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Forum Post: I support OWS and the vision of this web site.

Posted 6 years ago on March 8, 2012, 7:21 p.m. EST by RedJazz43 (2757)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

I support OWS and the vision of this web site. On the home page of this web site it says:

Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.

This #ows movement empowers real people to create real change from the bottom up. We want to see a general assembly in every backyard, on every street corner because we don't need Wall Street and we don't need politicians to build a better society.

That, it seems to me, should be the starting point of any discussion here. It says above that we don't need politicians. That being the case, any discussion of changing the politicians we have now for a fresh set would be a retreat from the principles ennuciated above. It says we are leaderless. It seems to me that any groveling for leaders would be a retreat from that principle. It says we need a general assembly in every back yard. It seems to me if we are to be consistent with the vision of this web site, that ought to be the starting point of every discussion and our major question should be how do we build more GAs and how do we strengthen the ones we have?



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[-] 1 points by BoycottCoke (275) 6 years ago

Excellent point. I think it is this movement that will achieve, if we continue of course, the changes needed not just by this country but by humanity at large. I was driving last summer through Middletown, NY and I read a banner at one of those tea party rallies, it read "Join us or die", I found it weird that they would use such slogan to try to recruit new members or at least sympathizers, or maybe this was another 'shock and awe", I don't know, I just found it strange. Has anybody seen this also? and also do they really mean "join us or die"? It's a crazy world out there.

[-] 1 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 6 years ago

"Join us or die" could mean at least two different and contradictory things. It might mean, "Join us or we will kill you," or, more positively, it could mean, "without us civilization will collapse." or "we are the last hope of civilization."

I believe that OWS is a tiny movement, a very tiny reed on which to pin our hopes, but I also truly believe that we are civilization's last best hope, that if OWS or some successor movement does not succeed then civilization, which is to say the lives of hundreds of millions, is at stake. I also believe that our success will take at least several decades and perhaps several lifetimes.

[-] 1 points by Progression (143) 6 years ago

This website is a valuable asset to carrying out the will of OWS participants via communication. I too support OWS and its vision so I will be doing my part in furthering this cause.

[-] 1 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 6 years ago

I was at Zuccotti Park on September 17 and I signed on to this website as I recall a month or so later and I've spent time over night at Zuccotti several times a month both before and after the eviction. I can't say that I've been a regular participant in the NYC GA but I've been to at least a dozen or so NYC GA meetings as well as several GAs at other occupations and I've attended several different working group meetings of the NYC GA. In between times I have looked through various threads on this web site and contributed to several that were of interest to me. As I have not examined every thread on this web site I most certainly could be missing something, and it is certainly true that people undoubtedly have responded to the various calls for action that have appeared on the home page of this web site. That said, I am not aware of a single instance where this forum (as opposed to this web site) has contributed in any way to carrying out the will of OWS. Indeed, given the various tangents that this forum frequently goes off on (particularly with regard to electoral action) many of its contributors seem willfully or blissfully naive regarding the explicitly stated values of OWS.

[-] 1 points by ithink (761) from York, PA 6 years ago

I agree that we don't need wall street or politicians to build a better society. But - real change powered by real people.. does not require a GA either. Could real change powered by real people come from just about anywhere? If this is the case, then perhaps the focus should be on what changes would be necessary in order to build a better society.

[-] -1 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 6 years ago

To accomplish anything collectively in any field of endeavor requires some kind of organizational framework and the local GAs are right now the only organizational form that OWS has. What is more important, I think, from the frame of reference of this web site is that it is this web site that is calling for more GAs, so it does seem to me that if we are proceeding on any discussion on this web site the appropriate point of departure would be whether we want more GAs or fewer GAs or some other organizational framework and exactly how to accomplish that.

[-] 2 points by ithink (761) from York, PA 6 years ago

I understand your point. However, if the main focus is on building an organizational framework- this could consume an enormous amount of resources that could otherwise be put to better use. Not to mention the fact that the ultimate goals and the purpose of the organization in the first place, may end up taking a back-seat to the non-essential aspects of creating and maintaining said framework. If we think about this as an 'open source' project, a loosely coupled and highly integrative framework is ideal. For instance, why do GA's need to be localized? If GA's start to break down when a certain capacity is reached, why not create a framework for people to set up a GA online. When maximum capacity is reached for one GA, a new one is created.

[-] 1 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 6 years ago

I find this a really bizarre discussion. I'm of course aware of how anti-organizational Americans have become, but that too is ironic. Back in the 1930s after all Tocquiville pointed out in his classic Democracy in America that Americans were a nation of joiners. He understood the importance of mediating institutions to democracy.

