For everything written, said, thought, or even acted out in response or on behalf of the Occupy movement, one thing is becoming clear – the reaction to OWS tends to say a lot about the person doing the reacting.
One of the enduring, and in some ways most defensible, critiques of Occupy has been its lack of clarity, the nebulous nature of the protest, the absence of defined objectives. But one unexpected consequence of these issues has been the ability for the movement to reflect the ideas, values, and desires of those doing the critiquing.
Perhaps this is why criticism of OWS has run the gamut from all sides. Economists want it to come up with a reasonable plan. Politicians want to know what its platform is. Lefties ask why the movement is not singling out Republicans while Righties ask why protestors keep running their faces into police batons.
Try it with your friends and relatives this weekend. Strike up the OWS conversation -- not that you might even need to yourself -- and listen carefully to just what they have to say.
You will be hard pressed to find people without opinions on Wall Street, the financial crisis, and the government. Similarly, people have an idea of what a movement should look like, sound like, act like. For many, OWS is not that movement.
That gap between people’s opinions what a movement should be and what OWS is doing is filled by their opinions on our current problems. For those that think the government is letting us down, the most common question asked is, “Why aren’t people protesting in DC” (they are).
And perhaps even more surprising is that the movement itself has shown remarkable elasticity. Occupy movements have sprouted up in cities across the country and the world, but apart from some of the most notable aspects – the word ‘Occupy’, the 99 percent, consistent presence – many of these other encampments have their own flavor.
Here are a few descriptions from the websites of Occupy movements in different cities.
Occupy Houston -- Dedicated to ending the corporate corruption of democracy
Occupy Oakland -- The purpose of our gathering here is to plan actions, to mobilize real resistance, to defend ourselves from the economic and physical war that is being waged against our communities.
Occupy Hartford – We stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, and the rest of Occupy Together around the U.S. and the world.
Occupy Chicago -- We are Chicagoans, and most importantly, Americans, gathered together in solidarity to exercise our Constitution-guaranteed rights of free speech and to peacefully assemble.
What do they all have in common? Not that much, really. The Occupy movement is the “choose your own adventure” of social expression. And as such, nobody, even the disparate movements and protestors, can exactly pin down what that movement is. It’s a personal choice of what you’re protesting, and it’s a personal choice for why you do or don’t like it.
Occupy is the ultimate Rorschach test, which also explains how it has garnered such severe reaction from everything including big media outlets to your good friends. Because when we argue about OWS, we’re really arguing about our own values and what we think is important.
And causing people to have those conversations could not be more important right now.