Saturday, October 8, 2011

Occupying Wall Street, wherever, and heuristics

Last Sunday, I wrote a short piece here about the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. At that time, I was not clear on the movement’s mission and goals. Apparently, neither were the participants, after listening and reading. That lack of clarity still seems the case. But this unclear movement of people spreads across the nation in a real way, as well as virtually on facebook pages, twitter handles, #hashtag’d streams, and websites. What’s happening?

One could visit our Liberty Memorial tomorrow and find out but I probably won’t. I’m curious, but a friend of mine, a musician, wishes for me to help out with a recording session. I’m reading a poem I wrote earlier this year, “Heuristics”. The poem addresses that experienced well of knowledge we have within us; things we don’t realize we know so well, things we learn by doing and observing. A practical example is how long it takes you to get from point A to point B. Think about your daily commute if you have one. We all know a great deal about life; aspects we take for granted and yet our heuristics, our personal “rules of thumb” help us in life to find and make our way(s).

What do heuristics have to do with the Occupy Wall Street Movement? The American way of late is not a way of protest on a large scale. We just don’t protest a great deal, collectively. We certainly do in private, speaking of that slow commute you may have endured today. But consider how protests, real live taking it to the streets and squares, are rather uncommon in our personal experience. Those reading this with intentions of heading to Liberty Memorial know this. This experience will be something new. Will this be a long term occupation or just a short term outing for a Sunday afternoon?

But will this movement perhaps give people experience, over time, in the art and science of protesting in a peaceful way? Will various city and regional movements effectively share tools and techniques? Will there be a meaningful dialog, or just spectacle and noise. Will people in this movement form a leadership council of some sort; a shadow government?

Is the movement fueled by mere frustration? Is government as ineffective as they seem to claim? Can an amorphous and general concept like “capitalism” be an enemy, in the same way we’ve grown listlessly accustomed to using the term “terrorism”? The movement claims and chants they are the 99%. In so saying, they claim many of us reading this as members of their socio-economic grouping. In giving us a percentile choice, they claim the existence of “class”, strata, judgment based upon wealth.

Those class heuristics are innate measurements in many of our intellects, but we carry different measuring devices. You may be one who strives not to measure these social standings. Your heuristics may be based upon experience backed with a belief in equality.

The “Occupy” movement has people worried. Are you worried about them? Or are you worried about more practical aspects of your life…health, safety, employment, your loved ones, education? We have our worry lists. We have our heuristics.

I see a movement that’s simply taking the news to the streets, making real in human collective form the expression of what we read and hear about the world. I also observe a movement, by virtue of its occupational nature, consisting of young people in America. There’s great potential for people to gain a great deal of experience in the techniques and tactics of protest; physical as well as intellectual.

The 99% will not protest. The 99% of younger people, let’s say between the ages of 18 to 35, will not take to any barricades or sit in parks. My demographic measurement tool needs fine tuning, I realize, but I don’t think people have the motivation to sustain or even significantly grow the Occupy movement. This is not a challenge but more of a personal heuristic. In my 58 years, I haven’t witnessed a protest movement with any consequence or cohesiveness. Let the response-givers here chastise me about the Anti-Vietnam War protest movement and the Civil Rights Movement. Didn’t those movements fuel change? Perhaps. But a large percentage of those marchers are still alive today. Where are they? Giving protest seminars?

America, collectively on a significant social-changing scale, does not possess the heuristics, the rules of thumb, the innate dexterity to organize, to revolt, necessary to make lasting significant change from a street point of departure. We know how to work hard, study, practice, create, invent, and innovate. We know we’re more than our credit score or bank balance. I’m not sure the percentage of this heuristic of mine, but I reckon it’s a fairly solid majority, all political colors aside.

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