By Joshua Sager
Mahatma Gandhi observed a sequence of events at the time of his non-violent protest movement that seem to be occurring with the occupations. Gandhi used nonviolent marches and hunger strikes in order to achieve social/political change in India. The entire purpose of a march is to have a noticeable and physical sign of support in order to express a point of view; an occupation is simply an extension of this tactic over a longer period of time. The occupations are marches in slow motion, where people live in symbolic locations in order to express a point rather than using short term marches. Due to the similarities between the occupiers’ nonviolent tactics and Gandhi’s, the sequence of responses to the occupations parallels that of what Gandhi observed during his movement. - “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”
“First they ignore you…”
When the Occupy movement was in its infancy, the mainstream media simply didn’t cover it. Regardless of the reason for the lack of coverage, vast portions of the media either briefly mentioned the occupations as a curiosity or completely ignored them. National media only began significant coverage of the occupations when arrests and police violence on Wall Street reached a level that was impossible to ignore. At this point, the sheer size, novelty and influence of the “Occupy” movement has largely overcome the media block, receiving coverage in most major media outlets on a regular basis.
“…then they laugh at you…”
One only needs to look at the comments of media and political figures in order to see the attempts to write the occupations off as a joke. Accusing the occupiers of being “nutty” (Karl Rove), a group of hippies (Rush Limbaugh), dirty and unwashed (Newt Gingrich) or young suburban anarchists (FOX News) are just a few of the attacks on the legitimacy of the occupations as a serious movement. The occupations are diverse, not composed entirely of hippies, anarchists, or young suburbanites; I would also point out that these same people didn’t refer to the Tea Partiers as nuts when the wear colonial costumes. In addition to the character attacks on the occupiers, numerous news sources have stated that nobody knows what the occupiers want; a statement that is disingenuous. While a set of demands has yet to be given to the public, the occupiers have expressed clear grievances with corruption, and inequality inside of our government.
By laughing at the occupiers, politicians such as Representative Peter King (R-NY) - who called occupiers “losers” - hope to mitigate the impact of the movement’s message. With the “Occupy movement”, it is far easier to attack the messenger then the message. The ideas of fair taxation, peace, and democracy of the people rather than the rich are not easy ideas to fight, as they have vast bases of support. If those who want to fight the occupier’s message are to succeed, it can only be through discrediting the occupiers, rather than arguing in favor of war, corporate monarchy, and protecting the rich.
“…then they fight you…”
The next type of opposition predicted by Gandhi is aggression. The occupations have reached the point where they have media exposure and, if public opinion polls are to be believed, people are beginning to support them. Fox News’s own opinion poll concluded that just under 70% of their respondents support the protester’ views, an amazing number considering the source. One can also look at the sheer numbers of people showing up to “Occupy” rallies across the country to gauge the increases in support for the protests. over 37,000 people showed up for the recent day of action in NYC, a precipitous rise in support from the earlier protests.
Occupations in cities across the country have experienced violent police actions intended to break them up. While nobody has been killed, tear gas, batons, and even crowd control grenades have caused severe injuries to occupiers while they are expressing their first amendment rights. Violent opposition to the occupiers, coupled with their ardent posture of non-violent resistance, has only led to increased media exposure and support for the occupations. As with past protests, violence against the protesters only serves to motivate them further and galvanize others.
“…then you win.”
While Boston’s occupiers have yet to make any concrete demands, the political narrative has begun to change. Politicians have begun to talk about income inequality, fairness of taxation, and political corruption rather than just budget cutting. While the change in topics is only a small start, it is an important one, and one that is necessary for actual change when going into the 2012 elections. For real change to happen, the politicians must first be focused upon the issue
Gandhi’s words predict that if only they stay the course, the occupations will achieve the change that they desire; proving yet again that nonviolent resistance can change not only the hearts and minds of the people, but the government itself.
DISCLAIMER: I do not attempt to be polite or partisan in my articles, merely truthful. If you are a partisan and believe that the letter after the name of a politician is more important then their policies, I suggest that you stop reading and leave this site immediately--there is nothing here for you.
Modern American politics are corrupt, hyper-partisan, and gridlocked, yet the mainstream media has failed to cover this as anything but politics as usual. This blog allows me to post my views, analysis and criticisms which are too confrontational for posting in mainstream outlets.
I am your host, Josh Sager--a progressive activist, political writer and occupier--and I welcome you to SarcasticLiberal.blogspot.com