It seems that the Occupy Movement has slipped away forever from the media minds that scantily covered them at all in the first place. Fewer and fewer people even ask me about what we have been up to, or have questions concerning it anymore. In all honesty, I would rather have the non-believers of Occupy ask me questions like “What message are you trying to convey”, or, “What are your demands?” than to fall silent and accept some kind of permanent defeat.
Author Chris Hedges wrote a controversial article for Truth-Out last month called “Black Bloc: The Cancer in Occupy.” The article focuses on the Black Bloc side of the movement based upon a police/protester encounter that resulted in property damage in Oakland and criticizes the acts of violence and destruction as undermining the movement on a whole. I agree with his view to an extent and I can certainly understand why some, who at one time supported Hedges, now see him as delivering a black-eye to all the work they have done to spark activism in people who may never have thought of themselves as activists, or thought they could be active within such a movement. But throwing stones (no pun intended) at someone who understands the art of nonviolent resistance is in no way productive. I clearly see what Hedges was trying to say, but I believe all the push-back is from what he didn’t say.
When writing an article so full of criticism toward one specific sect, backlash is inevitable. Had Hedges offered a solution to the interface, or at least acknowledged that he didn’t fully research and understand Black Bloc, maybe the critiques of his article and of him would have been a bit softer. Like other great movements in history, there will be opposition and that is healthy for those who hunger for the grand picture. But in order for a viable resolution to come to fruition, a logical approach must be considered along with a hint of finesse.
If there is one thing I have learned about activism, a little finesse can go a long way. I’m not talking about a used car salesman mentality (no offense to any used car salesmen who might be reading this, but you understand what I mean). Rather, I am talking about presenting facts in a way that’s genuine and doesn’t scare off an inquiring mind. Most people don’t like to step out of their comfort zones, so when they do out of thirst for knowledge, the worst thing an activist can do is freak them out. I think it is pretty safe to say that most people know the mainstream corporate media is stained, bias and speaks in half-truths, so any well-documented research is greatly appreciated on their part.
And let’s face it, there will always be those groups or individuals who try to shut down brilliant minds because they themselves are deeply rooted in their own life-learned ignorance. Trying to get people to question their own dogmas and doctrines is a feudal battle indeed. I have tried desperately to help explain what the base of the Occupy Movement is about. But still, mud had been slung and doubt had been cast. I have heard everything from “You need to occupy a job” to “You anarchists will never change anything.” We give them educated answers, but that doesn’t seem good enough. And one by one, they walk away shaking their heads and we walk away banging our heads.
But what if there was an easy answer? What if there was something we all could do united as a common people? What if there was a solution out there that would actually work?
Since the Occupy movement focuses most of its vision on removing corporations from government and ending greed and oppression brought on by the CEOs who control them, the spotlight should be placed there. Let’s take a look at the very basic purpose of a corporation–forgetting for a minute your own personal views on capitalism and the monetary system. Corporations exist for one reason: To make a profit. But what if their profits suddenly cease? Would they be forced to make a change for the better to regain revenue? Maybe they would think twice about importing goods from child labor endorsed factories in third world countries if we demanded they stop this business practice. Or maybe if we demanded fast food joints to not use factory farmed meat products. Think it can’t happen? Think again.
Take this very plausible scenario: If everyone in the United States boycotted McDonald’s for one day (or at least ¾ of the population) because their food is low quality and processed with harmful additives, the company would lose millions if not billions of dollars. Now say this boycott went on for a week; maybe even a month. What if we, the consumers, demanded the cost stay down and the quality rise? Do you think McDonald’s would make some concessions to bring back its clientele?
Now the doubters are saying, “This is preposterous, the investors and stock holders will lose too much money if the quality goes up but the cost stays the same.” I don’t believe McDonald’s would say no when their seats lay empty and their drive-thrus vacant.
Now apply this same logic to the big banks. Bank Transfer Day was a huge success back in November and caused the big bailed-out banks to lose a lot of cash. But what if everyone else would boycott Bank of America and move their money to a credit union or a locally based bank? Maybe Bank of America would stop overdraw and ATM fees (unfortunately not foreclosures because they are in a different realm due to T.A.R.P. reimbursing the bank, giving incentive to foreclose in the first place) and other unethical business practices such as predatory lending.
Now, I know I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I understand very well that America is a nation built on convenience and breaking those habits will take a load of effort and education on our part, but we can do it. I am also aware that most of us involved in Occupy already boycott McDonald’s and Bank of America and many other horrible corporations; but there are other steps we need to take as well. We also need to break ourselves away from the convenience cycle that we don’t all want to admit we are in.
As many of you know (those who are familiar with me on a personal level), I live a very simple life. I have learned through my journey on this planet that less truly is more. I adopted this lifestyle well before my foreclosure process began, and I have embraced it with all my might. I have no debt (besides the mortgage I refuse to pay due to the bank’s inability to produce the original bank-note, but that is another article in itself!). If I don’t have the means to purchase something, I don’t buy it. I don’t need the newest iPhone and my kids don’t need three different video game systems. I don’t claim to have all the answers and I probably come off as self-righteous, but I really believe we can make a huge difference by introducing simplicity to the everyday consumer in America and do it totally non-violently and in a way that would be pleasing to their wallets and minds.
Here are some ideas to start: First, the public has to understand that they have such great individual power. Most people I talk to in the streets say the same thing, “But I’m just one person, what influence do I have?” I always tell them that they have more power and influence then they could ever imagine. If everyone knew their potential to change the world, I believe more people would be active. This process can begin with introducing the idea of less and the peace of mind that comes along with it.
Some great ideas to present is to buy local and not corporate. This might cost a bit more, but the end results will be beneficial to the community on a whole. Buy produce from farmers markets and not supermarkets, get your aspirin and diapers at the local mom and pop pharmacy (if there are any left in your area), get your morning coffee at a local cafe and not a Starbucks. Avoid big slave-labor endorsed mega-stores like Wal-Mart and visit your local thrift store. Not convenient enough in today’s society when mom and dad have to work and kids have sports to play after school? Make the time. It really isn’t as difficult as some may think.
What about a scheduled calendar list of corporations to boycott? If Occupy advertised specific days and/or weeks of boycotts, I believe this will be the dawn of the new era of bringing those greedy bastards down to their knees. So talk to your neighbors. Talk to your family and friends. Get them excited about the change ahead. Tell them they hold the power and let’s altogether bring on the next phase of Occupy, and in turn, create a new and better world.
Andrea Egizi is an anti-war activist involved in the organization of Occupy Atlantic City.