Like a lot of people, I see the Occupy movement growing and naturally morphing into a more powerful entity, and I hope that their tactical choices nationwide will allow for a more powerful base, while still maintaining popular support.
That doesn’t always happen, as seen in Social Movements and Strategic Nonviolence, an opinion by G. William Domhoff, Research Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. It’s a well sourced article based on lots of research and recent history, focusing mostly on the long-term negative effects that violent episodes and destruction of property cause, and the ultimate damage they do to popular support.
A lack of patience shown by those in the trenches, and an inability to see the big picture have failed some of the strongest movements, and are probably, at this point, a necessary consideration for Occupiers. Of course, there are varying opinions, but this one seems like a strong overview. It was written in 2005 before biased thoughts for or against the movement were possible.
A resolute and consistent peaceful effort will undoubtedly be more successful and more likely with popular support and an appreciation of the challenges of resistance Occupiers are facing, both inward and outward.
In a more recent opinion, activist and author Rebecca Solnit wrote Throwing Out the Master’s Tools and Building a Better House: Thoughts on the Importance of Nonviolence in the Occupy Revolution – a great article from beginning to end. In explaining her lack of tolerance for less than nonviolent activity, she speaks from experience differentiating between types of property destruction:
So when episodes of violence break out as part of our side in a demonstration, an uprising, a movement, I think of it as a sabotage, a corruption, a coercion, a misunderstanding, or a mistake, whether it’s a paid infiltrator or a clueless dude. Here I want to be clear that property damage is not necessarily violence. The firefighter breaks the door to get the people out of the building. But the husband breaks the dishes to demonstrate to his wife that he can and may also break her. It’s violence displaced onto the inanimate as a threat to the animate.
Quietly eradicating experimental GMO crops or pulling up mining claim stakes is generally like the firefighter. Breaking windows during a big demonstration is more like the husband. I saw the windows of a Starbucks and a Niketown broken in downtown Seattle after nonviolent direct action had shut the central city and the World Trade Organization ministerial down. I saw scared-looking workers and knew that the CEOs and shareholders were not going to face that turbulence and they sure were not going to be the ones to clean it up. Economically it meant nothing to them.
Solnit, a contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine, concludes her article, which has been reprinted in countless publications, with this observation and request: “The powerful and effective movements of the past sixty years have used the strategy of people power. It works. It changes the world. It’s changing the world now. Join us. Or don’t join us. But please don’t try to have it both ways.”
The Occupy movement is still young, diverse, inclusive and unfolding into what we all hope will be a lasting and powerful voice for positive and moral changes to come. It will no doubt cross many of the bridges of movements past, and experience the inevitable trials inherent to struggles for liberty and justice throughout history.
In less than two months, they had already changed our national and political dialog with the support they garnered almost immediately. If we all just give them the benefit of the doubt, imagine what could be accomplished with a full complement of our support and encouragement.
I believe they will need more of our support every day – more praise and appreciation for the changes they’ve already brought about, more positive sharing and attention to their individual needs in our communities, more money donations, water, tents, blankets … whatever they need.
Phone calls to representatives and politicians, local, state and federal, with clear, insistent and unconditional demands for their support can make a big difference, and could sway or end the violent nature of the attacks against them. How they are treated during the coming holidays will reflect on us all. “The whole world is watching.”
Actually, it would help if they were on all our lists – the grocery list, the errands list, the to-do list, the gift list, as well as our wish lists. The Occupiers deserve the kind of support we show other Americans struggling with disasters. They’ve set out to peacefully absorb whatever unpleasantness comes their way, and they’re doing that for us. History is very clear about non-violent resistance. Its success rate in overcoming government overreach is undeniable. But it’s not for sissies – it takes great fortitude. They’re a peaceful blessing, earnest and unselfish, and we can all do something to help them.
Revolving around each other’s needs inclusively, providing for each other to provide for ourselves, that’s the revolution. Together, we can transform this early period, the “beginning of the beginning”, into the means for a peaceful recovery of the American values we cherish, and then pass them on to our children with reasonable expectations and the tools they need to guard against future abuses. Please join or adopt an Occupy group and help them as much as you can.
Pepper spray is not a vegetable.