Iturrey: Occupational Contradictions
By Alesy Iturrey, Staff Columnist
Published on Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City, and protestors celebrated the event with songs, parades and blockades around the island of Manhattan, a spectacle that resulted in approximately 180 arrests for disorderly conduct. A year ago, many were confused and amused by the growing movement that seemed to target a hippie-proletariat, rising up in a pseudo-Marxist revolution against the corporations that reside in the Financial District of the city. Even as it has fluctuated in its strength, Occupy has made an impact on the national conversation regarding issues such as the economy, wealth inequality and corporate plutocracy. But besides a few debates and speculations, what has the movement produced but a popular, frequently ridiculed culture reference?
Monday’s demonstrations were a blatant attempt to prevent many individuals from going to work. Sponsored Occupy events for the day included creating a “Human Wall” around the New York Stock Exchange and actively storming business headquarters, in order to let them know “how you feel about them commodifying public life, profiting off pollution, crashing the economy, investing in injustice, gambling with your money and buying your elections.” Congregating in busy intersections within the Financial District, the disruption did little more than cause many employees to be late or absent from work on a bustling Monday morning.
Besides placing itself in the media limelight, Occupy hasn’t done much for itself as a movement. It has given voice to its issues, but in a manner that is disruptive and, consequentially, it has achieved little result. Although it is often considered the “leftist” response to the Tea Party, Occupy is significantly less powerful. Although the Tea Party certainly isn’t the paragon of a successful political movement, at least it has outlined goals and strategies and accomplished some of them, such as electing representatives to Congress that have followed through with their goals to pass legislation fit to the founding principles of the organization. By contrast, Occupy refuses to designate leaders, claiming to be a horizontal hierarchy, which in and of itself is a structure that prevents proper guidance and leads to the unclear conglomeration of ideals to which the movement subscribes.
Widespread political activism among Americans this past year suggests a national consciousness that is “troubled.” It’s very obvious that people are becoming disillusioned with their government, and these individuals are finding no other method of discussion appropriate except outright rebellion. The actions of groups like Occupy are concrete but largely ineffective — blockading a building and preventing innocent civilians from commuting to work won’t pass Congressional bills or change fundamental policy.
Our government was founded on the principles of the First Amendment, and in no way am I suggesting the suppression of those freedoms. However, movements such as Occupy should have a sense of prudence when planning their next protests, and consider how a leaderless revolution is supposed to make tangible change. The ability for me to even make such a claim freely in The Dartmouth is a testament to the idea that conversations are necessary for the political climate in the United States. But so is the right for an individual to pursue careers and support a family. Nonviolent activism could be meaningful and attain specific goals without the obstruction to the daily lives of civilians. This is achieved through the democratic system of government we currently have in place. Occupy, unfortunately, is a subscriber to nonviolent yet unproductive activism, simply becoming a nuisance in the media.
Don’t get me wrong, nonviolent protests featuring sit-ins and the like have been successful in our political history. The Civil Rights movement, for example, produced action for a different reason than just this form of protest. These movements had specific leaders that spoke to the group’s ideology and yielded results in political systems. Occupy, by refusing to outline goals or accumulate representatives for the people to vote for in our government, is simply ignoring the reality that this type of directionless civil disobedience will not realize clear objectives or establish policy reform.
The message transcends bipartisanism. It’s not a matter of leftist or rightist ideology, simply a consideration of meaningful activism and the issues being brought to the forefront of the national consciousness. In another year from now, it would be interesting to see what protest groups like Occupy could accomplish. Perhaps with a change in tactics, and by avoiding aggressive physical demonstration, they may produce some change. But until then, ambling the streets of the Financial District won’t solicit the kind of response necessary for the action Occupy demands.