Like everyone else, I find the Occupy Movement inspiring- sort of. Who doesn't thrill to the idea of the 99% rising up to protest the System that's turned them into wage slaves? How can you not admire people fighting back against those who are erasing all the gains we shed blood to make in the Twentieth Century? What's more historically amazing than people all over the world taking to the streets, mostly non-violently? It makes a '60s kid like me feel right at home.
I have two main problems when comparing Occupy with the mid-century's movements. First off, it isn't really clear who or what these folks are fighting, or whether “They” can even be reached. The Civil Rights struggle was pretty straightforward- end Jim Crow and other such discrimination. Ditto the Women's Movement. The early Environmental Movement had equally clear goals: stop dumping crap in our air and water; stop poisoning the land and People. Stopping the Viet Nam war was also a pretty clear goal. Who was responsible for each of these was obvious. The problems could be remedied by cultural change, laws and regulations. We could vote out the “bad guys” and replace them with more enlightened souls. None of this involved a major overhaul of The System. It was all a logical progression of the earlier gains in the Twentieth Century.
Today the “enemy” is a nebulous agglomeration of corporations. They hold our credit cards, our bank accounts, our pensions, and the bonds and Certificates of Deposit of our local governments. They manage our currency. They dictate trade and monetary policy. They aren't even human persons, but legal persons, with the sole ethic of power and profit. They own politicians and shamelessly biased media outlets. They fund fake grass roots operations like the Tea Party. Aside from some obvious names like the Koch Brothers, this oppressor wears no human face. They are not answerable to us- socially, morally or politically. They don't care what we think, because they make the rules, unchallenged. As long as we participate in their financial and mercantile system all our daily living only strengthens them, like a horde of possessing demons in a B-grade horror flick.
The second problem is that it really doesn't matter. In a very real sense, we're like kids squabbling over sand castles on the beach while a tsunami is coming. We've already felt the earthquakes that have launched it toward our beach. I've talked with long-time Civil Rights, Farm, Women's and other activists; Many are fighting despair because they see that what’s coming will erase every gain that they fought for over decades. Anyone who tells you that Climate Change and Peak Petroleum aren't about to radically change our entire civilization is: A) Lying to protect their own power, which is indescribably despicable; B) In ignorant, fearful Denial, which is pathetic and self-defeating.
What I'm saying is that Occupy, however noble and exciting, is a possibly fatal misdirection of energies. It's trying to fix a system that doesn't want to be fixed, which will be swept away in the next few decades no matter what we do. It's like standing outside in a storm, yelling at the wind and rain to stop, instead of going inside.
So, what IS “going inside?” It's going into our communities. It's becoming locally resilient and self-sufficient: not cut off and isolated, but acting out the truth that the days of resource-guzzling economic giantism has come and gone. It means getting involved, as we have, with Local Foods, the Transition Movement, Slow Money and the like. It means disconnecting from “Their” system, stopping feeding the monster which is devouring us. If Occupy leads to that kind of long-term action, it will be worthwhile; If not, it will just be a flailing about that feels good but signifies nothing.