Jan 182012
Authors: Jesse Benn

Poor Occupy. It started off with such energy, such potential. It changed the discourse. Well, sort of. At least MSNBC talked about it for a little while. And now, although some die-hard Occupiers remain in the streets, and General Assemblies consisting of particularly disenfranchised people continue in cities and towns throughout the world, it seems the momentum has been lost.

Maybe I just don’t get it, and that could be my fault. But even though I support most of the ideals Occupy seems to represent, I fear the group has squandered its chance to really create change.
For me, the big disconnect comes in Occupy’s refusal to operate within the system. I get that they feel it’s failed, it’s broken, it doesn’t represent us and largely – I agree. But if you want to change it, short of a second American Revolution, you’ve got to find a way to work within it.

Occupy Denver had the chance a few months ago to work with the system when they were asked by the mayor to elect some form of leadership or representation to communicate with his office. They elected a dog.

Occupy was making a fair point: “Shelby is closer to a person than any corporation: She can bleed, she can breed and she can show emotion,” they said.

And as a PR move, it was more successful than I would have guessed, even earning a spot on Time’s list of the top-10 oddball news stories of 2011.

But I think it was a missed opportunity. Occupy Denver seemed to decide that working with the system meant giving up their ideals –– or that it somehow constituted failure –– but what it really meant was that what they were doing was working.

Instead of capitalizing on its success, and getting a foot in the door to make demands and start the discussion with the powers that be, Occupy opted for sarcasm.

People already knew dogs are closer to people than corporations, so what did this move get Occupy Denver? Other than a laugh from some, and a blurb in an online list from Time magazine, the answer is nothing.

I know you Occupiers reading this are thinking: “You’re right, you don’t get it, Jesse. Occupy isn’t about working within the system. It’s about offering an alternative, a true democracy, come to a General Assembly!”

Well, first of all, my nature is to be an observer and a commenter, not an activist, hence the column. And secondly, I have been to the Denver encampment on a few occasions, and there was nothing welcoming about it.

There were cliques, drunks, unrestrained and seemingly owner-free dogs roaming about, drunks fighting with each other, people arguing over whether or not they should put tents up and risk another forced evacuation, people preaching Rothschild and 9/11 conspiracy theories and what looked like a number of homeless people who had made the encampment their own.

But here’s the real problem with small “d” democracies –– even if I wanted to be at the encampment every day, and vote at every GA –– I don’t have time.

And the funny thing about that is I have way more time than most people.

There’s a reason we elect representatives to government: we barely get 60 percent of eligible voters to show up in presidential election years. And fixing our broken system shouldn’t start with asking everyone to vote on everything; it should start with trying to elect better representatives.

The problem of money in politics, and the fact that the candidate with more money wins nine out of 10 times, is the most widely agreed upon problem for Occupy –– and yet there have been no clear demands or plans of action to get it out.

Dylan Ratigan does more to fight money and corruption in politics every day in one hour than Occupy has done in its several months of existence.

And this brings us back to the problem with small “d” democracies: if everyone votes on everything, you rarely get anything done.

So, rather than tackle any of the big issues that brought the Occupiers into the streets, they’ve spent their time electing dogs to meet with the mayor.

And sadly, Occupy, at least the Denver branch, seems to have become what they were accused of from the very start: a group of immature, unorganized anarchists who can’t get anything done.

Jesse Benn is a senior political science major who no longer drinks too much Mountain Dew. His column runs weekly in the Collegian. Send letters and feedback to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 2:22 pm

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