Sunday, December 18, 2011

Today at Occupy Tucson: The Citizen Misses the Point

In which I respond to a  bit of tediously substandard journalism by Rai Goldin over at the Tucson Citizen about my most recent post.

Indeed, Occupy Tucson has had a really difficult time getting down to the work of overthrowing the status quo. It's been--what?--ten weeks?

Geez, give us some time here. We're trying to fundamentally change an entire system. Any decent community organizer knows that groundwork must be laid. Plans must be made. Organizations must be built. Easy enough to judge from the outside when the pace isn't quick enough. Easy enough to judge our lack of concrete progress when you don't consider the fact we're both trying to change the world and tend to its ailments at the same time. The Occupiers at Veinte de Agosto are radical humanitarians, caring for the hungry and the addicted and mentally ill who have found refuge among us. Imagine the resources we've devoted to the hard work of keeping other people alive; resources we could have been using to fight the system that put them in such dire straits to begin with. The irony of our situation at Veinte de Agosto is astonishing: we've been sidetracked by the symptoms of the very social illness we came here to cure.

Speaking of Occupy becoming sidetracked by internal issues: go ahead and dismiss public accountability for one's misbehavior as "he said/she said." Go ahead and demean the courage it takes for an Occupy insider to finally call out the damaging actions of a colleague, despite knowing it will be characterized by the mainstream media as a catfight. If anything, my action proves that Occupiers aren't insular and driven by dogma. There's plenty of room for alternate opinions in this movement, and the beauty of the "leaderless" part is that it allows for and encourages autonomous action. Which includes public disagreement about what constitutes good strategy and responsible community organizing.

The truth is that we aren't a leaderless movement; we're a movement of leaders. Go ahead and minimize that, too, with the "too many chefs in the kitchen" argument. But we Americans have let someone else do the cooking for far too long. We need to re-learn how to be citizen leaders. Occupy gives everyone this opportunity. And if doing so looks a little messy and disorganized, so be it. The drafting of the U.S. Constitution wasn't exaclty a smooth process either.

The process of consensus decision making--one of the core values of the Occupy movement--is an easy target for those who'd rather condemn than understand. To judge our horizontal structure--the direct democracy we're trying to model--through the lens of traditional representative democracy is to miss the point. We're trying to bring about a fundamental shift, and fundamental shifts take time.

How about a little support from our allies, especially those who wield the power of the media? Use your position more responsibly, Rai. If you really want us to succeed, give us better, in-depth, more truthful coverage. By which I don't mean you should stop criticizing the movement, because all movements rely on the accountability of a free and independent media. If the media were holding irresponsible hotdogs like Jon McLane publicly accountable rather than swallowing his stories without criticism, I wouldn't have had to do it myself.

How about this: you do your job better and we'll do ours better. I'm guessing that the resulting accountability and creative tension will bring about swifter economic justice for us all.

1 comment:

  1. Well done post. I too saw that ignorant post by Rai and I'm glad to see your well-worded, thoughtful response.

    You might enjoy my take on the success of Occupy:



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