The recent Occupy Wall Street movement

Posted: November 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

  1. The recent Occupy Wall Street movement, has now spread globally to 951 cities in 82 countries. How far is there a “community” element to this movement?
  2. Does such a movement, as former President Bill Clinton says, “need to be for something rather than just against something”?
  1. Gary Thomas says:

    This is interesting, thanks David. The virtualness of the ‘Occupy’ movement’s ‘community’, as you point out, raises issues about what it (ie the virtualness) does for the community. Does it open it out, and if so, does it open it so wide that it ceases to become any kind of cohesive community? Is cohesion necessary for a community, or can it refer to any loose network of people. Does cohesion come from shared aims, or are those shared aims vitiated by different ideas about means to achieve the aims? When does the community become so baggy that one couldn’t say it is a community? It’s interesting that we don’t talk about ‘the British community’ or even ‘the Birmingham community’, while we are happy to talk about a virtual community. Perhaps (to paraphrase someone else) any adjective to which the noun community is appended is rendered meaningless.

    On the substantive issue of the Occupy movement, it seems to me — as you imply — that the media has successfully managed to douse its impact here in the UK by making it about the Church rather than banking. In doing that, they have managed to marginalise the protesters – forcing them into a ‘perceived community’ of nutters and hippies. Perhaps this would be an interesting topic for further study – the construction of perceived community.

  2. Izzy Mohammed says:

    Communities may rely, to some degree or other, on cohesion to function ( the nature or extent of that function is likely related to the underlying reasons that bring the constituents of that community together to form the community ). But cohesion may not be necessary in every instance. Communities that are defined by geography, by a specific locality, can be composed by a diverse set of groups. These groups may on the whole live in reasonable harmony, but there are occasions when there might be discord and unrest between sections of these communities ( for a quick local example, see Birmingam exmaple of the disturbances in Lozells, 2005; riots of Bradford, Oldham and Burnley 2001 ). They remain communities, though there would likely begin debates about whether or not these communities are functioning – particularly from the position of the wider society, which would include the political establishment, all respective angencies working within a relevant field, and the communities themselves ( for examples, debates around community cohesion )…

    For comnmunities not bound by geography, cohesion around ideas, shared aims and objectives, and, indeed, how to achieve these, is probably of greater importance – if, of course, it is around ‘ideas’ that these communities has coalesced ( we can also have communities defined by religion, culture, language etc ). A community’s ability to function as a community, as for example with the Occupy movement, is improved by the level of connectivity around, and adherence to, certain key principles. In such communities, it is shared ideas that bind them – so some degree of cohesion around these ideas is crucial. However, that said, there may still be room for discussion and debate, even disagreement, as to those ideas, and how to realise them…( communities don’t always have to be the most harmonious of things! ). Communities can be, and often are, made up of a multitude of voices – it can make them dyanmic, but may also make cohesion and progress on issues more challenging – but this need not be seen as necessarily diminishing the entity’s status as a community…

  3. I work within a discipline called Social Sculpture, a term coined by the German artist Joseph Beuys.
    Coming back from the Second World War and confronting what had happened in the world as a result of the Nazi tyranny he sought to widen the remit of art beyond the normal parameters.
    The issue of individual freedom and responsibility and the issue of community became the most important subject for art. He famously said ,’ Everyone is an Artist.’ He didn’t mean by this we are all poets and painters but rather that; by the very fact that we possess an imagination we are capable of re-imagining the world.
    For him the Social Sculptor’s role was to create spaces where that which was hidden, ignored or denied in our culture could be brought out into the open and transformed by human activity. The Social Sculpture is not the space created by the artists but rather the transforming community created by those who participate.
    Reading about this movement I feel as if I am witnessing a vast, organic Social Sculpture. Our democracy’s reducing freedom to the freedom to make money and consume has created massive world crises and also a sense of powerlessness as well as deep unhappiness.
    The writer and artist Suzi Gablik suggests that one of the greatest discoveries of our age may be that we cannot be happy unless we feel we are doing something worthwhile with our lives.
    It seems as if life reduced to nothing but money and consumerism and the moral bankruptcy of all of our institutions has finally reached such a pitch that people have begun to gather and speak about wanting something more.
    The designer William MacDonough is part of the movement for a New Industrial Revolution. He is part of a new ethical capitalism where what is made doesn’t hurt the earth and those making it are cared for and fulfilled. He learnt much from the indigenous people of the world. They look at nature not as something to exploit but as their relatives. They never do anything without first asking themselves ,’How will it affect seven generations of everything.’
    The history of democracy has been a journey towards freedom. In the West we have so much and yet our freedom doesn’t seem to fulfil us on a fundamental level. What the Occupy wall Street movement has the potential for is to create a deep and serious conversation about what freedom is and how it connects with responsibility.
    One of the golden rules of communication is that telling people what to do creates resistance. On the other hand sharing our enthusiasm for a more human and responsible society creates the potential to make choices about how we live out of our understanding and deep seated concern for the future, maybe even for seven generations of everything.
    The Occupy movement could be the beginning of just such a conversation, one that will move beyond those protesting into to every home and institution that takes heart from encountering it.

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