I ran across a comment recently in a post on the page of someone who alleges to have been part of the Occupy movement. He is not a personal Facebook friend, so I won’t mention who he is, and there have been questions raised as to whether he is a proper spokesperson of the movement anyway. Nevertheless, he posted a note saying,
“Our movement is being destroyed from within by many forces, one of the principle forces in this struggle to maintain and expand a movement, (the latter seems almost a impossibility at this point in occupy) is the anti leader mentality, the total discouragement, in particular, of leadership or any type of discipline, organization, or militancy, which is essential to the survival and progress of any movement for social change, whether political or economic justice, as history has shown. ”
My own knowledge of the occupy movement was that it was a huge experiment in the effectiveness of a horizontal power structure which did characterize a fierce opposition toward anything that even smacked of someone attempting to take control. To this day, it does not have any official spokespersons, no face, no recognizable facade, and very little definition, for that matter, as to who these people were and what they represented. There has been no identity, usually manifest through one individual and the things that he stood for, that is at all surviving since then. Its leaderless character is undoubtedly to blame.
Frankly, however, I think that it’s completely inaccurate to say that the “movement” is being destroyed, whether from within or without. Its life as a street phenomenon has certainly withered, but street activism is merely a single manifestation of anything that could be characterized as a “movement.” There is a movement, clearly, and one that is growing, to establish resistance to what most of us recognize are the dark forces of a monied elite who control our economic well being, our livelihoods, our wars, our opportunity for peace, and our children’s future.
It wasn’t just Martin Luther King who had a dream. This is a spirit which cannot be destroyed, and it grows stronger with every ounce of oppression that is added to the weight of what we endure already. Occupy was merely a passing manifestation of that will that survives yet today more powerfully with each day that passes of a desire to throw off the yoke of oppression. And we will win.
Occupy street activism has in fact inspired activism far beyond its rudimentary beginnings. The name Occupy is everywhere and has been co-opted for an untold number of expressions of resistance. Probably a large percentage of them have little to do with the motives of the people who initiated the movement, but they reflect an expanding consciousness of the various ways in which power usurps our rights.
All of it is good. It represents a growing consciousness of a global problem in which people around the world are being united. The initial flowering of Occupy manifestations around the world where people put up tents on public property and got in the face of a few uglies had its life, and the results, the clampdown, the use of force to shut these events down was more than predictable. So anything more than the kind of leaderlessness that existed in these groups would simply have provoked either more violence or, worse, some form of accommodation. It is what it was. And it could never be more than what it was.
Leaderlessness is not a flaw, if it means not being controlled. But let me flip that. Who wants someone else making decisions for you? Why should you ever trust anyone else to know best in matters that affect your lifestyle and livelihood? I’d give trust to the air conditioning repairman, but not to my father, not to my mayor, not to my Congressman, and not to my president, when we are talking about interests that affect my freedoms along with those of other human beings. You can fix something “in” my life, but you can’t fix my life.
Giving leaders control is a direct conflict of interest. No leader should have control. Leaders are those who inspire but leave the decision about whether to follow up to us. Leaders are those who have a lot of high-flying ideas that may or may not be good for us, but invariably would serve the benefit of one who had imagined it. In a democracy where you really have one man-one vote power distribution, then we can all decide, and agree to accept the will of the majority as the best wisdom available.
Direct democracy enables one man-one vote. No other system does. It is a will, when expressed through a vote, that needs no further leadership but rather needs the power to be expedited by those who simply have the technical and professional experience to do so. That’s as horizontal as it will ever get. That’s the kind of democracy I envision. We don’t need a fucking president. We need a man who will do the will of the people.