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The occupy movement is circling back on itself with the announcement of the final prosecution of protester Cecily McMillian. Sentenced to three months for elbowing a police officer, those within and without the movement are wondering where they go from here and what it all means. The founders of the movement have moved from cities into the country, and are organizing to occupy the polls to rout out corruption. However, there are questions within the confines of the Electoral College as to how much change this focus can produce.
One element of the occupy movement from its headquarters in Zuccotti park, New York City, in 2011 sums up its fundamental flaw. The original occupy protesters broke into two decisive factions. The north end of the park consisted of the founders. These were educated intellectuals and activists who had brought their high-end camping gear and tablets to manage the demands of the movement. The south end of the park was filled with drifters who fed off the movement like parasites.
This group relied on the pseudo-government on the north end for food and clothing. Increasingly this group brought crime, drug use, and the ravages of mental illness into the park. The two groups did not mix well and deep resentment flowed between them. The park elite saw this group as poorly representing the heart of the movement, and the drifters felt entitled to all the privileges and resources of the communal spirit. Fundamentally, a communal setting collapses when a large enough percentage does not contribute.
While the occupy leaders met in a circle in the atrium of the Deutsche Bank office, the movement swirled out of control around Manhattan and the country. The hundreds camping in Zuccotti Park were not all keeping to peaceful protest, and damaging the local businesses. Their constant need for bathroom facilities, and inability to pay for anything cut short the patience of the neighborhood. Meanwhile, the main demands of the movement were made public.
Many of these demands are clearly thought-out moves for legislation that would cut the abilities of corporations to do whatever they could in the name of unlimited expansion, and reinforce the regulatory agencies that maintains this balance. To achieve this, campaign finance reform, closing corporate tax loopholes, and ending the revolving door policy that allows regulatory positions to be swapped for boardroom positions were demanded. The next listing of demands are no less well-intentioned, but perhaps idealistically ungrounded. Demand number three stands out: a guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment. The question immediately springs up, as to what then will motivate people to seek gainful employment if they are paid no matter what, as well as how they will be paid.
At the same time these demands were being made public the occupy movement itself was being gutted by drifters who saw only an opportunity for a free meal, sweater, smoke, and a chat. Undisciplined groups were causing more and more trouble on the streets, drawing the attention of the police. The New York city police had been allowing the movement freedom up until members began to break the law. Anger erupted into violence, and an unfocused mob mentality made the clear-headed demands seem like unjustifiable ravings.
The fundamental flaw in the occupy movement was the concept of “us against them”: The 99 percent versus the 1 percent. The movement wanted a redistribution of wealth, believing this would solve injustice, and wanted the system to change. This is the wrong approach. Much of the movement was made up of young people on track for success. Young adults in school preparing for prosperous careers, and yet trampled by debt and uncertainty. They question what they were working hard for, and if it was simply work hard all their lives to make the rich richer. No wonder they were bitter, but anger was being directed at the wrong place. It wasn’t the 1 percentwho put them where they are; they had chosen their own path. If they are dissatisfied with it, it is up to each person to take personal responsibility for the change they desire for themselves. Instead of demanding that those in power change, they need to simply change themselves, and put energy and vision into creating the world of their own demands.
Some visitors to the occupy movement spoke up about withdrawing from these system, and creating another mode of living through their own skill and passion. Some spoke up about not playing the victim, not buying into lies of consumerism, and investing in one’s own passion regardless of the 1 percent. These visitors were not welcomed to the movement. No snap-clapping was heard for their message of personal responsibility that has nothing to do with pulling up your bootstraps, but everything to do with taking off the boots. The voice of this individual visitor asking the mob, “Who is John Galt?” was summarily dismissed as the voice of the enemy. They believed they were victims of the system, and it was the system that must change, not seeing they were supporting the system with their victimization.
Getting to the root of the problem is absolutely needed if humanity will thrive on this planet. However, the route to the root may only be traversed by the individual, and changed in each heart. From an empowered perspective, change is created from the ground up. People create the system, and when enough people have changed the system will follow. The occupy movement has traveled full circle and nothing has changed fundamentally. Each of their demands addresses symptoms of a great sickness affecting this world.
Opinion by Grace Pollari