Sunday, October 23, 2011

Human Prairie Fire

In a fit of fury and frustration yesterday, I posted a link to the flyer that Johnson City’s Occupy Wall Street group handed out, its guiding principles for building consensus within the movement. Its “guiding principles,” in my not-so-humble professional opinion, on how to destroy itself. Complete with flow chart. Any professional with organizational and real-world experience can look at that plan and think, OH SHIT. Anyone within the corporate realm, opposed to the Occupy Wall Street movement, is cackling evilly, to know of it. (And not because of what Corporate America understands of the corporate world we repudiate, but because of what applied marketing research has taught them about human nature. Quite successfully, in case you haven’t noticed.) I have wondered if Wall Street actually planted that flyer in the hands of a young OWS organizer punch drunk on 15 straight days of sidewalk sleep.

Some academic has probably spent an entire half-lifetime researching the “consensus plan” our local OWS group is using, working away inside a bubble, racking up the numbers that show “this is the best way to get consensus,” out the ass. How sweet. Here’s the problem:  that’s all the plan does. Build “consensus,” while A) the group shrinks down to a handful of the most passionate diehard souls holding mirrors up to each other and nodding their affirmations fiercely, and B) the goal (if anyone ever had one) turns to dust in our hands. I can imagine no better formula for frittering away a moment.

And the message of this potentially defining moment? Messages in a defining moment are not made by consensus, shows of “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” Those messages are human prairie fire, raw emotion on the upturned faces of thousands, saying ”Go ahead. Shoot.” If a government is stupid enough to obliterate the first swell, hundreds-of-thousands rush in behind it.

But before we get started, let us see, do we have “consensus” on Raw Emotion #3.4A, Item 6, Line 23b?

Damn it, and this movement has more potential than any I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. (Because I was born in 1964, a flesh-and-bone byproduct of a particular kind of peace and love, who mostly missed the last great movement as a result of being in infancy.) This now grown-up marketing professional recognizes that just about everyone in this country is waking up to the fact they’ve been screwed by Wall Street for their entire lifetimes. Tea-baggers, even, although they’re suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. This movement has a perfect name, “Occupy Wall Street,” a perfect target, and a perfect slogan, “We are the 99.” (I wish I’d had such great ideas 15 years ago, when I was capitalizing on naming campaigns, targeting markets, and coming up with slogans.)

I came home yesterday after a second try at a local Occupy Wall Street event, and threw my signs in the trash. I was livid after getting up early, driving an hour to get there, and waiting the two hours the group was behind schedule. I didn’t speak up about these counter-culture babies’ confidence-killing faux pas when I had opportunities, both this weekend and last, because of what I know of human nature. I was a lone representative from outside the choir of activists; I had no dreads and no beads. I would have been wasting my breath, to say Stop! when these people were enjoying their open mikes so much.

But my wiser husband retrieved our signs from the trash, and propped them against the wall of his shed. The Most Cynical Man On Earth likes what he sees of the New York occupation, and — what? — doesn’t think it’s time to give up on it yet.

Twenty-four hours later, I am sitting back on my heels and wondering, “How can those of us who have something to add get in, and effectively share a little wisdom with these kids?” Or, considering that no small proportion were my age or older, “kids at heart.” (I know, I know — begin by not calling them “kids.”)

The rest of us must find a way, somehow.

Because we, too, are among the 99 percent. (The flyer.) (Previous blog on Knoxville OWS.)


  1. I saw online ONE good reason not to give up on these "Infante Terribles" who are drowning themselves in their Kumbayas....Pete Segar, all 92 years of him, joined them to lend his ageless musical support, along with Arlo Guthree and a few other legends of the original movement.

  2. "Infante Terribles" -- you keep posting exactly what I'm trying to say, only way more succinctly!

    I'm still angry, obviously, "but" ...

  3. As troubled and idealistic as they are, on a campaign run strictly by emotion, good for them. The reasoning will catcth up to the idealism. At least they're not sitting on their hands doing nothing.

  4. Yes, I am beginning to come around to that way of thinking. In a big way. It just took a while to absorb the insult and then see the bigger picture.

  5. Despite your disappointment, you endure. Still pushing yourself to define a rational approach to an irrationally rational circumstance.

    Your instinct, or impulse, to do what you can is what you are doing. Yay for Doug, too. The comments are (as we used to say, "right on."

  6. As is so often the case, the emotion behind anger is "hurt." How bad is it -- when a mass movement doesn't even want you?! (Remember, I tried TWICE.) All of this may sound really ego-driven, but all I wanted to do was meld in with the group and march with my signs.

    I continue to try to understand these General Assemblies and organizational principles. I am thinking they in themselves may be protest -- a form of filibuster or an institutional, passive-aggressive slow-down, raging against the Establishment machine? Maybe they are saying with that flow chart: "Ha ha, Media and Establishment, try to follow this. Joke's on you ..."

    If so, maybe they could have communicated that better. I'd never heard of a protest where you sit down and try to make a meeting last as long as humanly possible.

  7. ... purposefully start at the wrong times, etc. etc. etc.

  8. Wall street has been the symbol of stock exchange and of course economic power .Interior Glass Doors