A Message To Occupy: It’s Time To Move Forward
Occupy movements across Canada achieved great public attention and worked as the trigger for a paradigm shift. It is the Canadian chapter of a much required global wake up call. Occupy Canada has, through all its chapters and camps, successfully shaken the foundations of our status quo.
Last night, a vast majority of participants referred to the first week of Occupy Toronto as the highlight of the whole movement. And, I agree, it was the introduction to a new way of understanding ourselves and our relations with other human beings.
The beginning of Occupy Canada marked a rediscovery of our sense of humanity, too long denied. Prior to October 15, we were used to understanding each through social roles. How many of us have held meaningful conversations with homeless people prior to Occupy? How many of us have deeply debated political and social issues with people we barely knew? Where else would we have been able to join a physical circle of discussions with people we have never met, discussions on issues of poverty, homelessness, drug addition, living standards?
Reflecting now, honestly, it was not Occupy as a reified community that have allowed us to create a new sense of community. It was, mainly, before Occupy, that individuals did not bother engaging at the same level with other human beings. Thus, the lack of sense of community and outreach, the lack of sense of comradery between us, was not only systemic consequences brought about the 1%, it was you and I who just lack the courage to build these relationships on our own.
Occupy created the space, but, you and I created Occupy by being, and participating. There is no Occupy. Occupy is a brand. I do not mean this in a negative way. Not at all. I mean that the people are the force behind Occupy. You do not have to maintain a camp ground and tents to prove its existence.
The Occupy camps throughout the country, and even throughout the world, have already achieved a lot of public discussion. The word Occupy is still necessary to make the editorial agenda of the mainstream media. However, have we lost the understanding that it is not the idea of Occupy that drives people? Rather, it is the people, you and I, who drive the idea of Occupy forward.
There is much that needs to be openly and freely discussed about Occupy.
Here is what I consider shortcomings. Please do not ‘hate’ on these comments. I see them as true shortcomings that can be addressed and improved upon. These comments reflect my perspective within the context of a larger strategic social justice movement. I am not intent on ‘bashing’ Occupy, rather, I’m presenting a sober analysis based only from my own personal experiences.
1. Die hard Occupy organizers want to own Occupy, its Facebook page, twitter accounts, and sites. There is so much paranoia trying to own these accounts and limit access to the public, that actual participants are sometimes accused to be infiltrators or outright censored.
We could surely find a balance between public involvement and security. Media teams in Occupy have become the information authorities of everything that takes place throughout each movement. Women were physically attacked at the Occupy Toronto camp. Did their media team report on that as a method of ensuring issues of safety around camp?
Occupy Vancouver had some very nasty confrontations between members, some of whom have publicized alleged physical and death threats. Have you been to the original Occupy Vancouver Facebook page? People who advocated against violent tactics were verbally crucified! Has Occupy Vancouver media team ever reported on these in order to create and facilitate a safe discussion on these internal divisions? No. Media teams act as the very mainstream media outlets that we criticize by failing to be honest to the movement and themselves. There was a great deal of power reserved only for those who control the flow of information about Occupy camps. This needs to be addressed if Occupy is to be a truly transparent and honest movement.
But this is a movement of the people, not of organizers or media teams! People say “I am in the media team” as though the statement is supposed to attribute them with a particular sense of respect. But, Occupy is an idea. And, as I mentioned, it is not the idea which drives people towards social justice, it is the people who believe in social justice that move the Occupy Movement forward.
2. There is lack of solidarity resulting from the above mentioned ownership of Occupy. It seems that not everyone can act on behalf of Occupy for social change. In a leaderless movement, with dysfunctional general assemblies, who is to decide who can carry on actions under the banner of Occupy? Who does the reputation of Occupy really belong to? Who are the organizers, and, who are the people in charge of protecting the reputation and credibility of Occupy? Is there a sense of hierarchy here? Is there no sense of hypocrisy?
3. General assemblies and the consensus model have proven not only ineffective but also hindrances to actual steps towards change. General assemblies could have materialized down the road. They were not an essential component to our organization at first. There are a couple of factors relating to this:
- Meaningful democracy does not survive on voting alone. Look at our country now. A sustainable democracy requires an informed citizenry, not just voters. Democracy requires a politically and conceptually sophisticated citizenry engaged in the articulation of their own experiences within the context of social and political structures and relations.
- Votes in general assemblies, based on quick discussions on issues that people are not particularly familiar with, are void of meaning… especially so when not all perspectives have equal weight, or the chance to be elaborated upon.
- The consensus model, at this point, is void of all potential solutions. Imagine having a general assembly of people who are aware of the issues that are immediately affecting our lives through local, provincial, and federal policies. Identifying problem issues would not require constant voting and blocking.
- Not all participants, at any given general assembly, have the same social or political interests. I have proposed previously that, instead of holding general assemblies, it would have been more practical to organize based on issues that matter to people. For instance, holding general meetings on particular issues at particularly affected geographical areas: i.e. Neighbourhoods victimized by Rob Ford’s spending cuts.
- Also, as to the procedural aspects of the general assemblies, those I have participated in were too bureaucratic to be emancipating, let alone truly engaging.
4. Occupy groups desperately require a news/current events team rather than just a livestream media team. The focus so far seems to have been on promoting one’s movement through livestream as a reality show. Through this focus on the movement itself, Occupy Vancouver, and Occupy Toronto, have turned inwards on theeir own affairs alienating themselves from the important issues developing in thee world around them. News has been covered about what is happening at Occupy camps but seldom about the daily issues that arise… the daily issues that the public needs to be aware of.
The above has been our main focus. Occupy groups should be advocating for public engagement on current issues. This is why a group of us decided to start 404 System Error with a new focus and a new narrative. We are tired of ongoing verbal attacks and endless rants. We want to identity specific problems, and work on building strategic solutions, while advocating for new ways of making sense of important issues. We are not advocating for utopian solutions at the moment. We are working on building tools for participation leading to actions. Some of our proposals are narrow in scope, for we believe in the importance of thinking globally while acting locally.
We hope to work in collaboration with anyone who cares to identify social, economic, and political problems. We also wish to advocate more conceptualizations while applying all the human potential, creativity, and productive skills, to challenging the status quo and moving the Occupy movement forward.
We are not abandoning the global movement which Occupy Canada emerged from, nor the spirit of the Occupy camps. We are moving forward to collaborate and transcend current limitations and build on it. We are here to be helped, and to help. We are here to expose systemic hypocrisies, and, through this, create public discussions and our much needed paradigm shift.
Editor’s Note: Min Reyes is a journalist and student of historical materialism and dialectics. Presently, Min is fully committed to the global movement of human dignity against neo-liberalism. In addition to being a News Junkie Post contributor, Min can be found at her own blog, MinReyes.ca, and you can connect with her on Twitter @Min_Reyes.