Predictions on the Occupy Wallstreet Movement

If you don’t know why the Occupy protesters are mad, and you suspect they’re just lazy and ungrateful, click here. 

I wrote this blog in October 2011, a month after the Occupy Wallstreet protest in New York City began.

  • The Government Listens to the People and Responds Reasonably

     I would bet money that this will not happen. The American government’s silence on the Wall Street protesters, the police’s use of excessive force and the open hostility some politicians have expressed towards the protesters builds a tight argument that the government has no intention of allowing the protesters’ voice to be represented in government. I expect president Obama to just smile at the protesters and agree that we need change and do nothing until he retires from politics comfortably as a member of the 1%.

    But the people took to the streets in the first place because nothing else they were doing was working. So they’ve already set a precedent for not giving up when the government stonewalls them. I don’t expect the Obama administration to get away with ignoring the protesters indefinitely. Eventually the protesters are going to try something else. Conspiracy theorists are saying the government is hoping the people riot and are even actively trying to incite the protesters to riot to justify using more excessive force against them. That scenario sounds crazy, but it might be worth betting money on.

  • The Cops V.S. Protesters Route

     I urge everyone to read “A People’s History of The United States” by Howard Zinn. Even if you don’t agree with it, you should read it to understand the people in your country who do agree with it. Zinn argues that the United Stat’s government’s standard, traditional, official response to protesters has always been the use of excessive force.

     If history repeats itself then the police will continually harrass the protesters and make their lives miserable using nonphysical methods. If that doesn’t disperse the protesters they cops will use tear gas, billy clubs, tazers, horses, water hoses and dogs drive the protesters off. If that doesn’t work the government will declare a national emergency and call in the national guard to evict the protesters at gun point and will almost certainly open fire on the civilians (who will at that point be labeled a danger to national security) in the eyes of the (usually) well intentioned troops pulling the trigger.

     After enough enough photos of pretty white girls getting beaten or shot surface on the internet then public opinion will sway almost unanimously in favor of the protesters. When that happens the government will throw the civil rights movement a token bone that’s only part of what the protesters originally wanted, but it’ll be a victory for the civil rights movement nonetheless. So the people will accept it, and the government will write itself into the history books as a champion of civil rights for passing what few laws it did.

     I would bet money that it doesn’t come to Americans getting shot by law enforcement officials. Technology and a more connected culture has changed the political landscape so that more people get outraged by less. And the internet has given every person in the world a megaphone that can be heard around the world. It doesn’t take too many people with megaphones to rally the world. Americans will put their collective foot down after a few more beatings well before it comes to shooting. Plus, a lot of law enforcement personnel are pretty fed up with the system themselves. If the protesters made a more concentrated effort to win the hearts and minds of the police and the military they could speed up the process of forcing the government to throw them their token victory sooner rather than later. I wouldn’t be suprised if all this protesting ended up in getting one of the following token changes enacted:

