Monday Nov 07 2011
A Word to the Wise: A view from this side of the Occupy movement
By: Tom Rupp, Special to the Telegraph
Perhaps like me you have watched the events of the recent weeks with some curiosity as groups of people “occupy” their cities in protest of ... well, something, or a growing list of somethings. The question in my mind concerns the reason for these protests. When a movement of social change is concise and focused it seems to exert a more powerful presence, something like when the rays of the sun are concentrated through a magnifying glass. In addition, when you can get enough people together to unify in a cause you can achieve amazing things, even if the individuals in themselves may feel insignificant. Look at a blizzard – each snowflake in itself is powerless, but if you get enough of them together you can stop an 18-wheeler. So we see news clips from all sorts of American cities as groups of protesters gather and sometimes camp out in the streets. It is a curiosity but is it yet a true grassroots movement of democratic revival? Without some clear focus it faces the danger of fizzling out in the service of too many causes. In the last issue of Rolling Stone Matt Taibbi remarked, “I think the movement’s basic strategy — to build members and stay in the fight, rather than tying itself to any particular set of principles — makes a lot of sense early on. But the time is rapidly approaching when the movement is going to have to offer concrete solutions.” I am again reminded of the groups of people who met every Saturday in 2003 to protest our military involvement in Iraq. That is, they met — for a while. And then the protests ceased and everyone seemed to resume their individual pursuits, while the death toll mounted and still rises. Often change, true social change, occurs on a slower and more imperceptible level. That is not glamorous but it can be more effective. Surely the financial inequities that have given rise to some protests deserve attention. But I wonder if our current American culture has the attention span and commitment to something greater than itself to lift the “occupy” movement out of the level of a mere fad. Time will tell. Time has a way of wearing people down to a comfortable conformity. This time it may be different. I hope so. I hope God gives us the heart of our convictions and the backbone of our principles. Tom Rupp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.