Occupy Boston: Disorganized or Simply Complicated?
By Joshua Sager
When you hear about the Occupy Protests that have sprung up across many cities in the USA, you hear one common complaint: "They are disorganized and have no idea what they are protesting.". Speaking as a person who has observed the Occupy Boston protests for several weeks, I have observed that while the occupiers at Dewey Square don't yet have a defined set of demands or guiding issues, they are very organized.
The picture below is one that I took last week and points out the single best reason that the occupiers have yet been unable to define even a single demand. The current political and economic situations in the USA are simply so bad that nobody can agree upon which is the most important problem to fix. Imagine that your car starts to fall apart on the road; what do you fix first: The flat tires, the overheating engine, that rattling sound coming from under the hood, or the stuck parking break? As with the car analogy, our country is suffering from an unheard of number of problems: A corrupt and partisan legislature, an economic recession, record income disparity, record unemployment, and a suffering environment.
I ask, is it a problem that they cannot decide which issue to focus their numbers and resources upon, or is it a problem that the politicians in both parties are ignoring most of the vital problems plaguing this country in favor of empty, partisan bickering? Perhaps the best illustration of this problem is the recent fight over abortion rights in the House. Rather than discussing the policies that would help the country climb out of the economic crater we have landed in, the congress is spending time appeasing the anti-choice voters.
In addition to the sheer number of issues there are two more major reasons that the occupiers have yet to settle upon any demands or primary issues:
The Occupy Boston movement operates in a pure horizontal democracy, thus every decision is put to a vote; this takes much more time than when a professional activist hands a bunch of people signs and talking points. Ultimately, democracy takes time and the occupiers plan to operate in the way that they believe our political system has abandoned. In their minds, the occupation is organized in the moral way, rather than the expedient one. Due to the necessity of every action, even insignificant ones, to pass by consensus in the GA, the occupier‘ progress is far slower than if they were operated in a top down fashion.
The Occupy Boston movement is incredibly diverse. At any time, there can be Republicans, Anarchists, Democrats, Socialists, Libertarians and everybody in between engaging in honest discussion. The unusual range in ideologies and belief contained in the Occupy movement requires much more discussion and voting in order to be representative of their components.
In a partisan organization, most of the people involved have common characteristics that bind them into a single party (Ex. Republicans have “fiscal conservatism” as a unifying factor). As the opposite of a partisan political organization, the Occupy movement has a wide range of views and political ideologies, thus they have a huge need to debate and compromise. Groups such as the anarchists and libertarians, who in a partisan group would be unable to coexist, can find agreement on issues such as international interventionism. By removing the partisan labels and focusing purely upon vital issues, the occupiers are gradually formulating a cross-partisan series of common values and proposals intended to help everybody.
The Occupy Boston movement may be without a unified series of proposals, but this in no way makes it disorganized or without opinions. A better way of looking at the criticism of the Occupy Boston process is that they have far too many views and are using a highly organized and fair, albeit slow, methodology in order to determine their unified statement.