Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Occupying an Agenda

I have posted frequently about my excitement over the Occupy movement. The ‘uprising,’ if I may use such a term, is both a shift of consciousness and a call for grassroots action. I am proud of those who are creating micro communities on these sites and seeking an inclusive culture that allows for everyone present to feel involved and listened to. I am sorry that the mass media do not seem willing to give this aspect the attention it deserves.

Occupy SF

This is the crux of the movement. What mobilized people is the rising frustration that the vast majority of us are simple pawns in a game played with impunity by corrupt big business principles and a failed political system where those sent to Washington do not represent those who voted to send them (and those who didn’t), but rather represent those who paid for them to get voted in.

People need to feel listened to. They have a right to know that if they work hard, save for retirement, buy a house, and then they will receive a minimal social network. Their children will have a good education, their medical needs will be taken care of, law enforcement are there to protect them, and that they can retire with dignity. If you play by the rules and participate in the system, surely you have entitlement to basic human rights.

The rains are coming and it is unclear how the Occupy movement will cope with the coming winter. What most worries me is that, as far as I know, there is no strategic plan. It is unclear who is the leadership and we will revisit next week on this blog whether there should be an agenda.

Will people come out in the rain?

This past summer, ‘Tent Cities” were created in most major towns in Israel. There was a huge outpouring from a disenfranchised and disillusioned public (many of them under 40) with a myriad of social issues represented. Some were similar to here in the US, others more unique to Israel.

There are many similarities to Occupy. There was no recognized leadership because there was a desire not to exclude anyone and creating a power structure, however open and inclusive, runs the risk of marginalizing people. Furthermore, there was no central agenda, again because of a desire to promote different social injustices and issues, according to those who stepped up to join the Tent City. There were also clashes with police.

Israelis of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and religions came together for a summer.

When the summer ended, the groups slowly lost momentum. I am afraid that without a framework and platform, then it might not be able to sustain itself. I believe the Occupy system needs to decide one of two things:

i) To create an agenda – and they might do well to read Roger Ingall’s suggestions.

ii) Decide to create a leadership structure and strategic plan, or take the momentum into the Democratic Party.

More on this second aspect next Wednesday.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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4 thoughts on “Occupying an Agenda

  1. Interesting input from Ingall’s. In OccupyOakland, the issues also include police brutality and concerns about race. Nearly every Occupy movement posts its general assembly resolutions online, so anyone who says, “What are their demands?” hasn’t done much homework. Also, the word “demands” is inappropriate. Occupy is often asking for restoration of rights. What does Occupy want? A better life.

    Last night, I was talking to a friend who has lived in China for several years, and I asked her what coverage she was seeing on TV about Occupy. She said almost nothing. Her main news outlet is CNN, both CNN China and CNN USA. She sees a lot of coverage of Egypt, but her link to Occupy is through Facebook and reports from friends around the U.S.

    Alon, are your friends in Israel experiencing the same media black out? Are we all being kettled?

    • Great insight, Barbara Jean, especially the use of the word ‘demands’ (I am also guilty of this and will stop using the word. You are perfectly correct – it is the restoration of rights.

      I think there was more coverage in Israel and this might be, in part, that it is such a small country (7 million people – the land the size of New Jersey – I am told). Chances are, most people knew someone who was somehow involved. Here is a much smaller percentage involved. And yes, the US media is tightly controlling what aspects they are covering.

      I admit that I laughed when watching The Daily Show reporters find the most unique (I’m being diplomatic) participants, but The Daily Show is a comedy. When CNN and Fox use the same individuals, you have to wonder.

  2. Pingback: Creating Coalitions Pt. 1 « Left Coast Voices

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