Anytime individuals get together to reclaim social justice and fairness or to empower themselves in the light of gross inequalities, I’m heartened and encouraged.
The movement is now 6 weeks old, and with that small amount of maturity, comes new models of organization and structure. News coverage of the #occupy has critiqued its lack of central leadership. That’s actually a positive, I think. Let ideas emerge, experiment with new models of democracy, and take advantage of self-organization and the passion of connected individuals.
However, the #occupy movement will fail unless it changes how it structures and scales its message to draw in the next wave of participants. Failure is a relative term, of course. #Occupy members could say “we’re successful because we’ve raised the profile of the injustices of the banking system and inequality of society”. And, of course, they have. They might even be responsible for getting Bank of America to drop it’s $5 monthly debit fee.
But, if the intent of #occupy is to reduce inequality – particularly at a systemic level – what it mosts needs is scale. By scale, I mean a critical mass of people. And that’s not happening. There are a few bright spots (Zuccotti park), but the movement has started to specialize too soon. At this point, I would expect to see numerous Zuccotti’s. It’s becoming a clique, an “in-club” with special language and symbols. I saw a few #occupy members on Colbert Report yesterday. They may not be representative, but I was left with a sense of “wow, I don’t speak their language…I have ZERO interest in being a part of what they are talking about”.
I’m concerned about economic inequality. #occupy has collected an eclectic mix of fragmented messages and specialized languages. As such, it is concerned with, well, everything: female-bodied persons, autonomous action and identity, empowered people, rights of all sorts, economics, racism, social injustice, and so on. Each draws from its parent discipline (often in academia) with special language and special processes of communicating. Unless #occupy is able to communicate 1) in a manner, 2) about topics, and 3) in a language that resonates with broader society their ideological fragmentation will be a liability.
I see this from a learning perspective: Learning is about coherence-forming…we connect concepts into some type of structure and coherent whole that enables action and guidance in our thinking. When language isn’t clear or when concepts can’t be cognitively apprehended because of too much specialization of language and protocol, coherence is simply not possible.
#Occupy can be leaderless and diverse and still succeed. It can be distributed and networked and still succeed. However, if its message doesn’t resonate with a significant portion of society, due to lack of coherence or limited capability of individuals to form personal coherence around numerous voices, it will fail. Over the last few days, for me at least, the message has stopped to resonate.