I don't see how any social movement can proceed anywhere in the absence of an organizational framework (at least not consciously). Better or at least different organizational frameworks may develop or evolve within OWS but right now the local GAs are the only organizational framework within the movement of which I am aware. It is concievable that some other organizational framework might develop out of local GAs or parallel to them, but aside from the fact that working groups seem to be taking some independent initiative in some local areas I don't see that happening and certainly in terms of any national coordination, to the extent that that exists, it exists between local GAs and not in the framework of any other structure of which I am aware, though I am willing to stand corrected.

As far as GA "capacity" is concerned while I personally am inclined to agree that there is probably an optimal GA size or frame in Spain GAs reached the tens of thousands and most people I've spoken with at local GAs reject the notion of any maximum size. On the other hand I do think there is probably a minimum size for a viable GA. This web site calls for a GA in every back yard, which seems fanciful to me, though in urban areas a GA in every neigborhood or apartment complex (and certainly every work site) and in rural areas a GA in every county seat seems reasonable. The fact is we are nowhere near that. I don't think we are even 1% of the way there. If we got substantially in that direction then "we don't need politicians to build a better world" could become a reality, In the absence of that level of organization it is only natural that the movement is drawn back into the politics of the corporate status quo. Of course it is unlikely in the extreme that a movement like OWS could be drawn into the Republican orbit, though the potential that it could be drawn into the Democratic orbit (which is just another corporatist party) is a real danger so long as our movement remains as small, weak and poorly organized as it is.

[-] 1 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 6 years ago

It is no accident that the nouns "organizer" and "organization" have the same root. What does a movement organizer do after all? Their whole purpose is to bring people together. Why? To form an organization. That organization may be more or less formal, but it is a precondition to doing anything else, at least to doing anything else on a level that is both conscious and collective. That is the sine qua non. It is by no means the end point. It is not even the beginning point. The beginning point is always principle or purpose. But it is the next thing after the beginning point and after it is formed it informs further principles and purpose.

[-] 1 points by ithink (761) from York, PA 6 years ago

Bizarre, really? I thought I was being very objective. I was actually proud of my objectivity in this discussion. Ah, well. Again, I see your point. It is not as if you are not making sense, it is a very logical approach. I am just offering .. a different way to look at things.

The power and potential that came from this movement (in my opinion) did not come from the GA's, or the words on the website, or any organization whatsoever. It came from the multitude of people around the world who answered the call to support it. To me, THAT is the Gem.

The only real solid proof that it is even possible to make a better world. Everything else is merely coincidence. Given a different acronym, the same people would have answered the call.

[-] 1 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 6 years ago

Bizarre in the sense that it is difficult for me to get my mind around. Of course organization must be based on principle and/or purpose. But in order to move any principle or purpose forward the very next thing that is needed is organization. For all its looseness even OWS was preceeded by the organization of the NYC GA. In the absence of the planning meetings which first organized and then were organized by the NYC GA there would have been no demo on Wall St on September 17 and therefore nothing for masses of people to show their support for (not to mention the fact that everywhere local occupations were preceded by the formation of local GAs).

That there was something else less definable out there seems both elusive and mystical to me, which is to say, not something we can act on collectively in a concrete way.

I am by no means suggesting that the time and "objective conditions" were not ripe for a general uprising. Of course they are. But the fact is at this particular historical juncture they have taken this particular organizational form. We may disagree with the form it has taken in which case it is incumbent upon us to suggest both a form which we think might be superior and a specific method whereby such a superior form might most likely be adopted by the movement.

One cannot meaningfully discuss the civil rights movement without discussing organizations like the NAACP, CORE, the Urban League, SNCC, the SCLC or the Negro American Labor Council. One cannot meaningfully discuss the American labor movement without discussing the CIO, the UAW and other organizations that American workers formed. One cannot discuss the American Revolution without discussing the Sons of Liberty, the Committees of Correspondence and the Continental Congress. These are the organizational forms which these movements took, without which they simply could not have existed.

Likewise it is impossible both to understand OWS and to expect it to move consciously in any direction without having an understanding of the organizational forms it has developed which are the mechanisms through which people act whether or not they are conscious of it. (e.g. perhaps only 10% of the people who attend a mass rally cosponsored by OWS and the NYC Central Labor Council are aware of the planning that went into such an event, but the event itself would never have come off without that organization and planning).

[-] 1 points by ithink (761) from York, PA 6 years ago

I do agree some form of organization is needed. Ideally, it would be strong enough to help guide proper discussion and build consensus. Yet at the same time, be nothing more than a framework so that what is most important is the people coming together - not the organization in and of itself. As I said previously, I would like to see an online version of a GA. I think this would allow for greater inclusion and greater diversity.

[-] 1 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 6 years ago

The organization question for OWS is a concrete question, not something abstract. That concrete fact is the only organizational form currently manifest in OWS are the local GAs. That is what we have to work with. It is conceivable that some other organizational form could displace them but if that is desirable the next step is to discuss how that is likely to happen and especially how that can be made to happen.

