“It’s just another haphazardly constructed hippie-march.”
“It’s a wannabe Tahrir.”
“There must be something in the water...”
No matter what you or I may say “It” is, you can’t deny that the Occupy Movement has grown at an exponential rate and that it is a sign of the times. It has become the latest installment in a global series of civil unrest. From the Middle East, to Europe, and to the Americas, people-powered movements have emerged as real force for political change in 2011. This is not to say that these kinds of actions have not been effective in the past, but until recently, mainstream media has let these events slip under the radar. But last Saturday, a global “Day of Rage” was observed, and thousands demonstrated around the world in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. As I type, hundreds of spaces are being occupied across the globe. A few weeks ago, many believed that, without a clear message or leader, Occupy Wall Street would not amount to much. One month, eighty countries, and tens of thousands of protesters later, the WORLD is still listening and still demonstrating.
Protesters no longer rely on the mainstream media to spread the word, thanks to social media. A small group of occupiers can multiply as fast as you can send a tweet, tumble a photo, or post a comment on Facebook. So I’ve got to wonder, what are political implications? One is that, this rapid transfer of information opens up the conversation to millions of more people. A broader spectrum of society is able to participate in these grassroots movements. Everyone has a skill or talent to contribute, and social media has become a great way for people to be involved. Artists, activists, lawyers, janitors, stay-at-home parents, students, retirees, and children are all involved in the Occupy Movement.
However, as I previously stated, one of the main criticism against this movement is that there is not clear leader, clear trajectory, or clear message. Maybe the floods of tweets, tumbles, and hashtags just add to the hodgepodge? Maybe the involvement of so many different causes will hurt the protests in the end? Maybe, but all these different causes have some major overlapping themes including: economic and social inequality. And while there is no clear leader, Ella Jo Baker said it best: “Strong people don’t need strong leaders.” When I think about it all, these factors add up to an excellent example of a “Participatory Democracy” at work.
Ella Jo Baker herself was an advocate for Participatory Democracy, a more collective style of leadership. A few components of this type of democracy include: broad societal involvement in grassroots movements, minimizing bureaucracy and the idea that professionalism and skill merit leadership, and emphasizing the use of direct action.
For me, the bottom line is that there’s some deep shit going on. People are angry, and are making their voices heard. Last Saturday’s “Day of Rage” was one of the most worldwide and widespread expressions of distrust in capitalism ever seen. Before, it seemed that only the “Third World” was getting the short end of the stick. Now, even the masses of the richer “Western World” cannot be supported by the capitalist economic system. How long will the protests last? Will the #OccupyMovement just become another trend that fades out of your newsfeed? I hope not. But one thing is certain, from Tahrir Square to Frank Ogawa Plaza, people-powered movements have had/have the capacity to make huge political and social change. And change is overdue.
OAKLAND OFFICIALS ARE ORDERING PROTESTERS TO LEAVE! Call (510) 238-3141 (Mayor Quan’s office) and (510) 238-3131 (Staff Sgt. Christopher Bolton) to share your polite and urgent request that they stop any future evacuation noticse.
Mercy Albaran is the Ella Baker Center Communications and Media Intern. She is a home-grown Oaklander, and recent graduate from UC Davis. Her hobbies include: trying new restaurants, singing, and beatboxing. Follower her on Twitter @DJMercyMerc.