  •  Eliminating the electoral college but leaving campaign finance untouched
  • Outlaw lobbying and then creating a new official department with a new name that companies use to lobby through
  • Legalize gay marriage
  • Raise the tax on the rich a small amount for a few years
     If history repeats itself then after winning this token victory the people will go back home to their normal lives and get stuck in the rat race again. They’ll have kids and get tied down to unfulfilling jobs. They’ll get saddled with debt and work more overtime than they want and take less vacations than they need. Over the years life will actually get harder as the fundamental problems in the system remain fundamentally unchanged. By that time this generation of once-proud protesters will be too old, too tired and too close to retirement to bother trying to fix the world. So they’ll leave it to their kids to get pissed off enough by the extra pressure  and fear they’ve been forced to grow up with (while simultaneously being berated for being spoiled) to get up off the couch and stand up to police and soldiers with more sophisticated crowd dispersal technology.
  •  The Crashing Wave Route
     I urge anyone interested in predicting social trends to read “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a good introduction to the topic. You can look at the Occupy movement like a social trend or a passing fad. Right now the protesters are riding the initial wave of enthusiasm and loyalty around a new and exciting product. But that wave is starting to crest. If the movement can crystallize into a solid product then the fad will become the norm. If the movement fails to crystallize then it will slowly peter out until it jumps the shark and goes the way of bell bottom pants. Granted, fads never really die. They become ghosts in the back ground that pop up randomly long after their death. 40 years from now futuristic hipster teens may wear skin-tight, faded 99% T-shirts oblivious to what the symbols on their clothes mean.
     So the key to surviving the initial wave is internal organization and united purpose. Likewise, the death nails in this phase of the movement are chaos and infighting. It might seem surprising that the movement has come as far as it has without any clear purpose, but it did one very important thing right that makes the movement’s success not so surprising. The first thing it did was to get a bunch of people in one place at the same time. The movement basically started as a one page picture:
     I love that: “Bring Tent.” Pay attention and take notes, son. If you want to create a fad then get a bunch of people in one place with tents; something relatively enduring will come out of it. Also, put titties on every single piece of media you ever produce. People will never stop looking at them.
     Anyway, once all these people showed up at the same place at the same time they improved their odds of success by organizing immediately. I would love to read a book on how the initial leaders of the movement established themselves as an authority of an anonymous group and set about establishing rules of order, process flows and chains of command. Countless movements have tried to do that and failed. Having said that, just because the Occupy movement has stayed alive this long doesn’t guarantee it’ll stay alive forever.
     The movement has survived the “norming” phase of group cohesion and is in the beginning of the “performing” stage. A Texas football coach would call this “Go Time.” The social mixer is over. It’s time to get serious and get to work. The only problem is, when a mob starts drawing battle lines they tend to fracture and disperse the group. Though the movement has survived the norming stage because it avoided leadership, but leadership is the most important factor in the group’s success at the performing stage.
     The movement will have a better chance of succeeding if it adopts computer nerds as the leaders of this stage instead of photogenic hype men full of talking points. In other words, the Occupy movement would have a better chance of success under the leadership of Mark Zukerberg than it would under Jon Stewart (no disrespect). The movement’s primary concern at this stage shouldn’t be winning the war,  it should be organizing the troops. It doesn’t need leaders in war paint leading half cocked berzerkers into battle. It needs dungeon master/guild leaders in tents organizing all the people on paper into a unified, organized, hierarchical sturcture. The leaders need to be assigning people to teams, awarding achievement medals, writing doctrine and streamlining the feedback loop between themselves and the mob they’re trying to assimilate. Retired military personnel, police officers, school administrators and successful entrepreneurs would also be ideal candidates for leadership at this stage in the group’s evolution. Possibly the best case scenario would be for the actual police department to act as an arbiter and mentor for the protesters.
     Somebody is already doing this to an extent. Check out the NYC General Assembly page. Someone deserves a genius grant for putting that together. And that’s just one camp fire with one group of people sitting around it pounding out stone tablets. There are powwows going on all over the world. The question is, who will write the best operating system, and will even that one be good enough to become a global standard? The group that will succeed will likely be the one who elects leaders who are the most proficient at organizing people into purpose-driven groups.
     If those leaders can’t find the reigns soon or if they let the trolls rip the reigns from their hands then the protesters may start trickling home dissapointed and reinforced in the belief that nothing they do will ever work so there’s no point in trying.
  • The Grass Roots Political Party Route
     The Occupy Protesters got this far being anonymous. Bully on the United States government for being so militant that its own citizens feel the need to hide behind masks when they exercise their “freedom” of speech. But if the movement hopes to survive to the next stage of its evolution it needs to take the mask off or else resign itself to being a specter forever.
     What will the Occupy movement look like if/when it becomes an institution? There’s a very good chance it will take the form of an independent, grass roots political party that doesn’t play by the old rules. I would bet money that the Occupy movement will NOT devolve into a violent, militant revolutionary group headed by a hipster Che Guevara. The people are tired of bloodshed, and we’ve seen enough history dramas to know that bloodshed hasn’t ended bloodshed yet. Plus, the American people know how hopelessly outgunned they are. Any attempt for Americans to fight the government violently would just be a suicide mission on the part of the people, and the American people can’t afford to suffer the kind of collateral damage Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered as a result of a ground war with the American military. The revolution will be nonviolent because there’s no other choice.