I can think of many, many reason why actual physical occupations are of signal importance as well as being the defining characteristic of the movement. The one that has occurred to me most often on this forum is that no matter how much people disagree with each other in person they are much, much nicer to each other in person than they are on this forum.

Excepting for the severly disabled and people in very isolated situations there is no reason why the vast majority of the population could not be in a GA geographically close to them. Considerable materials exist regarding how to organize a GA. There are literally hundreds of volunteer organizers available from GAs in every major urban area who could help to organize new GAs, though enlisting them would probably require offering room, board and transportation.

Back in horse and buggy days county seats were organized to be within a day's journey. With modern transportation they are of course much closer and there is no reason why a GA could not be organized minimally in every county seat.

Personally I think the whole point of a GA is to organize a local occupation and it is hard to describe that experience without having been there. It perhaps sounds mystical, but they truly exude love. In New York people walking down the street avoid eye contact, but crossing into Zuccotti Park was like entering another world. Total strangers of all sexes not only made eye contact but they walked up to you, hugged you and sincerely told you that they loved you.

Having a permanent headquarters in an open public space is also of crucial importance. I've had some of the most interesting political discussions of my life at 3 and 4 in the morning in Zuccotti. And people didn't have to wait for office hours or find the location of movement headquarters to learn about or join the movement. All they had to do was show up at Zuccotti any hour of the day or night.

So, I am most certainly not against the use of the internet, though I think it should have very specific purposes that would include the primary organization of people prior to their physically meeting each other to form a local GA and also organizing the severly disabled and those from extremely isolated geographical settings. But most certainly I think it would be detrimental to the movement if the internet became a substitute for the actual physical formation of local GAs.

Regarding diversity, I can't imagine more diversity than that which I've seen at the local GAs I've attended. The average age in New York is 33. There is a strong though minority presence of anarchists. There is even a smaller and less significan presence of socialists. There is a significant presence of Libertarians. There is a very large presence of liberals and an even larger presence of what I would call the politically unformed (not uninformed, just unformed--open minded?). While there are few Republicans a substantial number of Republicans stop by for spirited debate and some were occasionally recruited. Most occupiers are employed full time and treat their activity in OWS as a virtual second full time job, but about 10% are unemployed. Many are students, though not a majority. Many homeless were attracted to the encampments because of the good food and relatively safe living conditions. I met several disabled people in wheel chairs who attended the encampments on a fairly regular basis as did many retirees. While there could be a lot more GAs and encampments and they could be a lot bigger, I don't see how they could be any more diverse.

[-] 1 points by ithink (761) from York, PA 6 years ago

I am not surprised about the GA in NYC. Of course you will find diversity there. It is much harder to find open-mindedness in smaller rural and suburban communities. There are many people who sincerely do not have time to physically attend a local GA. But still would be willing and able to volunteer time, ideas, and skills through the internet.

[-] 1 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 6 years ago

I simply do not believe that people do not have the time to attend a local GA. While church attendence and activity in voluntary organizations is down it is still the case that tens of millions of people with full time jobs (and many with more than full time jobs) attend church on a weekly basis. Many people, again with full time jobs, typically contribute even more time to their religious affiliation, attending choir practice, men's groups, women's groups and other activities associated with their local religious organization.

Union membership is certainly down, yet literally millions of trade unionists attend membership meetings on a monthly basis. This discounts the number of people involved in countless voluntary organizations from bowling leagues, to La Leche clubs, the Rotary, the Eagles, the Moose and the Masons. Of course more and more people tend to live increasingly private lives, but that is essentially their choice and not something that is thrust upon them. Indeed one of the most significant aspects of OWS that commentators remarked on was the fact that it got people away from their computer screens and TVs and out in the streets interacting with each other.

Regarding the open mindedness of rural and suburban communities, from personal experience I suspect there are many, many like minded people in the same community who are simply unaware of each other. There are still more who are not even aware that they are like minded (who would have been able to predict the rather remarkable alliance between OWS and organized labor, two movements that are both culturally and organizationally about as far apart as can be imagined).

It is really only at encampments that GAs meet on a daily or more than daily basis. It is more typical for GAs to meet on a weekly basis and some meet even less, for example on a monthly basis. Of course there are people who are overwhelmed with more than one full time job. There are I think, a very, very few people who live in truly isolated situations where they would be more than a half hour or so from a local GA. Certainly some people are overwhelmed with child care and that is a concrete issue that every GA should address, just as every religious community does.

There is simply no substitute for people physically interacting with each other. You don't have to go to an OWS encampment to figure that out. Just go to any New England town meeting (which are virtually all in rural or small town settings) or for that matter any meeting of municipal government.