What Occupy Is and Is Not

"What we call a poem is mostly what is not there on the page." -Harold Bloom

I can not speak for the global Occupy movement, but I think we here in the US have done a poor job of representing ourselves. We are not professional media spinners, and it is unfair to judge this movement by what is shown on the television news stations. Even those sympathetic to our cause, such as the John Stewart Show or the Colbert Report, while often painting Occupy Wall Street in favorable light, have been unable to avoid widespread misconceptions.

Please allow me a few words to a attempt a more clear painting of what Occupy is and is not.

First, our movement is radically inclusive. There are many supporters from the right, center and left of the political spectrum. We have many Tea Party-ers who are unhappy with how that movement has developed. We have many Ron Paul supporters who do not believe he has been treated fairly by the Republican party. We have Veterans concerned about healthcare, and Green party supporters concerned about environmental issues and genetically-modified foods. And yes, there are some students, hippies, and anarchists; some homeless people looking for a handout, and soccer moms looking for a cause.

But Occupy does not support any particular political party. Instead this movement has focused on the things that bring people together. The Occupy protesters have latched on to the "99%" moniker because it is a statistical number that appears very infrequently. The US's two party system focuses, both in the media and in Washington DC, on issues which divide the populace into two halves. The media only covers controversial issues and pollsters only measure the divisions.

For instance, you will never see Occupy approach the issue of abortion. It is too derisive. Rather than championing one side, the huge innovation of the Occupy movement is its focus only on issues which unite people. We care most about people and care what most people support.

Rather than asking if government regulation should be increased, a complicated issue on which many people have different opinions, the Occupy movement seeks a language that describes the frustrations of people on both sides of the regulation debate. While Republicans and Democrats differ on their solutions, most people agree that corruption in the financial sector has lead to a crisis which should have been avoided.

Yet, Occupy has no shortage of real-world solutions, and we do not shrink from an intelligent conversation of both the problems and solutions, but that is not the conversation currently represented in the media or in Washington DC. As John Stewart said, the "well" of political debate has been "poisoned" with the "toxic language" that indicts anyone who questions corporate greed as "freedom hating." Once the conversation has been framed as pro-Amercian vs anti-American, it becomes nearly impossible to return the subject to a constructive and realistic debate about the issues.

Occupy has not defined their demands because they refuse to allow our concerns to be dismissed out-of-hand by sound bites and the curt one-up-man-ship that pervades political discourse in the popular media.

Secondly, the Occupy movement is far from disorganized. Our inclusive nature does not mean we give equal weight to everyone, regardless of the merit of their ideas. Radical inclusion simply means we are willing to listen. We still have goals, rules, process, critical evaluation and all the systems required to be successful.

The rumors of Occupy's demise have been grossly exaggerated. The Occupy uprising in America united many people with common interests and there is nothing that could happen to dispel our common connection. We have collected in small groups that meet regularly in coffee-shops, salons and restaurants, far from the tent cities and violence which appears in the TV news. And until there is some outlet for our common concerns, until our demand is met, we will continue to organize, build and convert more to our circles.

In conclusion, our efforts to find those things which concern All of US, our attempts to find language to articulate the most popular of reforms, we have found one thing that seems nearly universal across all demographics within the US and likely beyond: nearly everyone agrees that there is a problem. Everyone agrees that things can not continue as they have been.

The only question is what to do about it. The answer Occupy offers, and its amazing innovation over the last 20 years of politics and activism in America, is the simple statement: doing nothing is not an option, and we will hold vigil until something is done.

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The Occupy Flowchart:

Q1. Do you think there is a problem?

A. Yes, goto Q2

B. No, stay home

Q2. Do you know what should be done about the problem?

A. Yes, Come to Occupy

B. No, Come to Occupy

C Unsure, Come to Occupy

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Harris Poll. Feb. 16-21, 2010.

"And now a question about the power of different groups in influencing government policy, politicians, and policymakers in Washington. Do you think [see below] have/has too much or too little power and influence in Washington?"

__Too Much

87% Big Companies

83% Big Banks

83% Lobbyists

85% PACs

75% News Media

70% Celebrities

__Too Little

71% Non-profits

82% Public Opinion

93% Small Business

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93% believe GE foods should be labeled (10/10,Thomson Reuters PULSE™ Healthcare Survey, “National Survey of Healthcare Consumers: Genetically Engineered Food”)

96% believe genetically modified foods should be labeled (6/11, MSNBC)

95% of consumers believe GE foods should be labeled (11/08, Consumers Union, “Food-Labeling Poll: 2008,” p. 13)

94% believe genetically modified food should be labeled (9/10, Washington Post)

93% of the American public wants the federal government to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods (6/11, ABC News)

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ABC News/Washington Post Poll. Jan. 13-16, 2011

"I have some questions about the political discourse in this country -- that is, the way people talk about politics. Overall, do you think the tone of political discourse you hear is very positive, somewhat positive, somewhat negative or very negative?"

82% Very Negative or Somewhat Negative

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CBS News/New York Times Poll. April 25-29, 2008

"Do you think foods that contain genetically modified ingredients should be labeled indicating that or don't you think that is necessary?"

87% Should be

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CBS News Poll. May 20-23, 2011

"Who do you think benefits most from the policies of the federal government: the rich, the middle class, the poor, or do they all benefit equally?"

66% Rich

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United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. July 28-31, 2011

"This year, have Republicans and Democrats in Washington been working together more to solve problems, or have they been bickering and opposing one another more than usual?"

82% Bickering more than usual

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CBS News/New York Times Poll. Oct. 21-26, 2010

"When it comes to reforming the way political candidates raise and spend money, how important is it that the amount of money campaigns can spend be limited: very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not important at all?"

86% Very or Somewhat Important

"How important is it that campaigns be required by law to disclose how much money they have raised, where that money came from, and how they have spent the money: very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not important at all?"

92% Very or somewhat important

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Polling Data Source:

http://www.pollingreport.com/