Is Occupy Wall Street "Doing It Rong"?

Crommunist argues no, challenging the historical validity of oft-heard memes how successful protest movements are “supposed to” work:

“The Occupy people don’t have a plan! All successful protest movements have clear goals and plans that are defined before the protest starts!”

I suppose the second statement there is pure implication from the first. The truth, however, is something quite different. The important thing to remember about the civil rights movement is that it started as something quite diffuse, as a reaction to several problems that all overlapped. Certainly voting rights and housing were part of the civil rights struggle, but they were not established as “the goals” at any point.

While the establishment of the Fair Housing Act and the Civil Rights Act were significant milestones, nobody at the beginning of the movement was pushing for federal legislation. It would be far more accurate to state that they were fighting a number of small battles over individual injustices that were linked by a common theme of anti-black racism. It’s hard to imagine that Rosa Parks was pulled from a bus shouting recriminations of the Southern Democrats and white flight from the suburbs of Detroit.

Similarly, the Occupy movement objects to the general state of affairs, and is using its platform to fight individual battles rather than laying out precisely what will make them happy. It is also worth noting that the civil rights movement never really ended. It’s not as though when the ink dried on the Voting Rights Act that Dr. King dusted his hands and said “Good! Dream achieved! Let’s go get funnel cake!” Revolution is a long process, and to imagine that a movement like Occupy will, after only 2 months, have an “end goal” is a ridiculous expectation.

“They should just occupy a voting booth! After all, there’s nothing wrong with the current state of the democratic system!”

I don’t know what kind of person looks at a group protesting corruption in government and says “this problem can be solved by voting”. I hope that kind of person doesn’t practice medicine, or they’re likely to look at a gangrenous wound and prescribe a band-aid and some strong peroxide. The political system is the problem – candidates on both sides of the aisle are beholden to large money donations, and spend more time campaigning than legislating. As a result, we see debates over issues that are volatile but not relevant to the long-term health of the country, since neither side can afford to rock the boat too hard.

Read More.

And while you’re there read about the frustration he feels when religious believers offer to “agree to disagree” with him. I thought I was the only one who was irked by this phrase. He articulates my own thoughts on the phrase as I never had.

He’s on a roll today.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Crommunist

    It’s a delicious Kaiser roll.

    Thanks for the link love!

  • Francisco Bacopa

    I don’t think people who haven’t been to any Occupy General Assemblies, workgroups, or direct actions have any business complaining.

    If you sympathize with the goals but don’t like how Occupy runs, get to Assembly and join a workgroup. Just about any individual can shape Occupy about as much as any other. Effort brings influence and almost all are welcome. Except those scum from Occupy the Fed who stole an Occupy Huston lap top.

  • lordshipmayhem

    Most of the protesters at the Occupy Toronto movement didn’t have a fargin’ clue what the hell they were protesting, aside from “it’s all the fault of The Man!” What they wanted to accomplish? To complain loudly that it was the fault of The Man!. By that metric, they succeeded.

    As I predicted, the protests are fizzling out without having changed anything. They did NOT have quantifiable, measurable metrics to compare the actual results against to determine if they won, and as a result, the protests have failed.

    Some protests have easily quantifiable results: registering voters, integrating school systems, getting your country out of an unjust foreign war, like Vietnam, or stopping the sale of alcohol. You’ve won when you’ve registered some percentage of voters, like 90%. You’ve won when there’s no longer a concept of “black” or “white” schools, let alone school systems. You’ve won when the last American troops have left Vietnam. You’ve won when you’ve convinced the country to vote in the Eighteenth Amendment – you then lose again when the country votes in the Twenty-First Amendment, but hopefully by then you’ve realized just how stupid an idea the Eighteenth Amendment was anyway.

    But Occupy? Occupy Wall Street had some, but as soon as it bounced off-message, it began to falter. If it had stuck to a few changes, like restoring the banking regulations to what they’d been in the 1970′s, they might have won something important.

    • Crommunist

      It’s fairly clear from your response that you didn’t actually READ what was written, but felt qualified to offer your opinion on it anyway. You could have saved us all a lot of time by simply writing “TL/DR”.


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