Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupation Force Advocacy or Public Nuisance?

As anyone that follows the News knows, the latest events dominating media coverage these days is the 'Occupy Wall St.' movement and its spin-offs in cities around the world.

I've watched the coverage on several TV networks and read numerous articles and editorials in a variety of newspapers.

I don't get it. Do these protesters actually believe Big Business is going to be swayed by their current antics? How do they think they are going to precipitate change when they don't have a unified purpose or message? Some demonstrators seem clueless about why they are participating in these events. Others appear to have joined for the sole purpose of being part of a rebellion. They remind me of the dummies that joined in the Vancouver riots this past spring.

How many demonstrators have carefully considered what they are protesting, the changes they are seeking, and the most effective strategy to realize those changes? If the movement's intention is to force banks and big business to settle for smaller profits while paying more taxes, is protesting and camping out in city centers the most effective strategy? As some editorials pointed out, how many of the protesters are using ipods, iphones, ipads, Facebook, Google, and other popular electronics in their personal lives? How many of the young folk in these demonstrations possess multiple gaming systems at home? How many credit cards would we find in people's pockets at these protest sites? How many are wearing top end and designer clothing? What kind of vehicles are they driving? Do they not realize that the toys they play with and the social media they've employed to grow their movement is earning someone a lot of money?

It seems to me that there are more effective strategies for leveraging change. If the desired result is businesses reducing their profit margins, stop buying their products and using their services. Boycotts are a tried and tested strategy. I think squeezing a businesses bottom line is a vastly superior strategy to being a loud and obnoxious annoyance.

People advocating change may want to consider developing and participating in cooperatives. Members benefit in many ways including sharing in the profits. If people object to banks earning obscene profits on their backs, perhaps they should look for alternatives. If enough bank customers start taking their money and service needs to cheaper alternatives, a stronger message would be communicated than making a mess of public places. A great place to start is with credit cards. Stop using them! If you use cash, you don't pay ridiculous fees and interest rates.

The occupiers are also clamouring for a more equitable taxation system - they want the wealthy and big business to pay their fair share. Will their demonstrations push governments to move in the direction they want? It takes more than noisy disturbances to effect change in government policy and agendas. Applying intelligent, strategic, sustained political pressure through lobbying and advocating has proven to be an effective tool. Offering well constructed solutions in addition to protesting the status quo is also a smart approach. I recall meeting with a couple of provincial cabinet ministers some years ago to address concerns we had. The politicians interrupted us very early in our presentation saying they knew what the issues and problems were. Instead of our list of complaints the politicians wanted to hear our solutions. I learned a valuable lesson in that meeting. If you want things to change, you need to do more than whine and complain. To have a chance of achieving successful advocacy it is essential to propose well thought out and workable solutions. Messing up public places won't do it.

One of the most ridiculous statements I heard from 'occupy _______' participants was that they were going to support the homeless by camping out at the provincial legislature. How their overnight stay (using expensive and warm camping gear while they listen to their 'tunes' on their ipods and iphones and stay in touch with their social networks through their wireless devices) was going to benefit the homeless is beyond me.

One editorial columnist asked WWJD and stated that Jesus was on the side of the 'occupiers' because he said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven. He boldly stated that Jesus was against the rich and greedy. I think he missed the point. I don't think Jesus objected to wealth. I believe Jesus chastised the wealthy, self-righteous religious who ignored the oppressed and the poor, ignoring the principles and demand of social justice. I can support activists pursuing social justice. I'm just not sure the global occupation movement will effect the changes they are making noise about. I know I can't support their current strategy.

1 comment:

  1. All consciousness raising begins with awareness. All social uprisings begin with one voice. Horst, I just discovered your blog and am so happy you are writing, my gifted friend.