Cold weather and clean-up sweeps by armored riot police are shifting the Occupy Wall Street movement from literal occupation of public spaces to other forms of political action.
On balance the literal occupation of public space has been successful. The focus of public attention has been shifted from the single issue of national debt to the fact that our financial and political systems have become so dysfunctional that they are resistant to reform or problem solving.
A commenter to an earlier post observed that the number of people actually in tents was a vanishingly small percentage of the nation’s population. True enough, but immaterial. The same was true of marchers for women’s suffrage, active protestors to the Viet Nam war, Mahatma Gandhi or Rosa Parks.
Those protestors were symptoms of a dis-satisfaction with underlying social and political conditions and they would soon become the centers for general protest and reform.
It is hard to ignore the fact that OWS quickly spread from coast to coast. The conservative press tried to characterize the occupiers as a kind of children’s crusade aided by drummers, pot smokers and the unwashed. It is certainly true that a majority of the tenters were young…although not all…but there were plenty of older folks on hand, too.
Some conservative pundits are apparently heaving a sigh of relief now that OWS is “dead.” They equate the removal of the physical occupations with a removal of the movement. They are, of course, wrong; and apparently blind and deaf to the impact of the social media.
OWS has simply moved to another level of political action and different bits of real estate. We should expect to see flash mobs, organized protests, marches, and other forms of guerrilla consciousness raising keeping on the pressure for reform.
These actions will be very annoying to the establishment. Good.
Less annoying, and possible more effective, will be a technique borrowed from a more traditional campaign book: The campaign coffee gatherings in private homes.
Occupy Your Living Room is a way to take part in OWS without camping in the park. Simply invite your friends and neighbors to your home for an “Occupy Coffee.” Explain why you are sympathetic to the movement and be ready to point out facts about the way (for instance) the financial industry, left unsupervised, was responsible for the nation’s economic near collapse.
There’s no telling what you might learn. At a recent social gathering a friend mentioned something that he thought was outrageous: Apparent legal insider trading by members of Congress. It was new to me. Is it new to you?