Itâ€™s been over a month now. The Occupy Wall Street movement finally has everyoneâ€™s attention, and the process of narrowing down its demands has begun.
Up to this point, the Occupy Protests have been consistently criticized for being inconsistent, vague and misguided. Pundits, particularly from the right, have called the movement and the protesters themselves a litany of colorful names, from â€œgullible hippiesâ€ and â€œincoherentâ€ to â€œunsanitaryâ€ and â€œdestructive.â€
And if you dig beyond the inflammatory language and look past the ideological slant of some of the movementsâ€™ critics, up until recently, they kind of had a point.
Iâ€™m not saying Occupy Wall Street hasnâ€™t had a clear point-of-view â€“ they have â€“ and if you didnâ€™t notice, you havenâ€™t been paying attention. What the movement has lacked, though, are unambiguous and actionable demands.
The99PercentDeclaration initiates the creation of a non-partisan, National General Assembly to be made up of 870 delegates â€“ one male and one female from each of the existing 435 Congressional Districts â€“ to be convened and elected for the first time on July 4, 2012. The99PercentDeclaration also lays out a suggested list of grievances for consideration. And finally, The99PercentDeclaration includes an actionable threat to create an independent political party that will challenge every open seat in Congress during the 2014 and 2016 elections if their demands are not met.
The 99 Percent Declaration is broad, and thatâ€™s OK â€“ good ideas arenâ€™t limited to 140 characters.
But, in our 4G world of instant gratification, the Occupy Wall Streeterâ€™s (Iâ€™m gonna call them OWLS), do need to work toward more Tweet and less Tolstoy if they want to keep Americaâ€™s attention.
It seems the â€œgullible hippiesâ€ are finally coming around to getting organized though, which is good. The importance of having a cogent, educated message and putting together more organized events is elevated the more the movement is exposed to the spotlight.
Take last weekâ€™s walk-out on campus for example. The event drew a pretty good crowd â€“ maybe 70 or more students showed up. But it felt like complete chaos.
For me, this brief, rather confusing interaction with the Occupy movement wonâ€™t affect my opinion of it as a whole â€“ I was just happy to see kids getting out supporting a real cause for once.
But what if that was the only chance the Occupy movement had to capture my attention? You know what they say about the importance of a first impression.
Now look, Iâ€™m not happy with the last decade of war, and yes, it is tied into some of what the OWLS are upset about, but chanting, â€œEnd the wars,â€ just for the sake of chanting something seemed contrived to me â€“ and one of the wars has effectively ended.
Also, Iâ€™m pretty sure the statute of limitations on protesting the bailouts is over.
Instead of directing the justifiable populist rage of the movement toward Wall Street blindly, the movement has now started to offer up changes that will help guide the system back toward the 99 percent.
The country doesnâ€™t need another party or movement that offers no solutions and is overly focused on the past â€“ thatâ€™s what conservatives are for (literally). The Occupy movement has a chance to be the voice that moves the country forward and that turns around the regressive course set by the Tea Party the last several years, and the party of Reagan the last 30.
There are legitimate reasons for the slow development of such a broad and nuanced movement. The horizontal structure of the movement and its lack of affiliation to party or corporate interests are simultaneously responsible for slowing its organization and part of its grassroots, homegrown quality that makes it authentic and powerful. But as the OWLS grow beyond their infancy and start to offer solutions, the success of the movement will hinge on its ability to define itself in a clear, simple manner.
_Jesse Benn is a senior political science major who hasnâ€™t been to the mountains for too long. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. _