Thursday, October 13, 2011
Occupy Wall Street - TECHNIQUES
The OWS is developing (new democracy techniques) .. very interesting.
Also, don't forget to listen to http://democracynow.org/ every weekday (some good insights! ... yes, widely listened-to and not corporate-controlled)
Now in its fourth week, the Occupy Wall Street encampment has attracted thousands of demonstrators who continue to tackle the challenges of self-organizing and building a movement.
Report: The People's Microphone in Zuccotti Park
Mon, 09/26/2011 - 11:14am — MsExPat
The evening meeting of yesterday's General Assembly in Zuccotti Park opened with a vocabulary lesson--a demonstration of the latest hand and arm signals that the group is developing to use at these meetings. Since the cops shut down the possibility of amplification at the march, the protesters came up with a novel way to get around the ban: the "People's Microphone."
The first part of this technique is well known by now--the main speaker (or speakers, for in these militantly non-hierarchical groups, people often speak in pairs) says something, and then the people up front with the loudest voices repeat it as a chant. One or two of the loudest even stand up on the shiny, pink granite park benches and shout the words out to the back rows of the people gathered in circles.
The People's Microphone might have been forged by necessity, but it's turned into a brilliant tool, something truly innovative in the political/organizing arena. For it accomplishes two things at once: it forces everyone to edit group public speech down to the essentials (since you must pause between phrases). And because getting your speech heard depends entirely on the good will and lung power of others, it makes it impossible for any single person to hog the "mike". (And, just in case someone tries, there are special hand signals to "shout" them down)
"This means STEP UP!", one of the organizers demonstrates, scooping the air with two upraised arms. "This means, we haven't heard from you and would like to hear more!" She turns her arms around in parallel, and pushes them towards the ground in parrallel: "And this is STEP DOWN! You know what that means? It means that you've been contributing a lot of times already. Maybe you are a MALE IDENTIFIED PERSON. In which case we might want to hear more from a FEMALE IDENTIFIED PERSON."
I've always been nostalgic for the anti-Vietnam demos of my high school days. What I tend to forget, perhaps conveniently, is that there were almost no women speaking at these demonstrations, and how frustrated I felt knowing that if I wanted to be heard, I'd have to fight for space with the alpha males, just like in class.
But here in Zuccotti Park, not only are women being prioritized (or, in demonstrator New-Speak "Pushed ahead in The Stack", meaning "Stepped Up" in the queue of speakers when things get too alpha-male). There's even a special working group for shy persons! ("If you are nervous about speaking in the big group, come to our meeting, and we will make sure your ideas are heard.")
I stayed at the General Assembly (GA) for some time, listening as one by one, each of the various working groups of this organization (yes, it is an ORGANIZATION, capital O!) gave their reports, using this slow, steady, call and response technique. The Medical Committee reported (Remember to drink water!), the Sanitation Committee (Clean up after eating, and don't forget to recycle!) and the Direct Action committee ("The trustees of CUNY are meeting tomorrow morning to try to cut the healthcare of adjuncts. We think we should be there to tell them no. What do you think?"). There is an Arts Committee, a Legal taskforce, a Financial Committee, which reported that over the weekend Occupy Wall Street's donation totals increased from 13,000 to 20,000 dollars.
Everything was ticking along smoothly, when suddenly a fellow dressed in black, and carrying a big knapsack filled with little US flags pushed his way to the front of the circle, shouting "I want to say something, you're not letting me say....". He was clearly not part of the earnest student army that forms 95 percent of the Zuccotti Park collective--his energy was violent and unsettling--gatherings like these, especially in New York, always attract edgy characters.
I held my breath--how would the group handle this guy? He seemed ready to spin off the handle, maybe even start swinging a few.
But I underestimated how chill this new collective can be. A few demonstrators surrounded him, gently telling him, okay, okay. The group members around him shouted, "Hey, you have to get in the Stack and wait." The guy with the flags flustered for a minute, and then he just got tired of flustering, and drifted off.
I thought about this for a while, as the GA meeting moved on. I tried to take in the methods, this strange new language--where was it all coming from? And then it hit me. What I was seeing is the fruit of all the ethical education innovations that became popular in the 1990s and 2000s. That's about when schools, even at the elementary level, started to teach Conflict Resolution techniques. The surly guy in black was given his "Time Out". The group hand signals, the repeating "people's mike" and intense concern with "inclusion" echo the teaching exercises, like the "Anger Ball Toss" .