     So, having ruled out a violent revolution, what’s a legal, nonviolent alternative to that which has even a little track record of success? A new political party fits the criteria. 20 years ago this would have been the most obvious direction for the Occupy Wall Street movement to take, but the American public have grown so disenchanted with the American political system and its parties that it would take a stroke of genius to galvanize the mob behind any political party, much less an untried one. A new political party would have to do something radically different and radically productive to attract a commanding market share of public support. Furthermore, the protesters are already protesting that the election process is rigged. There wouldn’t be much point creating a political party to contest the problem creators at their own, rigged game. Unfortunately, it’s illegal to do anything else, and if you do it will make you a terrorist in the eyes of the guys with their finger on the red button. This severely limits what an independent political party is capable of.
     I would bet money that an independent political party will come out of the Occupy movement, but I would NOT bet money that that party will be impressively successful. The Tea Party got undermined, and has already tried to undermine the Occupy movement. Political parties are too easy of targets to cripple, and the process they approach the government through is crippled as it is. We might see a party come out of the movement, and it might be okay, but I wouldn’t expect any political party to make a radical difference unless it takes a radical approach that probably involves some nonviolent form of premeditated civil disobedience, which could lead the police to step up its civil war against the civilian population and even get the military more involved in monitoring and controlling the daily lives of its people, but even if the government could afford to do that it still wouldn’t take very many pictures of pretty white girls getting shot to inspire the entire nation to put its foot down and occupy the White House.
     At that point we’ll have to have a constitutional convention to ratify the demands of the people, but neither the people nor the government need to resort to violence to come together respectfully at one table. Furthermore, the people don’t necessarily need a traditional political party to call a constitutional convention (or whatever you want to call it).
  • The Constitutional Convention Route
      The NYC General Assembly already has a draft of a people’s declaration. You know what happened the last time the American people handed a declaration and a list of grievances to the ruling politicians? Granted, it started a war, but there’s over 200 years of differences between now and then. Today’s protesters don’t want national independence. They don’t even want to rule. They’d be fine with the people already in power just doing their jobs and doing them right. The founders of America were almost unanimously in favor of outright war with England. The Occupy protesters are almost unanimously in favor of nonviolence.
    The American government really does hold the record for most human rights abuses and violations of international law in modern history. America will literally label you a political terrorist and torture you in a secret prison for looking like a terrorist. This sets a precedent that any organized group who just walked up to Capitol Hill one day and served the president and congress with a list of grievances, demands and ultimatums would immediately be labeled terrorists, and the leaders would disappear while everyone they know’s houses get broken into at night by guys with night vision goggles and the latest weapons. Whether or not the government responds that way depends on how much popular support the group has. If the group’s Facebook page has 10 friends, then they’re going to Guantanamo. If their Facebook page has 1 billion friends then they’ll get a medal and a handshake from the president himself.
     How many friends they have on Facebook will depend on how spot on their declaration and other official documents represent the grievances of the people and offer acceptable solutions. If the documents sucks then they revolutionaries will get booed out of town and probably wind up in Guantanamo within the year. If the documents they serve to Capitol Hill are spot on and actually are actually feasible and the whole world has their back (or at least just the United States police and military [because one way or the other they’ll ultimately be the ones who decide the winner]). Then the people can present their demands to the president and sit down with him at a table and get him to sign the documents the people wrote up freely and willingly making the will of the people law.  If the revolutionaries get this far then the powers that be will likely try to low-ball a counter offer and keep counter-offering to give the people as little as they want. If that happens then that happens and we go on and our shitty lives will be just a little bit better. If the people stand firm on no negotiations and the tell the government what they want instead of asking then the world will have a damn good shot at becoming as enjoyable a place as it has the potential to be.
  • The Intentional Community Route
      At some point the unofficial, anonymous collectives of protesters that make up the Occupy movement may fall under one official banner with an official spokesperson who will relay official doctrine. If that banner falls from grace for any reason the entire movement could lose its steam and devolve back into total anarchy (or worse, fractured anarchy). If that happens there will still be a lot of people willing to keep on keeping on with the protest, but they’ll have less resources to do it with. So they may have to compromise protesting on Wall Street with protesting on the fringes of cities where the authorities apparently want them anyway.
     This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing because you can camp in the country longer and easier than you can camp in the city. The larger Occupy protests already operate like giant camp grounds, refugee camps and/or homeless shelters. The most successful camps are evolving into intentional communities already. They’ve proven that a large group of people can come together and live with a purpose according to their own rules in one place. You could very well just uproot those camps and place them in another place like a field or on an island. If you let those communities grow there then you can grow a new form of city that addresses the needs of the people without having to ask the government’s permission. If these camp grounds grow into self-sufficient cities then the old system can collapse in its due course. Then the new cities can just pick up the pieces and move on without ever having directly confronted the people who caused the problems.
