Applying Gene Sharp’s Research To The Occupy Movement

The past eleven days I have reposted Gene Sharp’s revolutionary pamphlet From Dictatorship To Democracy.  This is a priceless resource for those of us that are anxious to usher in a new era of equality, freedom, compassion and sustainability.  Sharp has been studying nonviolent conflict for much of his life and written widely about the topic.

It is probably debatable whether or not America is a dictatorship at present.  It is certainly not a traditional dictatorship in that all power is centralized in one figurehead.  But we certainly don’t live in a democracy either.  Many people have suggested that we are living in a plutocracy – meaning that the 1% is ruling the 99%.  This simplification is not completely accurate either.  The complexity of it lies in the American public’s consent to be ruled.  We are given the illusion of choice, and the illusion of democracy – but we must not be fooled by such deviousness.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing to occupiers should be that many of the tactics that Sharp highlights are already being put into practice by the occupy movement.  We have successfully changed the national/global dialogue to include the word’s “inequality” and “greed.”

These two words carry a lot of moral baggage and it is to the occupier’s advantage to continue to remind people that inequality and greed are bad and should be shunned.

At this point in time, the sources of power still remain heavily centralized in our traditional institutions such as government, council on foreign relations, the federal reserve, and the mainstream media.  This power – like all power – cannot last and is destined to be redistributed to the public and commons.  It is only a matter of time.  However, most occupiers believe that time (and the pressing question of sustainability) is of the essence.  Time is no longer on our side as we race against the machine to stop the destruction of our natural environment, and so we are required to act with as much urgency as possible.

That is not to say that we should be acting thoughtlessly and recklessly.  Quite the opposite, we should be requiring the utmost consideration of one another and demanding that we think through possible consequences of our actions.

There is no way around the fact that people will be hurt by the coming waves of social movement.  We are already hurting the one percenter’s feelings by demonizing and ostracizing them.  But they made their bed and now they have to sleep in it.  It is my hope that most of the pain can be limited to economic hardship and psychological growth rather than physical pain and property destruction.  I maintain that the struggle remains an individual endeavor and requires a time of systematic re-examination of our values.  Once we know what our values truly are, then our actions will flow from us without inhibition.

To apply Gene Sharp’s ideas to the occupy movement is simple.  Much of it is already being intuitively done by occupiers.  The movement remains de-centralized and local and this is a huge strength.  Each town and city will continue to be hurt by the economic crisis until “enough is enough” at which time the power of a united people will be able to shrug off the local oppression of the institutions and systems of control.

A Reminder:  Liberation takes place in an individual’s heart and mind first and foremost.

A Call:  If you feel disenfranchised by our culture then it is your responsibility to act.  Protesting is a civic duty and when approached with love it can be incredibly empowering to individuals and groups.

A Prediction:  2012 is a time of new beginnings.  America will continue to wake up to the exploitation of people and resources that is implicit to a capitalist system.  As the awakening happens, occupiers will be faced with the task of funneling the energy of people’s righteous anger into constructive and productive forms of protest and infrastructure rebuilding rather than letting the anger eat us alive.

A Hope:  I’ve struggled with how all this stuff might play out.  But it is my fervent hope that humanity might be able to transcend its dependence on the machine and all the destruction that said machine has caused over the centuries.


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