I don't mean to patronize the techniques of the Zuccotti Park Collective by tracing them to early education. Not at all. I think what these students are doing is flat out brilliant--they're in the process of inventing a whole new language of adult community.
What I'm trying to do here is trace the history. Without the 60s-70s movement, I doubt that subjects like "Conflict Resolution" would ever have gotten on the curriculum. So in a way, these young people are connected to the previous great Lefty movement--they are Fight The Power 2.0. An improved version, for a more complicated time.
The political moment now is different, very different. I thought about this, standing there under the soaring red-orange steel sculpture in Zuccotti Park (it's the landmark meeting point for the demonstrators and it's called the Joie de Vivre statue--how perfect is that!?). A few side streets over, you can see the construction lights on the sparkling new "Freedom Tower" going up. Across the street from Zuccotti, the steel grid of Santiago Calatrava's twisting transport hub is taking shape. The architecture all around is, literally, a concrete reminder that ten years have gone by since Disaster Capitalism had its big payday.
The Zuccotti Park collective is being criticized by the MSM because it's message isn't "unified". But that's a useless criticism, and I really hope the demonstrators don't listen to it and keep on with what they are doing. Back in the 1970s, the message (Stop The War!) was pretty simple and succinct because the narrative was, too.
But how do you reduce Credit Default Swaps, post-Capitalist injustice, government-corporate collusion, political reform, environmental collapse to a single slogan? You don't. What the students are undertaking as they speak, shout, repeat, and speak again on the People's Microphone, is immensely more difficult than what happened in the 60s. My fingers are crossed that the skills they learned in their elementary and high schools will help them write the new language to do it.
A few more random blips:
1. Demographics: I was one of the oldest people in the park. This is a student thing, and mainly a "good" student thing--that is, all the young persons I spoke with were attractive, articulate and extremely polite. There's gender and racial diversity--and I even spotted a group of Iranian students representing their struggle--but if this movement's gonna have legs, they need to diversify. And they know tha
2. Conversation at Zuccotti Park:
"Hi, I'm Lisa, I'm on the Welcoming Committee and the Facilitating Committee. Welcome to Occupy Wall Street."
Me: "Thanks, Lisa. I am really impressed with what you're doing here. It's more like a teach in than a demo. It reminds me of what happened in Berkeley in the 1960s.
"Oh yes, I heard about that. But it was a lot different than this."
Me: "Why do you think so."
"Well, in People's Park, they had leaders."
AMY GOODMAN: So, why don't you describe the scene for us and talk about how this whole encampment began? You've been here from the beginning.
JUSTIN WEDES: That's right. So, the original idea was put out by Adbusters, a culture jamming magazine, to amass in Lower Manhattan 20,000 people. And in the—you know, the first day, we had a couple thousand people come out to the bull. We met out there. And then we had to move. We had to move somewhere. The police were starting to kettle us, kind of make us nervous. And we had the idea to do a general assembly, which we had been already doing for three months in the planning process of this, in Chase Plaza. Unfortunately, Chase Plaza had been completely barricaded. And so, we had to find an alternate location, so we decided on Zuccotti Park sort of on the run. And we came over here.
There were probably that first night around a hundred, less than a hundred people who slept out the first night. And, you know, in the subsequent days, we had a lot of interactions with police. It was raining a lot. We had to put up tarps. We had put up tents at one point. And they—
AMY GOODMAN: And what was the rallying cry?
JUSTIN WEDES: Well, the rallying cry was "Occupy Wall Street." The idea was to come down here to make your voice heard about the injustices of Wall Street and the financial system. And the idea just spread like wildfire. And it was always understood that the process was always going to rule. The process of building consensus and arriving at our demands, at our action plan, that has always been the driving factor here. And so, we are still constructing, every night in our general assemblies, still constructing that consensus.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the concept of General Assembly.
JUSTIN WEDES: So, General Assembly is an open, horizontal, leaderless process by which we can arrive at decisions, at demands, at action plans for making change in our country. And it's consensus-based, which means it's not just up-or-down vote. When 51 percent of people vote on something, the other 49 are suddenly sort of silenced in a way. Consensus works differently. It says that we can, if we are trying to, we can work together and come to agreement that everybody can feel good about. And so, that process, which is very powerful when you have good facilitation, when you have people who want to agree, who want to find unity and solidarity, that is the process that's guiding it. Every evening at 7:00 p.m., we assemble. We've had assemblies of thousands of people here. We've had—using the people's mic, so no sound amplification at all.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the people's mic.
