An Ode to the Occupy Movement
The following is a post I made to someone asking for a good reason for supporting the Occupy Movement with all of its chaos and structural anarchy and noise. The person had a very strong sympathy already, and considered themselves more of a reformer than a revolutionary. They were essentially asking how the movement can succeed in achieving revolutionary goals in a world that seems so prone to order or systems. Below is my response to this person, and in a way it’s my ode to the Occupy Movement as a whole, expressing my love and affection for it.
Here is my love letter to Occupy:
First, let me preface by saying that I’m personally an unabashed capitalist, and I actually am almost compulsively someone who prefers order and structure to be present. I have a strong civil libertarian bent which colors my feelings toward us (people, citizens, and so on) deserving freedom and a fair and level playing field, and at my core I feel that this not only dovetails with the ethics of capitalism (a fair and open marketplace for ideas and services/products), that one necessitates the other.
However, I should explain why stopped worrying (about the chaos of Occupy) and learned to love the anarchy. Maybe it will help you to understand why someone like myself, who as an individual doesn’t particularly agree with some alternate ideals that my compatriots espouse, is so happy to let things flow where they may and smile at the chaos that ensues.
The main reason I love how this movement operates is that I’m well aware of the myth propagated in fiction that an idea can’t be destroyed. Ideas most certainly CAN be decimated, and while the quickest, most expedient way to do this is through tearing down people there also exists common cultural methods of doing the same. Most prominently, driving the discourse against an idea and spreading propaganda. For example, I grew up entirely in an environment where I’ve been bombarded by the concept that even the idea of communism as an economic system is doomed to failure. I still remember my years when there was still a Cold War and the spectre of the Berlin Wall and the USSR were hot and heavy in the group mind of political discourse. But my opposition to communism isn’t based on that propagandist claptrap, because I’ve learned what a political sham it really was. I can even admit that there are some ideas within the make-up of the communist ideal that are workable, if not to some degree then to another. It’s not that I’ve come to think “communism can work”, it’s that I’ve learned to recognize that even ideas I might find as a whole to be unsustainable have very sustainable and workable pieces within. The same applies with anarchy.
How this applies to ideas being destroyed is simple: when the target is a massively group-driven beast of cacophonous voices that don’t all speak the same idea, the centralized, structured weaponry is weakened and diluted. The power base deals in a finite number of resources in waging battle against ideas, and those limits are self-imposed. The advantage in fighting this centralized beast using a distributed methodology is that the beast has to conduct its fight on so many fronts that none manage to get the full attention of the power base. This opens fissures, cracks in the seemingly impervious armor of rhetoric and propaganda that is the power behind the 1%. Predictably, the powers that be have taken exactly the wrong approach in trying to marginalize the damage against itself: they’ve attempted to portray their rhetorical enemy as one of slackers and do-nothings in order to try and gain some moral high ground. Ultimately, this defense tactic of theirs is doomed to failure. I can assure you that cracks have already been opened and their armor is being breached.
Another reason I’m enjoying the chaos of the movement is that it’s slowly becoming that marketplace of ideals that genuinely appeals to the capitalist leanings I have. Ideas gain traction, support, and eventually get momentum. Sometimes the ideas are great, and other times the ideas are flawed. It’s a constant evolutionary flow that is not only a broad marketplace of ideas and ideals, but a proving ground for the next generation of leaders. As the saying goes, the Occupy movement isn’t a leaderless movement, it’s a movement of leaders, and the movement is constantly developing and forging leaders from the disaffected and disenfrachised every day. That not only appeals to my more capitalistic and structured leanings, it makes the aging Gen-X-er in me practically giddy at the thought of a stronger generation coming up behind us. My generation achieved by being apathetic toward authority and finding the merits of efficiency through not wanting to work so hard to achieve the same things. It’s the intellectual equivalent of making lemonade from lemons, and these people within the Occupy movement are branching out in all sorts of directions.
But another worthwhile consideration when speaking of my generation is the incredible merit in group-sourcing efforts. The giants of Google, of Wikipedia, and of nearly every new internet technology out there has its roots in a group-driven idea that flowered out of a few minds toying around with what may or may not be possible given the tools available. The Occupy movement is really no different. The same exponential energy and momentum base that keeps the internet going and growing is what can propel the Occupy movement into not just relevance in America but throughout the world. It’s revolutionary in structure, evolutionary in growth and production, while being capable of maintaining a broad collective effort yet maintaining impressive amounts of distributed individual focus or direction. It’s not a dichotomy of ideas, it’s plurality in a distilled and beautiful form.
More than anything else, though, there’s an ethos that runs through the Occupy movement that makes more sense than is maybe realized by many of the individuals who take part. This movement isn’t the ANSWER, it’s the process of leading people to the right QUESTIONS. The expectation is that the movement will spur change, and that we will all have a fair say in deciding what those changes eventually become. No one group gets to dominate all the others. No idea gets assassinated by interests with their own self-serving goals. The people who are beginning the movement today aren’t necessarily going to be the ones who will be the decision-makers when the time comes that we all gather to bring things back to right. And that’s okay, because the ones starting it will still have a say in the matter. It’s a movement meant to help nurture and bring to fruition the means and the will to find worthwhile leaders, not one to usurp current leaders and impose a new regime in place of the old.
And that’s the beauty of it all. By not imitating the structure of the centralized beast it’s fighting, the risk of replacing one damaging system with another is minimized. But it only works if, for now, you embrace the chaos and join the storm.
I’m a business-casual-wearing, logic-loving, structuralist cyborg and I’ve learned to love the chaos. You can, too.
(you can read the original version of this in the Facebook thread for the Occupy Dallas Culture Committee)