Why I’m not sure if we need another big protest like Occupy Wall Street

I think it’s great that the Occupy Wall Street protests got people out on the streets talking, commiserating and networking. It woke a lot of people up to the flaws of our political and economic systems. I wouldn’t take back what’s been done, but I’m concerned about a few trends.

First and foremost is police brutality. Police brutality is wrong, but if you know the police are going to beat you up every time you do something then if you keep doing that thing then at some point you’re just asking for the police to beat you up. This doesn’t just hurt you. The more you get beat up the angrier the nation is going to get on your behalf (or at you). If you keep doing the same thing over and over again that keeps making the nation angrier and angrier then at some point you’re just poking a bear with a stick. Regardless of who’s right or wrong that’s not going to end well for anyone.

From this point on, if you’re going to go out of your way to get beat up by the cops then at least don’t act surprised and horrified when it happens. Own it and use it to raise the point soberly that cops shouldn’t be beating people up.

Before you go out of your way to make a martyr of yourself though, you have to seriously consider that the Internet has already taught every disgruntled young men’s club that they can dress in black and cause mayhem at big protests. Even activists suspect that law enforcement agencies pose as black bloc instigators to undermine protests so that the only impact protests will ever have on the public consciousness is to prove that protesters are all a bunch of maniacal hooligans. If you know your protest is going to get undermined and you protest anyway then all you’re really doing is setting up a roadblock to progress.

And you know covert hooligans are going to be able to do trash your protest and get away with it because they’ll just blend in with all the homeless people you  know will show up to any long term urban camping facility where there’s free food. In all seriousness, and any social worker can back me up on this, the more homeless people you take into your camp the more likely you are to take in people with serious mental issues. Ironically, the issue of homelessness is one of the most important topics that should be discussed at a social activism meeting, but there’s a reason why there weren’t any drunk, homeless schizophrenics present when the Bill of Rights was written.

The Occupy Wall Street protests taught us that big groups of people in tents can solve real world problems if they stick together long enough and stay focused. It also taught us that it’s hard to get work done if those tents are in the middle of a Burning Man themed homeless shelter surrounded by the National Guard.

We also learned that life goes on. Time is of the essence, but patience is a virtue. Fixing all the biggest problems in the world isn’t something that’s realistically going to happen over the course of a single Ren Fair. Every time human rights have progressed it has happened because a bunch of people sat down together and thought really hard and found the right words to express what they had to say. Then they formulated an argument to back up their proposition. Then they voted.  Then they acted.

That can be done in any tent anywhere. We’d all like to show our dedication to a good cause, but it’s just not realistic to ask everyone to  uproot their lives to go sit in a tent in a strange city until the party fizzles out. But just about anyone can get a permit to set up a ring of tents at a local public park every other weekend for a working luau.

At this point in the game we need to be identifying solutions to problems, not raising awareness of them. Before the Tea Party, the Rally to Restore Sanity, the Occupy Wall Street protests and all America’s shooting sprees it could have been argued that people needed a big event to wake them up. Well, everyone is awake now. We’re just not doing anything about it because we’re  too shocked to stop watching the train wreck happening in front of us, and we feel powerless to stop it anyway.

The way to stop the train wreck is for us to sit down and talk with our neighbors soberly about practical, positive solutions. Then we can get up and make the changes we’ve been praying and begging and waiting for. We don’t have to throw rocks or bottles at anyone to do that. We don’t have to kill any grass. We don’t have to pee in a bucket or take time off work to get there. All we have to do is find a place where’s it’s okay to put up a tent and talk to other people. We can even keep moving the tent until we’ve solved all the problems that motivated us to leave the house in the first place.

If we wanted to gather in a gigantic crowd somewhere we should be gathering in cyber space. You’d have a better chance of organizing thousands of people using a social networking iPhone app than a mic check.

I want to see the world get better without anyone having to get hit in the head by the police, and I don’t think that’s necessary anyway. I think if we thought about it hard enough we could come up with a way to make the world a better place without putting police in that position to begin with. All we have to do is…talk about those problems without putting the police in that position.

If we absolutely must have another massive, long term urban protest, I suggest the organizers check with the Rotary ClubKiwanisLions Club or the Girl Scouts first. They know how to organize productive, orderly conferences that can raise money and direct resources to legitimate charities and humanitarian organizations. They could teach a drum circle a thing or two.

I do hope the Occupy movement finds productive, nonviolent  solutions to the public’s grievances. All I’m trying to say is that if we do keep having massive protests and they just seem to make things worse every time… just remember that it’s been pointed out that there are other options on the table besides playing Red Rover with the police.

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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