It’s Time to See if the 99% Are Really on Your Side; Give Them a Christmas Present: The Electoral Reform Act of 2012!
If there could be unanimous agreement among all the Occupy Wall Street groups that the next phase of the movement should be a general strike, could they pull it off? Not yet, I’m afraid. Not unless they can figure out how to get the backing of the remaining 99%; because general strikes are supposed to include everyone. And while it’s true that the rest of the 99% are in the same financial boat, they haven’t started rowing in unison with the OWS movement yet. That’s because many of the 99% are confused by the movement. They’re waiting for a demand they can rally behind. On the other hand, they’re not at all confused by their financial reality! So what wrong with this picture?
If the OWS movement really represents the 99%, then they should throw the rest of them a bone. How about the Electoral Reform Act of 2012 tied up with a Christmas ribbon–a one-day General Strike “to show we can.”
Even if OWS protestors aren’t unanimously in favor of the act, it’s a foregone conclusion that many of the rest of the 99% are! because it affects them. Remember, OWS protestors might be among the 99%, and they might feel like they represent the 99%, but in actual numbers they’re only a tiny sliver. They’re probably a fraction of a penny on the dollar. The OWS movement has succeeded spectacularly in pointing to the problem, like good bird dogs—–even though everyone already knew what the problem was. But they haven’t succeeded in firing up the remaining 99% who are sitting at home watching the OWS movement on their televisions. They’re watching the parade but they aren’t joining it. That’s because they’re waiting for an organizing principle around which to organize. And so far, the OWS movement has been too nebulous to give them that.
But if the OWS will throw the remaining 99% a bone—–or should we call it a Christmas present in the form of the Electoral Reform Act of 2012—–they’ll have a reason to join. They’ll have a goal. It may not be in their nature to join protesters on the front lines of a demonstration, but they can damn sure call in sick one day if the OWS movement calls for a general strike! And if the Electoral Reform Act doesn’t pass, the next phase should be a general strike.
OK, what if OWS groups call for a general strike and it doesn’t happen? The answer is simple. That means that the OWS movement failed to inspire the remaining 99% to get up off their couches and join the movement. But let’s think about that. The vast majority of the 99% hasn’t participated in the movement anyway. For one reason or another they haven’t been motivated to do so. But dangle the carrot of the Electoral Reform Act of 2012 in front of their noses and they’ll have a reason to act. They’re just waiting for OWS groups to give them an issue to rally behind. They’re hungry and waiting for someone to ring the dinner bell. But no one’s ringing it. Make the Electoral Reform Act a demand and it will be like ringing the dinner bell.
The OWS movement has managed to build up momentum that’s just an inch shy of miraculous. It’s truly a global movement now. And since it started in America, people from around the globe are looking to American OWS protestors as role models. If the OWS movement doesn’t want electoral reform here in their own country, maybe many of the countries around the world need it more than OWS protestors need it. If the OWS movement can’t or won’t make it a demand for their fellow 99%ers in America, then they should do it for the rest of the world, many of whom need it far more than Americans do, because they’re struggling even harder to survive.
I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to think that the average OWS protestor must be a wealthy kid with a trust fund, because they don’t seem to be very hungry. They act like they can get by without taking stronger action. They may have a goal, but they don’t seem to want it badly enough.
And I think the OWS movement is making another bad mistake. They seem to think that the momentum of the movement has peaked. But I disagree. It’s only peaked as far as their current strategy is concerned. Change the strategy now, to demanding Electoral Reform and then to a general strike if that doesn’t pass, and I think the movement will not only regain the momentum it lost, but pick up new momentum that could be even more spectacular!
If OWS protesters don’t believe this, then I think they may have lost faith in their own movement, or at least in their ability to reach a consensus. Ambivalence is not a very good word for defining a movement.<
The OWS movement has a golden opportunity to make world history. But they should remember that history is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Time is rushing by. And I have a terrible feeling that the OWS movement is squandering their chance to make a really huge impact. The rest of the 99% are waiting for your signal. You have them mesmerized, but also a little paralyzed. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know what actions to take. Dangle the Electoral Reform Act of 2012 in front of their noses and they’ll know exactly what to do! Build up their hopes for that, and if they don’t get it they’ll be primed for a general strike.
I know the OWS movement is just trying to build consensus. And that’s admirable. But because it’s going so slow, it looks to the world like timidity and lack of resolve. And those two things are movement killers.
One day this movement will be yesterday’s news. So reflect well on the words of John Greenleaf Whittier, who wrote: For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been!”