Given that PolicyMic users are mostly young people, it does not surprise me that the vast majority of authors and commentators on the site are whipped up about OWS. But the movement is not as substantive as many might think, and it certainly does not represent 99% of Americans based upon the scores of conversations I have had since its inception. I believe the protesters should walk away from this ill-conceived rave now, before the violence escalates and anybody is seriously injured. After some serious soul searching, protesters should reconsider what the OWS effort has accomplished, document a list of the most popular issues, and present them to sympathetic politicians for consideration.
One of the worst things individuals can do is form a group in which everybody thinks alike; in the case of OWS, it is shared dissatisfaction with the establishment. It inevitably becomes a backslapping session and the group starts to believe its own rhetoric. This is what has happened with OWS. Young people began to correspond with others using social media, and pretty soon large groups formed in which members reinforced each other with commentary about the evils perpetrated by rich people, big business, and incompetent government. Many Americans think the protesters have overstated the problems facing the nation and their solutions are draconian.
OWS has the support of some baby boomers because hard times are upon all of us, but their interest in the movement will eventually decrease. As in the 1960’s, many members of the "Silent Majority" were supportive of ending the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. However, when protests turned violent, the support waned and protesters became the focus instead of the issues. As successful as the movements of the 1960’s were, they could have been even more impactful if the issues were brought to the table peacefully. MLK and Gandhi were excellent examples of the power of non-violent resistance. These men knew the opposition and bigots would turn violent protest against their people if scores of people were killed or injured.
Many critics continue to stress the fact that OWS does not have leadership and is not focused; I’ve written about this a number of times myself. These phenomena have hurt the movement, and yet, so many members and supporters continue to believe the movement derives advantages by being evasive and critical of every aspect of America life. Very little gets done without focused and effective leadership. Look back in history and you will see that almost every successful insurrection had great leaders, most notably were our forefathers during the American Revolution, Napoleon at the end of the French Revolution, and Mao Tse Tung, the leader of the Chinese Revolution.
A dearth of leadership and direction always seems to lead to the same place: anarchy and violent confrontation. I could have sat by and supported OWS if it had an attainable endgame and did not morph into a much more confrontational protest around the country. But, I knew provocateurs would eventually convince protesters to become more aggressive because OWS is not interested in negotiating with government officials; it continues to be a "bitching session," first about a plethora of problems and now about the police. A far as I know, there was never one significant effort to petition government to make tangible changes.
And, finally the inevitable occurred: OWS decided to inconvenience a large city and its nine million inhabitants, forcing the police to be more belligerent. How many of the 1% do you think were inconvenienced by the actions of OWS during these demonstrations? OWS just hurt people in the 99% who may have been supportive of it up to that point. It was a terrible strategy and ended any chance that OWS would be remembered as more than an unsanitary sit-in at a privately owned park. Also, support of the movement by liberal politicians will likely evaporate as the election cycle begins. Candidates will not want to be associated with troublemakers.
I support many issues that have been mentioned by OWS protesters. For instance, I am for term limits, a simpler and fairer tax code, campaign finance reform, elimination of government lobbying, the end of the wars in the Middle East, comprehensive gay rights, financial reform, universal health care, and much more. Am I a Tea Party advocate? No way, even though I respect what the Party has accomplished with great organization. I predict the violence will increase as the movement loses steam. For this reason, I cannot support OWS. I could never support any group that encourages Americans to fight with other Americans.
Photo Credit: david_shankbone