As mentioned a while ago, I’ve been working with the newspaper group at Occupy DC. I haven’t written much about it, I think I’ve been letting the experience gestate before trying to comment.
Curiosity, in theory a typical journalistic trait, first brought me down there. Since then, a lot of people have asked me to explain it. I’ve tried a lot of explanations on different people, but I seem to always run up against some sort of wall. So in a final attempt, I’ll try to describe it in more familiar vocabulary.
Occupy is networking. For poor people.
Ok, maybe its not just poor people. It’s the poor and others who are generally disenfranchised. But that’s not as snappy a phrase, so I’ll just stick with the one above.
I hope, for example, this analogy goes some way to explaining why there’s no “list of demands.” After all, when was the last time you went to a networking happy hour that resulted in a list of demands? Right. Never. You come away with new contacts, new ideas, new plans for future projects.
Occupy Congress protesters gather for the general assembly outside the Capitol on Jan. 17
No one thinks its weird for people to physically gather to discuss everything from advertising to entomology. The professional and academic worlds have long understood the importance of face to face contacts. But when people gather to discuss and express their dissatisfaction with our country’s (and world’s) economic order the response is, “Yeah, but what are they doing?” or “But can’t they organize over facebook?” And I strain to suppress an eye roll.
Also, consider the “lack of focus” criticism still (still!?!) being bandied about. Let’s say you’ve got an archeology conference going on; people are going to be presenting papers, and moderating panel discussions on widely divergent topics within that field. Can you imagine someone asking of an academic conference: “Yeah, but what’s the one, main, you know, point?” Right. It would be absurd. Similarly, people are going to come away from Occupy and move on in all directions – on everything from sustainable agriculture to student debt forgiveness to national health care – and that’s totally acceptable. Continue reading