Why the Whole Occupy Movement Sucks

Imagine being at an ice cream sundae bar. In front of you lies a myriad of toppings that individually or in small combinations work really well together. But, instead of just a few toppings you pile it all on! Anything within your heart’s desire is thrown on top. Chocolate syrup, gummy worms, almonds, pineapples, everything. Screw Cold Stone, you’re making you’re own creation. You keep piling, if it looks good its going in. Finally, you’re left with a mound of toppings, all different, all unique, not really meshing together well. I’m sure you see where this is going. You know have the Occupy Wall Street/DC/Atlanta/Oakland sundae.

These are my exact feelings as it pertains to the Occupy movement occupying parks and areas all throughout the country. What began as a movement to revolt against the wealthiest Americans and to cut the ties between big corporations and our federal government, has now evolved into much, much more. Now instead of the initial, somewhat broad (and extremely unrealistic), goal, the Occupy movement has snowballed into a revolution for any and all social, economic, and moral issues.

While there is some benefit to gathering support from individuals from all walks of life and focusing on a variety of issues, it makes the ultimate goal or purpose more difficult to achieve. I was told the other day that “if you don’t know where you’re going, ALL roads lead there.” This quote perfectly defines the fickle goals of the Occupy movement, which appear to vary daily, with each different location, with each individual Occupier. If everyone has their own agenda, which one do you follow?

For the record, I completely support fighting for your rights and demanding a seat at the table. Throughout history demonstrations, revolutions, and movements¬† resulted in groups being granted freedoms and rights they did not previously hold. The Civil Rights Movements granted equal opportunities (or illusions of it) to African Americans. The Women’s Suffrage movement granted equal opportunities (or, again, the illusion of it) to American women. However, you CANNOT, in my opinion compare the Occupy movement to these uprisings. At a minimum, these movements focused on achieving the goals of a specific minority or oppressed group. These groups fought for specific rights that they felt were denied by those in power. Occupy, on the other hand, by its own definition, represents the interests of the 99% of the population not represented by the top 1% wealthiest Americans. Subsequently, Occupy has begun to represent financial equality issues, environmental issues, misuse of the armed forces issues, education issues, and racial equality issues, amongst others. I believe all of these issues are worthy of revolt and uprisings, but in their own settings, by those passionate about the issues, focused on influencing those that have the power to affect positive change in those areas. This catchall strategy is not effective.

I dont believe all hope is lost for the Occupy movement and I don’t believe in identifying problems unless you present solutions. Here are my solutions:

1. Develop a focused goal
Initially Occupy Wall Street began with the intention of cutting the ties between corporations and the government. This is a noble goal, but one made extrememly difficult by the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling last year, which essentially served to strengthen the ties between these two groups by allowing corporations to donate unlimited funds to political campaigns. However, if Occupy wants to focus on this goal I don’t think it is completely unattainable, I just think that they should attack it in a different way. I suggest the primary goal of Occupy be focused around reforming the tax code in America by eliminating tax breaks for the wealthy. As Warren Buffett famously noted, the wealthiest Americans and corporations pay the lowest amount of taxes. This discrepancy was not due to lower tax rates, but instead a wealth (no pun intended) of tax breaks that these groups take full advantage of. Holding the wealthy and big corporations accountable for paying accurate taxes is one way of decreasing the money they have available for extracurricular activities, like influencing political elections, and would ensure that the government generated an accurate amount of revenue, which in turn allows them to support the public programs and agencies that affect many of the issues advocated for by the Occupiers. One of the seven habits of highly effective people is to “begin with the end in mind.” What does the end look like for the Occupiers?

2. Develop organization
I recently read an article that justified the lack of leadership in the Occupy movement. The author felt that the lack of leadership prevented corruption of its leaders and prevented attacks on their goals. I think of it in this light: if someone in power wanted to help the Occupiers achieve their goal, who do they talk to? What goal do they pursue? How do they measure if its been accomplished? Organization, structure, and leadership would help these questions be answered and help those in power interested in supporting the movement figure out who and how to help.

3. Develop a strategy
As much negative publicity as the Tea Party gets for their actions, I can’t help but to applaud their strategy. They identified specific issues, too much government taxation and spending, identified leaders, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, etc., and developed a strategy, find political candidates that supported their interests. I think the last part is the key for the Occupy movement. Once they develop clear goals they should seek out political candidates that support their interests.

Essentially, this strategy is how a democracy works. The majority of the people identify issues they are passionate about and seek out and support candidates that align with these issues. Where and if those candidates don’t exist, create a new option. Instead of focusing on where our democracy went wrong, as the Occupiers now do, a more effective strategy would be to use this as a teachable moment to educate the majority on how a democracy SHOULD work and get the 99% involved in the process.

The Occupy movement is a revolution many of us haven’t experienced in our lifetime. It has the potential to reshape America and return the issues of the majority to the forefront of political discussion. But without organization, strategy, and goals its just a mob and what’s a mob to a king (or governments and corporations)?

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