Occupy Why? Leadership and Community Movements

The Occupy Wall Street movement has spread across the United States and Canada over the past few weeks, a reflection of the frustration that average citizens feel with government and corporate decision makers.

I recently had a conversation with a couple of young women who recently went to Toronto to investigate the “occupy” movement for themselves.  What they found was not reassuring. Largely driven by a group of male anarchists, these young women found the movement to be “useless”.

I suspect that the reasons for their disappointment are related to the lack of leadership within the occupy movement.  No one seems to be articulating a compelling vision as an alternative to the status quo. Leadership is about calling a group of people to joint action to achieve specific objectives.   The occupy movement does not appear to have a shared vision, never mind specific objectives.

There is a shared anger, but the motivation and energy from this anger is not being directed to any positive goals. While I vehemently disagree with the Tea Party movement in the US, it does seem to have a shared vision and clear goals.  It’s also clear to me that both the Occupy and the Tea Party movements emerged from the same well of dissatisfaction with the status quo, which rewards self-interest, greed, and increases societal divisions by creating greater class differences. These two movements, however take very different ideological perspectives.  The Tea Party takes a view of uber capitalism and anti government sentiment as the antidote to big government and corporatism.  Occupy takes either extreme socialism or anarchism as its perspective, and appears to have no proposed solution to the problem.

The problem with the occupy movement is that it is a vague gathering of dissatisfied people who do not appear to have any shared values or beliefs, other than the big guys are screwing everyone else. Without shared beliefs, it is difficult to create a shared vision of a better future.  So nothing will be accomplished in spite of all of the current protests. 

To quote Shakespeare, the occupy movement looks as if it is “all sound and fury, signifying nothing”.


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