Occupy Chicago

by , posted on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 at 11:09 am

I’ve been watching the Occupy Wall Street movement for only about the last two weeks or so. While that’s admittedly a long time in their brief history I have to admit I spent much of it shaking my head at their lack of organization or indeed any clear articulation of what it is exactly that they are protesting. I thought the generalized messiness of it meant it was doomed to end “not with a bang but a whimper.”

I’ve changed my mind.

To me, it’s starting to have the feel a movement that has staying power. And I don’t think that’s least because they managed to get 700 people arrested in one day on the Brooklyn Bridge – but I’ll get back to that, because I think it may hold a lesson for the organizers of Occupy Chicago and this post is dedicated to them.

But first I want to get back to the two main reasons I initially conciously discounted this movement: disorganization and lack of clearly stated mission. And I want to acknowledge and address what I am now beginning to suspect was an unconscious objection: the youth and inexperience of those involved in this movement.

As to “lack of organization,” I’ve begun to realize that by this I probably meant “lack of leaders” and have also realized that perhaps the movement doesn’t need any – or at least need any right now – precisely because it is a movement expressing an emotional groundswell of will to take back our country from corporations and the richest 1%. Sure, there are a lot of facts and figures and data and reality to back up their belief that they – the 99% – are being screwed over in this deal, but turning out to protest because they are just sheerly pissed off about being screwed over is clearly an emotional response.

And I have a problem with that why exactly? I have, for quite some time now, been among the older and more experienced crowd of activists who has been bemoaning the fact that there is not gut-level outrage especially among the young, that there are not spontaneous protests especially among the young, and that the younger generations are not up in arms en masse. And here they are going off half-cocked and showing up to protest with no better articulated reason than “we are the 99%” and my spontaneous response to their spontaneous outbreak of outrage is to question their leadership and organization? Hmmm. Perhaps it’s just possible that my age and layers of cynicism are showing.

So to them I say thank you. You are leaders – every one of you. Keep up the good work. I am sorry I am late to your party, but I promise you I have your back now.

And just a note about your youth and inexperience (and yes, I realize that not all the protesters in this movement are young and inexperienced, but that is the prevailing demographic) and my initial reaction to that. I’m in my fifties so have seen a lot and done a lot that many of you have not, which makes me way more inclined to be willing to make judgment calls based on my age and experience about what is possible, and more importantly, what is not. I am also inclined, I now realize, to sit back and watch your movement and decide that you lack enough experience to know what is possible to accomplish with your current methods. Or not.

That’s probably for the best. If I were to explain to you in detail why I think you can’t get there from here, and you really listened, you probably wouldn’t end up there. Fact is, I don’t have a clue how you’re going to get there from here, because like every generation before you, you are making this shit up as you go along aren’t you?

I’ve just recalled that I can’t write your strategy for getting to a future I won’t be alive to see, so don’t hesitate to call me out on any negative bullshit I may spew: I am looking back, and I need you to look forward for me. We all need you to look forward for us.

The strategy probably does need to be taken out of my generation’s hands. On the other hand, our experience means we might have one or two kick-ass tactics to offer.

Which brings me back to Occupy Chicago. I’ve been investigating what they are up to on their website and on their facebook page as it’s unlikely I will get to New York any time in the near future and was hoping to get in to Chicgao today. I can’t, by the way, I’ve failed to disentangle myself from a previous obligation. On the other hand I have enabled someone else to go in (their two-year-old is “helping” me write this!) and am hoping to end up with photos to post and news to spread.

I see from Occupy Chicago’s website and facebook page that the police came along at about 2 or 3 a.m. and told them they could not stop or put things down on the sidewalk and that they are consequently moving, moving, moving. And moving their stuff to storage and thinking about spreading out to multiple sites in the city. So I wanted to offer one of those pieces of tactical advice: SIT THE FUCK DOWN. Preferably inside the Federal Reserve Bank. Do you want your movement to grow in Chicago? That’s the way to do it. Take the streets, take the buildings, take the sidewalks.

Do it peacefully, but do it.

You must know that the mainstream media is trying like hell to ignore you, but they can’t ignore things like 700 protesters arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, or even 50 protesters arrested at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago.


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