JUSTIN WEDES: The people's mic is basically a peoples amplification system. No power, no electricity. I say something or somebody says something, and then it's repeated by the people around you. And so it's amplified. Your voice is amplified. And in a way, it's the most sort of democratic way to amplify sound, because the power of the message, the gain of that microphone, is actually determined by the power of the message. You know, so when people say things that are powerful and really move our movement forward, they're amplified, literally, physically, by the people around us.
AMY GOODMAN: You are part, Justin, of the social media team. Explain what that means and how the media, the internal media of Occupy Wall Street, is functioning here.
JUSTIN WEDES: Yeah. So, basically, throughout this process, we understood the importance of having an independent media center—in other words, of creating our own media. We could never rely on the mainstream media to depict us fairly. And we wanted to be the most sort of go-to, responsible, accurate depictors of what was happening and what is happening in this space. And so, from day one, we set up an Indymedia Center, which includes a live stream. We're actually being live-streamed right now.
And we're joined by Katrina vanden Heuvel. She is the publisher of The Nation magazine. It's great to have you—well, to see you here.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Democracy now! I mean, no, this is an—I mean, intensely democratic. And I find it so powerful, because I think, Amy, you and I, I mean, politics, in the broader sense, is a moral—is a moral issue. And the moral clarity of this movement is what I think has moved people to get up and walk and be in motion. And what's so interesting to me is—I was here last Wednesday for the march to Foley Square—that so many groups, which have been trying to get some energy, are finding the spark in here and coming together. And I think this movement is strong enough to stand tall for its issues. But the broader building across the country and with different groups, that have been working hard for years, is very exciting.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you traverse two worlds. You're in the independent media, and also you're often invited into the corporate media, into the networks. What do you think of their coverage of what's going on here?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Good question. I think, first of all, corporate media has a very hard time covering movements, unless it's the Tea Party, covering direct, democratic action. At first—you know this—the beginning of coverage in the corporate mainstream media was very contemptuous, was kind of snarky. But it has moved in many places. It has—the New York Times editorial yesterday was respectful. And there was—people can't avoid the voice they're hearing from here, Occupy Wall Street, and from Occupy encampments around the country. There will be a backlash. We're already hearing people talk of mobs. But right now—
AMY GOODMAN: Talk of...?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Mobs, mobs, mobs. I mean, this is democracy in action. There will be a backlash. But I think the important thing is that it's spreading, the idea of the 99ers, the 99 percent. And this idea that this is class warfare isn't even making it into the corporate media as quickly as it used to. The independent media—I think you've been extraordinary. And I think the independent media, as you know, Amy, has—understands that politics in this country, in the corporate mainstream, has never done a service to people. It's never shown the real diversity of views and voices and people in this country, and we've had a downsized debate. And now that debate can open up, and this voice, these people are now part of it. They are no longer the voiceless. And—
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think this means for President Obama and the Democrats?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, I think already you see, even inside D.C., so disconnected from the real economy, you see the beginning of people, I think, who are—there are decent people. Bernie Sanders has endorsed, and Dennis Kucinich, the Progressive Caucus. Nancy Pelosi has endorsed. And President Obama was forced to say the protesters have a point.
What does it mean? I don't know, because I don't see here electoral energy. I do believe—and maybe I'm retro—that there needs to be, not from Occupy, but from the spark it lights around this country, some electoral energy to push in the reform direction, as we build for more radical, systemic change.
But I don't—for President Obama, you know what it shows? It shows that he's behind the curve. He's lost the momentum. He's not a leader. However, it also shows one thing you know well. In our history, what has led to transformational change, whether it was the New Deal, it was labor or militant labor, it was the civil rights movement with Johnson. And it will take this kind of movement to move—could move a president. But all great change in this country has come from women's movements, gay rights movements, environmental movements.
And we've seen a lot more. I don't know. Were you arrested in Washington at the pipeline, the Keystone pipeline? That, too, got shamefully little media coverage in the mainstream. Think of the shift in just a few weeks. Shamefully. Can you imagine if a thousand Tea Partiers had handcuffed themselves to the White House? So this is moving that, too.
AMY GOODMAN: And the critique that there's no one message?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: There are a statement of principles, which are powerful in their moral clarity. Let others make demands. But out of here, there's a message: we want a different world. We want a world in which there is fairness and justice and economic justice. We've seen many groups—Amy, you know this—which have of a litany of policy demands. Demands mean assume that the system will respond. What is important now is a message of principle, an ethical reset of our politics. And I think that this speaks to that. And may it light a spark and let others, who have toiled long and hard, fighting foreclosure evictions, fighting for economic justice, which do have those demands—let it illuminate their work. But let this movement have its moral clarity and principled stance.
