How Occupy Wall Street Has Already Won

National May Day demonstrations have sparked a new flurry of articles predictably portending the end of the occupy movement, and yet again critiquing its “fuzzy messages and vague goals.” The bulk of mainstream media and popular debate on Occupy always comes back to the same major critiques. “No clear demands, no concise message, no clear policy objective.” And each time I hear this, I always think the same thing: “You just don’t get it do you?”

This disconnect seems to stem from an inability to neatly categorize Occupy. In the age of the advocacy industrial complex, it’s difficult to conceptualize a national political force that doesn’t place manicured messaging and policy recommendations paramount. Occupy is not an advocacy organization, it’s a banner. Its purpose was always to unite radical thinkers (old and new) and light a fire in their bellies. From under this powerfully inclusive umbrella regional movements were given the much need community and space to develop their own agendas and action plans.

When recognized as a network of disparate communities the reason for Occupy's supposedly muddled messages and policy objectives become more lucid. Despite critiques, its ultimate goal is clear: a transfer of power from the hands of the wealthy to those of the majority. Again as the movement absorbs more people, its ambitions become more diverse, but ultimately its purpose can still be boiled down to abolishing global political service of the rich at the expense of the majority and the earth.

While the goal is clear, it is the means that are innovatively open for interpretation. Occupy’s commitment to diversity necessitates that local groups will (and should) have goals of their own. What’s more, Occupy does not expressly support electoral politics and explicitly recognizes that our democracy has been co-opted by corporate interests. Given the incredible flow of corporate money into Washington (now at an all time high thanks to Citizens United) and the fact that nearly half of our congressional representatives are millionaires, this is a pretty hard fact to deny. As such, it’s not surprising that carving out specific policy goals is not exactly on the priority list.

In fact, the idea that policy is the only way to make change is precisely the ideological assumption that Occupy subverts. The Occupy movement is non-hierarchical because it recognizes that it's not leaders we need. The changes necessary to provide human rights to the masses and safeguard the earth can not be outsourced to policy makers, but will require that individual people begin to build the world they wish to live in.

This Do–It–Yourself attitude not only defined Occupy’s physical occupations but has now blossomed into countless local campaigns to fight injustice and create alternatives. The most widely spread is the Occupy Our Homes campaign, in which occupy activists across the country stand behind community members facing wrongful foreclosure.

It is this self-directed, all-inclusive energy that is the heart of the movement. And though it's also the thing that mystifies the mainstream, it's what will allow the Occupy movement to continue evolving in the coming months or perhaps years. Come what may for the future of occupy, the extremely power notion that citizens need not rely on governments or corporations to seek a better world is out of the bottle and won't be corked again. 

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Molly James

I'm an educator and activist based in Los Angeles. My background is in sustainable development and the issues I'm most passionate about climate change, economic inequality, women's rights and education.

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