement is barely a year old and it's already one-upping FEMA. It helps to think of Occupy as an ever-growing potential for action.
They substantially changed the discourse. Few were calling Wall Street on their role in the financial crash and their heads-I-win-tails-you-lose games with taxpayer money.
It also gave a lot of people a taste for direct action. There was a great interview on NPR recently with an author of a book on the Occupy movement. He had a number of examples of organizations that had grown out of the Occupy movement in the same way that Occupy Sandy and the debt jubilee folks did.
> What part about "occupy" - an occupation - don't you understand?
I'm the sort of person, probably just like untog, whose knowledge of occupy mostly comes from the mainstream media. I've tried to read some of your guys' materials online or watch videos for an alternate viewpoint, but nothing's been particularly helpful or clear. As far as I've been led to understand from the media, OWS is a "political movement" that basically failed to accomplish any meaningful political change because of a lack of coherent agenda. There's clearly more to you guys than that, and I'm sure that portrayal is inaccurate to the point of severe insult.
So my challenge to you is to explain it better. Or point me to someone who can. Assume I don't "get" occupy, because I don't. But I want to. Telling me that it's "an admission of our insignificance in the grand design of the cosmos" is a fantastically beautiful sentiment, but that gets me no closer to actually understanding what you're doing, why you're doing it, or why I should care.
One voice (of many) who's been involved in Occupy:
One thing that's super important to keep in mind: "political" doesn't have to be electoral politics. Many would argue that electoral politics are really much closer to rooting for a sports team than anything truly political.
Politics is fundamentally about power. You shift power relations, and elections reconfigure themselves around the new state of power relations. Obama beating Romney just means one segment of the empowered has dominated another segment of the empowered. Maybe a segment of the empowered whose base of power comes from liberal cosmopolitanism and a rationalized Rawlsian State, but the empowered nonetheless.
One hope of many Occupiers is the entrance of relatively marginalized and excluded people into the political sphere, by community organizing and other types of organizing, to create new and alternative structures of power. Obama and Romney don't give a shit about elderly monolingual Russian immigrants on Coney island (or, being more clinical, they have no political incentive to cater to them, because there's no payoff). And it's hard, too: there has never been a FEMA which is able to anticipate all the possible disasters (Katrina in NYC???) or know all the secret hidden knowledge that hasn't been made knowable to the almighty state (wait, there's a large population of elderly Russian immigrants in Coney island that we need a staff of translators on-hand for?). Certainly you can figure out solutions post-facto or figure out ways they could have known post-facto, but post-facto people are already dead. And if those solutions were obvious before the problems initially arose, why didn't FEMA build them? Indeed: why didn't you contact FEMA to tell them "Oh, you should have Russian translators in case a big hurricane hits NYC"?
But local communities inherently have all this hidden knowledge bound up in them, and they're able to use it. And many Occupiers, to the extent they have an ideology, believe in the practice of community organizing and interaction not only as the means to leverage this knowledge but also as a way to further it and have communities self-organize into even stronger and more interconnected power structures. A person who gets some much-needed potable water from a volunteer associated with Occupy has a decent probability of volunteering with Occupy themselves, and identifying with it (to some extent) in the future.
Compare to entrepreneurship: entrepreneurship is exploring a market landscape to find a scalable business model that meets some business need that can't be computed before it has actually succeeded. Occupy, by analogy, is an organic, leaderless movement that asks individuals to explore the landscape of social networks to find opportunities to build new decentralized networks, self-sustaining and self-repairing, to fulfill needs that have previously been unsatisfied, such as providing power or, in this case, disaster relief. Ultimately the hope of many is to scale out discovered solutions to all disempowered communities, by building the knowledge and tools--technical, but even more so political and social--to succeed via practice.
You develop apps, design tangible UIs (which I love BTW, Reactable FTW) and write libraries.
Did you get good / better at these endeavours merely by pure observation? Sure you may have acquired the jargon and general idea of process by observation alone. But it was by consistant, relentless practical experimentation within a feedback loop of your peers and clients which actually got you to where you are today.
The same goes for Occupy. You more or less are approaching the asymptote of occupational knowledge by mere observation. And, thankfully, you're still interested. You can imagine the practical applications. You just need to see it for yourself first.
So go ahead and type "occupy [your nearest city]" into your favourite search engine and see what they're up to.