AMY GOODMAN: Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation magazine.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Thank you, Amy. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much.
AMY GOODMAN: It's getting dark here at Zuccotti Park, at Liberty Plaza. Thousands of people are here. There's going to be a general assembly in a few minutes. Among those who are going to be addressing them are John Carlos, who is very famous for the famous Olympic salute in Mexico City. We'll talk about that in a minute. But right now we're joined by none other than Gabor Maté, Gabor Maté who is known to Democracy Now! listeners and viewers for his many books—among them, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction; Scattered, about attention deficit disorder and what you can do about it; looking at the mind-body connection, a book called When the Body Says No.
And so, I guess the question here today, Dr. Gabor Maté, you've come from Vancouver, from Canada. Why are you here at Liberty Plaza?
DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, I happen to be in New York speaking to a number of groups on addictions and stress and child development. But I could not stay away from this place. As somebody who reached political consciousness in the 1960s, just when John Carlos did his famous salute at the Olympics, it's gratifying to see that the thirst and the demand for justice and power and people's rights wasn't restricted to one generation or one time only but is very much alive in America. It's wonderful to see that.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you're a physician who deals with issues like addiction. In fact, that's why you're in New York. You're going to be addressing people. But what does that have to do with Occupy Wall Street? Why else is it so exhilarating for you today?
DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, you know, among the many inequities in a society are the ones that this protest has brought to light, the inequitable distribution of wealth and power. But what is not so generally realized, that this society also makes people sick. Fifty percent of American adults have a chronic medical illness, and much of that has to do with stress. And if you look at the literature on what causes stress, it's uncertainty and lack of information and loss of control and lack of expression of self. And the uncertainty that has been forced upon the American population by the recent economic crisis, the loss of control as power has flown into the hands of very, very few people, and the absolute powerlessness of the many in the face of all that, and the lack of expression through the ordinary political process, people are totally disempowered and deprived of their voice. This protest addresses all those issues. So I can only say that this is an extraordinarily healthy thing to happen. People who participate here will be healthier for it as a result, and maybe society, in general, as well.
And one more thing, as well. There was a study just this morning that parents who are stressed, they're not as tuned in to their kids. They're not as connected to their kids. So when society stresses people, like the current economic uncertainty and crisis does, children are not getting what they need. So this protest, as well, speaks to the needs of children as much as to the needs of adults in general. So that's why I'm so gratified to see all this.
AMY GOODMAN: Is Canada paying attention?
DR. GABOR MATÉ: It's paying attention to the media, and there's some talk of similar protests in Canada. It hasn't happened yet, but it well might, and it well should, really.
AMY GOODMAN: And how has the corporate media covered this in Canada?
DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, in the beginning, it was like up here: it was ignored. But now they begin to pay attention to it. To tell you the truth, I don't pay so much attention to the Canadian media these days, so I can't really comment on how they're covering it. But it's nice to see that the American media, at least now, has begun to see some—pay some serious attention. And there was a wonderful column the other day in the New York Times by Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winner, that really honored the protest for what it is.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much.
ALICE: Hi. My name is Alice. I'm from Brooklyn. And we are serving food. There was actually a farmer who drove up from North Carolina with a truckload of produce. So we cooked it all weekend, and now we are serving it.
AMY GOODMAN: Where did you cook it?
ALICE: At my house.
AMY GOODMAN: So what are you serving tonight?
ALICE: We have like a mix veggie succotash, black beans, rice, curry squash, mixed curry vegetables. We have hard-boiled eggs that have like dollar signs on them so you can crush capitalism. We got 420 eggs, so there's baked frittata. And I think that's it.
AMY GOODMAN: How many people are you serving?
ALICE: They said 500. So, I don't know. I've never done this before, so I don't actually know how the portions will translate. But 500 was the goal.
JOSH: My name's Josh. And the correctional officers' union president came here and donated like enough food to feed like 800 people. And then they also gave us like a $500, like, stipend. And he took me to buy a bunch of supplies that we needed for our wish list. And they're planning on coming back here tomorrow. That was the—it was pretty interesting. They had a little friction with actually the police department when they pulled up. And the correction officers, the president—Norman Seabrook, I think his name is—had a little standoff with the cops there when they pulled up.
