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The Occupy movement isn't about media or politicians, but about people

08 Jan 2012

If you spent any considerable amount of time on the internet lately, following the news on Occupy Wall Street or any of the other Occupy encampments around the globe, you have undoubtedly seen someone say "OWS is dying, you never see anything about them in the media anymore". Just like those that say "how do you expect to influence politicians by sitting in a bunch of tents", these are the people that fail to understand what the Occupy movement is about. The purpose of the Occupy movement isn't to influence politicians. It isn't to gain media attention. It's to talk to people. Individual people that show curiosity as to what those Occupy encampments are about.

The most accurate description you could give of the goal of the Occupy movement, is to create conversation. People walk past an Occupy camp. They walk past it a second time. The third time they think to themselves: "okay, now I really want to know why these people are still standing here". They engage in conversation. They ask "why are you here?", and often after starting a conversation they start coming up with things in society that are bothering them, thereby creating a constructive dialogue. And that is exactly what the Occupy movement is about. It doesn't have a central or universal agenda; each individual represents himself. The only thing everyone has in common is the notion that society as it is right now, has some serious issues that need to be resolved. What those issues are and how to resolve them, is something that is left up to the individual to discuss.

Let's imagine for a moment that you were attempting to have 'the media' as target group, rather than 'the people'. With a bit of luck, you would be able to secure a few minutes a week of 'airtime'. You would have a few minutes to try and explain 'what the Occupy movement stands for' - which is, as you may recall, a question that cannot be answered - through a one-way communication channel that is known for twisting words and spreading misinformation, whether intentional or not. You would be putting all of your effort into the attempt to make use of a communication channel that doesn't even do what you want it to. You do not have the discussion with individuals, you do not have a reliable way to explain to people how things work without third-party bias, and there is no way to explain how the Occupy movement itself doesn't 'stand for anything', and only individuals involved in the movement have something they stand for.

Can you see why judging the 'success' of a movement by the attention from something that wasn't the target to begin with, doesn't make sense?

Let's take another example: politicians. At Occupy Dordrecht we very often get the question how we expect politicians to do anything as a result of sitting in a bunch of tents talking to people. They fail to understand that we aren't trying to influence politicians. For all I personally care, these politicians could simply vanish and I'd be doing the exact same in this Occupy camp as I am doing now. It's not a bunch of politicians that keeps this country or even this world running. It's - in the case of the Netherlands - the 16 million citizens that clean the streets, man the stores, collect the trash, and altogether keep current society running. It's those 16 million citizens - or even more if borders were to stop existing - that will in a future system hold things together by providing the manpower to get things done. It is, no matter what governmental structure exists, these 16 million citizens that decide whether something is going to be accepted or not.

If 16 million people simply refuse to use the Euro or even stick to any laws instituted by the Dutch government, this currency and these laws may just as well not exist. If the authority of the Dutch government is not granted by those 16 million, they simply don't have it, no matter what the lawbooks say - for the simple reason that government would be the minority in terms of power. What this all comes down to is that, to cause any real change, and to really improve the way society works, you need to address these 16 million people, talk to them, discuss alternatives with them, and convince them that some sort of change is needed. You need those 16 million to back you, as their support is vital for any future social structure that may originate from something like the Occupy movement. You need to set up a plan with those 16 million people in mind - the existing government is simply not relevant. If politicians fit into the picture, that's great. If they don't, then that's fine too, and a solution should be provided that does not require cooperation of those politicians.

And that is why I address the individual citizens, and not politicians.

The last point I would like to make is that even if the name Occupy would not be used much anymore, that doesn't mean that the Occupy movement has died. It simply means that people have moved on to another method, or that they may even be a step further in the process of causing change. The Occupy movement hasn't died, the issue is that those saying so have unrealistic expectations of what it is supposed to do.