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.