DEBORAH: My name is Deborah. I'm from Madison, Wisconsin. We developed a greywater system, because in our new world order, we're going to have a sustainable economy.
AMY GOODMAN: And what does "greywater" mean?
DEBORAH: Greywater means that when you're washing dishes, there's a lot of nutrient from the food and the soaps that come off, so we try to filter the water through wood chips and some other things in this barrel so that a lot of the nutrients gets filtered out, then the water passes through the tanks where the plants are growing. Those plants will take a lot of that nutrient up. And then, finally, the water passes through the pebbles. More sediment filters out. And the greywater, with most of the icky stuff gone, comes out of the bucket at the bottom. And then that's the more appropriate water to use for watering the trees and flowers in the park.
AMY GOODMAN: And I see you have a compost bucket.
DEBORAH: Yes, we have a compost bin. We're recycling. We're trying to just be totally sustainable here.
JOE MANCINI: Hi. My name is Joe Mancini, and I'm not at the liberty to say exactly where I work, but I work at an investment bank.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, what are you doing here?
JOE MANCINI: I'm here in support of the occupation down here. I think a lot of things need to change in the system that we live in. I like the fact that everybody is organizing from a grassroots level. And, you know, I think that the people that have had all the power need to even it out a bit and let these people speak their voice. This is a real democracy. This is what it means to be an American in a true sense of being in a democratic place.
AMY GOODMAN: What are they saying in your bank?
JOE MANCINI: The usual sort of Fox News-type approach: you know, "These people are a bunch of wackos. Bunch of hippies down here. Took me an hour and a half to get home; you know, I had to walk by all these crazy people, all these pot smokers." But, you know, I've been down here, and I've talked to a lot of educated people, and that's definitely not the case. It kind of makes it laughable. You know, I like hearing it. I know they're afraid. I know that when people live in fear, they tend to talk about those things and react in that way. They get defensive. So, you know, people are talking about it, and it's all over the business stuff. It's all over CNBC. It's all over Fox Business Channel. You know, it's interesting to see Fox Business News and Fox, because they're kind of—they don't know what to do, really. They're sort of like for the people, against corporation, now we're for corporations. So, it's kind of nice to see this occupation happening.
... mass arrests at an Occupy Boston protest on Monday night. More than 100 people were detained after police raided an encampment in the early morning hours. The video shows police grabbing members of the group Veterans for Peace who say, "We are veterans of the United States of America."
I hung around the Occupy Wall Street protests in downtown Manhattan last week for a couple of days. Here are a few things I saw that I liked:
a quiet meditation circle, just a few steps from noisy Broadway, where about 60 people sat in peaceful contemplation
a great march that proceeded west on Wall Street, north on Broad Street, up to the Federal Reserve Bank, and back to Wall
cops that were mostly friendly
cheerful rapport between protesters and Wall Streeters at work ("join us!" "yeah, whatever")
well-organized free food for those living in Zuccotti Park
a vast do-it-yourself protest sign-painting operation
a few highly active drum/dance circles and horn jams
various informal information stations where tourists could ask questions
an open performance spot, where a young girl sang a song and a poet read a poem
a small group earnestly discussing techniques of non-violent resistance
The best moment for me came Friday night just after dusk, when I began hearing that a general assembly was about to take place somewhere nearby. Curious as to what exactly an #occupywallstreet general assembly would consist of, I asked around and got pointed to a spot in the middle of Zuccotti Park. There seemed to be nothing going on at this exact place, so I hopped up to sit on a wall and wait. A few minutes later a group of people who turned out to be the regular facilitators of each evening's general assembly began to gather around me. I had picked the right place to sit, and was now in the center of the action.
Soon somebody right next to me yelled "Mic check!", and a group of people milling around us yelled back "Mic check!". At this call, others began to melt into the group, and people began to sit down on the park's paved floor. Soon there were about 250 people gathered around. Four of the facilitators sitting next to me stood up and introduced themselves, and one of them explained how the communication in this large group was going to work.
It's called "the People's mic", and it's designed to allow a large group to hold an assembly in the middle of a noisy city without speakers or amplification. One of the facilitators explained it to the crowd: first, a speaker says a few words in a normal voice, no more than half a sentence at a time. The speaker will then pause while many people sitting nearby will repeat the same words together loudly, thus amplifying the speaker. Next, the facilitator explained, those sitting at the far edges of the circle will repeat the same words again, to let the speaker and facilitators know that they are being heard clearly by everyone in the group. Since the second repeaters are directly facing the speaker and the first wave of repeaters, this second wave has a beautifully conversational effect, reminiscent also of a Greek chorus. Something like this:
SPEAKER: We are working ...
