One year after its organization in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, Occupy Chicago is not quite as ostentatious, organized or obeyed by the 99 percent as it once was.
The movement has to be commended for the work it has done to unite citizens against corporate greed, inequality and austerity. Though its goals are still as pure, the ways it has sought to reach them during the past year could use some revision.
Occupy Chicago now considers itself an “umbrella organization” for other movements with similar motives to promote positive social change. It has its heart in the right place by choosing to support the activism of others, but it is losing its own focus. The specificity of its goals have fallen by the wayside. The direction and direct action the movement once had has disintegrated.
The multitude of committees that once were actively meeting and working together to further develop the movement’s goals seem to have lost member commitment.
The most infuriating, unanswerable question regarding the movement:
Where did the passion go?
Maybe it was the allure of something different, edgy and slightly dangerous that drew so many members of the 99 percent into the movement upon its formation. Maybe it was press coverage, the peer pressure or a true shared rage at inequality.
The insincere among the 99 percent, of course, would not have braved the cold weather to see the movement through last winter. The press was tired of the same stories. The most involved were tired of getting arrested. The only elements of Occupy Chicago that haven’t seemed to change are a few ultra-dedicated members and the ever-present Chicago Police Department following them to every rally, speak-out and event.
Most people I’ve spoken with about the movement agree with its principles, its attempts to bring equality to the middle and lower classes, its useage of free speech. Where are these people at General Assemblies on Wednesday nights? When I look out the window during my Wednesday night class, only seven or eight people are visible at Congress and Michigan.
Could it be that, like me, these people are just too busy to get involved? Could it be that they’d rather let others do the work? Could it be that they’re not passionate enough? Or could it be that the blame lies within Occupy itself?
The entire Occupy movement needs to rebuild itself from the ground up. It needs to grab the 99 percent by their throat and make them open their eyes to the injustice it organizes against. It needs to actually organize. Supporting other movements with similar goals is great, but these efforts do not necessarily leave time for Occupy to develop its own plans of action.
Occupy Chicago’s virtual presence is phenomenal. Its social media committee certainly knows how to relate to the public. Now, the movement needs to figure out how to bring this interaction from the Internet into the real world. One-year-anniversary rallies and celebrations are great, but Occupy Chicago needs to take a look at what it really has to celebrate at this point in time.
There is way too much apathy by outsiders surrounding the movement today, and the movement’s dedication to an ultra-democratic, nearly anarchical structure is most of the problem. When nearly everyone has a say, nothing gets done. Sitting in on a committee meeting, this structure is evident. Differences of opinion are a normal thing, but it appears no one knows how to solve them efficiently. Somebody or somebodies need to emerge as a leader. The movement needs guidance, a commander in chief.
There is a way for Occupy Chicago to garner press attention without members getting arrested; there is a way for members to not get arrested without completely sitting in the corner and having quiet discussions. A happy medium will drive the Occupy movement forward. It just needs to find the structure, the support and the right plans of action to find it.