   This scenario sounds pessimistic now, but you have to ask yourself, what will the protesters do if protesting really doesn’t work? If the people become any more disillusioned with the hopelessness of effecting change in America we might see a significant shift in public attention towards camping outside the jurisdictional of America altogether. Whether or not the Wall Street protesters succeed or fail there’s a good chance the discussions they’re bringing to the public’s awareness will result in an increased interest in sea steading as a viable alternative to the current lifestyle options available in a suburban police state. That’s basically how America was founded in the first place. The people didn’t like or didn’t have any opportunities in the country they were born in. So they left and started a new one. It’s unlikely, but there is a precedent, and you can do it on the cheap now.
  • The Wall Street Route
     What do you call 2000 people organized into compartmentalized spaces? If they don’t have anything to do then you call them a mob. If they don’t want to be there you call them prisoners. If they’re making money you call them a business.
     The protesters are protesting how inhumanely big businesses treat people and how much influence they have in politics. From one point of view, stating the problem states the solution. Start a big business. Take all those unemployed protesters and give them a job making an ambitiously diverse range of products under one organization umbrella. Then people will have good secure jobs, and if the protester’s business grows big enough they can just buy out representation in the government, which is the current  standard operating procedure anyway.
    At any rate, if the protesters want to stay in Zuccotti park indefinitely they’re going to need an indefinite amount of money to buy food, water and toilet paper. Donations aren’t going to last forever, and even if they do rely solely on donations they’re going to need to build a business model around that anyway. It’s logical to the point of inevitability that the Occupy movement will generate businesses. A couple from New Jersey already applied to copyright the term “Occupy Wall Street.” They’re going to make money off of it and probably hire sweatshop labor to do all the work while they keep the profits and buy a new sports car with is.
     Why wouldn’t the wall street protesters themselves start their own business and share the wealth with the workers? Their tents are already like office cubicles lined up around a kitchen. Put down the drums and the hacky sack and get to work building and selling drums and hacky sacks and bumper stickers and books. When your business outgrows your tent space you can buy your own property and redesign society around a solid, professional, human business model that got started on the streets, and eventually the Occupy Wall Street business can make clumsily-veiled campaign contributions to politicians in return for political favors and woo/inundate them with professional lobbyists who will whisper the expectations of the people in their politicians’ ears at a strip clubs while slipping them envelopes full of cash.
     MTV is already planning on capitalizing on the mass group of creative people and potential consumers massing together in Zuccotti Park. The more profit-generating businesses that spring out of the Occupy protests the less surprised I’ll be. Some of them might even grow big enough to get listed as blue chip stock on Wall Street some day.
  • The Literary Renaissance Route 
     Americans may watch stupid television, but they invented the internet, and they young generation was raised in the information age. From one point of view, the Occupy movement has already succeeded at getting people talking about the problems in the world and offering arm chair solutions. If this communication ever stops as the mob waits for a leader to speak then the movement will cease to exist. As long as people keep talking, keep bouncing their ideas off of each other and keep refining them then the movement will stay alive without a central leader. That might not be so bad, and it might not be permanent. Point in fact, it might be a good thing if we continue the ideation phase a while longer so we don’t jump the gun.
     For some time the Occupy movement may take the form of a literary/artistic  renaissance. MTV is making that reality show about it that’s sure to suck. Well, there’s thousands of artists, unemployed workers with big dreams and rich kids with video cameras sitting around together acting like they have nothing to do but play the drums. They could be making their own movies. They should be organizing all the ideas being expressed on cardboard signs into a concise manifesto. Then shy should project the themes of the manifesto into a series of gripping action/romance novels. This way, if no leadership ever shows up, at least the ideas will remain to inspire the leaders who will finally take the movement to the next level even in that’s 30 years from now.
     Either way, the more you know the more you grow. If a literary renaissance can simply inspire people to start living differently there might not be any need to bend politicians arms. We might all just become better people and start listening to each other and doing the right thing because it’s reasonable. Granted, earlier this week the Oakland police shot civilians with rubber bullets and gassed them for standing in the wrong place. So it might not sound reasonable to suggest that we can all get along, but we haven’t experienced a literary renaissance yet. Renaissance periods have a proven track record of improving the world, and you could argue that this movement is already the product of the a literary renaissance that is the product of the invention of the internet.
     Human knowledge is doubling at an exponential rate. If we can just keep from blowing ourselves up until 2015 we’ll all be downloading Kung Fu and doctorate degrees in philosophy into our brains like Neo. And if we actually make a concentrated, popular effort to participate in a literary renaissance then we can create one, and then we can reap the rewards. We just need a whole bunch of creative people to get together at the same place at the same time with nothing else to do but sit around at talk about ideas and write them down and pass them onto people with other skills who can promote, sell and modify those products.

However you felt about this post, you’ll probably feel the same way about these:

Police and the Law

Occupy Wall Street

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