FIRST WAVE: WE ARE WORKING
SECOND WAVE: WE ARE WORKING
SPEAKER: on a statement of principles
FIRST WAVE: ON A STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES
SECOND WAVE: ON A STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES
SPEAKER: that we can approve tomorrow
FIRST WAVE: THAT WE CAN APPROVE TOMORROW
SECOND WAVE: THAT WE CAN APPROVE TOMORROW
It's amazing how this technique of speaking transforms the art of oratory. It requires those speaking to keep it short (which is a great thing at a protest rally). It also imparts a slightly comic Gilbert-and-Sullivan-esque irony at unexpected times, as when one speaker coughs and then apologizes.
SPEAKER: I'm sorry
FIRST WAVE: I'M SORRY
SECOND WAVE: I'M SORRY
(laughter all around)
Believe it or not, this slow but powerful method of speaking kept the large crowd enraptured for well over an hour on Friday night. Various hand signals were put into play: wiggle your fingers if you like something, block with crossed arms if you disagree with what the speaker is saying. There were over a dozen speakers, each representing "working groups" that had met in smaller circles earlier that afternoon. There was a public relations working group, an Internet working group, a translation working group, a food working group, a labor working group, a legal working group, a "principles of occupation" working group (which eventually came up with this statement).
Since I was sitting near the facilitators, I became one of the repeaters in the first wave. It felt great to be a part of this communication exercise. You can hear a recorded example of a similar meeting (though this is only a single wave, not a double wave) on Ed Champion's blog.
Some of the speakers at this meeting seemed comfortable with the "People's Mic", but more than half of them were befuddled by it, and kept making the same mistake: they would hear their words repeated back to them by the first wave and then nervously begin speaking again just as the second wave delivered the second repeat. This would cause the communication to falter, and whenever this happened somebody else would save it again by yelling "Mic Check!" ("MIC CHECK", "MIC CHECK").
I've been a part of many protests in my long life, but I've never seen anything quite like the People's Mic. I'm really encouraged that it works so well. When I've read history I've sometimes wondered how large groups of people could have communicated before the age of amplification -- during, say, the English Civil War, or one of William Jennings Bryan's campaign speeches. I'm still not clear how this was done at various times in history, but maybe they used something like the People's Mic too.
I found a lot of significance in this communication technique. I've had a lot of conversations with friends about the #occupywallstreet protests, and I often hear the complaint that the protesters "have no agenda". This may be true, though I don't think it's necessary for such a divergent group to conform to a single agenda. We all knew why we were there -- at least I knew why I was there. Nicholas Kristof came up with a fairly decent stab at an agenda in this New York Times piece.
However, I'm not sure if the many people who work in the downtown New York City financial district knew what the protests were about. I heard one guy in a suit and tie loudly ridiculing the protest on his cell phone. "I have no idea what they're protesting," he told his friend.
I wanted to interrupt him and say: "You look older than three. You don't know what happened in 2008?". Is it possible that anybody working for a Wall Street bank today really doesn't know what this protest is about? When I worked on this street years ago, I was disappointed to find no discernible intellectual culture at all within my working environment, and I think it is possible that many people who work for JP Morgan Chase or Citibank or the Federal Reserve go to work every day without ever thinking about the larger implications of the work they do. Well, if anybody working on Wall Street today doesn't know why American citizens are furious and feel abused by the financial sector, then these protests may be more essential than anyone realizes.
But Marshall McLuhan told us that the medium is the message, and I can't think of a better illustration of a medium that is a message than the People's Mic on Friday night at Zuccotti Park. It really worked, and it held a group together for some pretty thorny and complex conversations. Everybody got along. We all listened to each other and heard each other. The fact that this group could communicate so well was, in my opinion, what these protests were really about. Maybe this amounts to some part of the "message" that many outsiders are asking for.
I saw a sign on the ground that said "Delete the banks. We'll create better ones." Learning to communicate as a group means learning to trust as a group, and that's what I saw happening all around me at Zuccotti Park on Friday night. Organization. Planning. Courtesy. Open communication. The medium is the message, and the medium of communication I saw on Wall Street on Friday night is all the message I need to hear to know that this protest group is totally on the right track.
Compare that to the corporate funded (Koch bros) Tea Party:
They are the dupes who are doing the 1%'s dirty work for them.