Rebecca Solnit wrote an inspiring op-ed in today's L.A. Times, one I've been waiting for someone to write. If you need a morale boost, please read it in full. Solnit is an author who spent time at Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Oakland and Occupy Wall Street in 2011. A longer version of the op-ed can be found at tomdispatch.com.
In her piece, she traces movements, activist groups, a unique person here and there, and identifies their transformative moments. She identifies milestones and special people who have made a meaningful difference and changed the world because they galvanized others with their mission.
Real change may at first be incremental, halting, and sometimes frustratingly imperceptible to those who aren't really paying attention, but eventually, it takes hold in ways unimagined.
In other words, the efforts can result in achievements that have lasting impact. And that impact can be on the whole wide world, a country, a legislative body, or on the very participants of a movement. And then those participants pay it forward.
[T]he moment that counts is the one where civil society is its own rule, improvising the terms of an ideal society for a day, a month, a season [...]
Almost as soon as Occupy Wall Street appeared in the fall of 2011, the national conversation changed and the brutality and obscenity of Wall Street were suddenly being openly discussed. The suffering of ordinary people crushed by the burden of medical, housing or college debt came out of the shadows.
California passed a homeowner's bill of rights to curtail the viciousness of the banks, and in late 2012, Strike Debt emerged as an Occupy offshoot to address indebtedness in creative and subversive ways. Student debt suddenly became (and remains) a topic of national discussion, and proposals for student loan reform began to gain traction.
Invisible suffering was made visible. And, though Occupy was never primarily about electoral politics, it was nonetheless a significant part of the conversation that got Elizabeth Warren elected senator and prompted a few other politicians to do good things in the cesspit of the capital.
Change often happens when the brutality of the status quo is made visible and therefore intolerable. [...]
Occupy Wall Street allowed those silenced by shame, invisibility or lack of interest from the media to speak up. ... [T]he media and politicians had to change their language to adjust to a series of previously ignored realities.
Part of what gave Occupy its particular beauty was the way the movement defined "we" as the 99%. That phrase (along with that contagious meme "the 1%") entered our language, offering a far more inclusive way of imagining the world.
Occupy is still working behind the scenes. I know this because I communicate regularly with those who are deeply involved, and I see reports of their impressive accomplishments. The tents are now gone, the drums stopped beating... but Occupy's heart didn't.
Today's L.A. Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:
Your dismissive article on the Occupy movement was mean-spirited and wrong.
Occupy's very visible, if inchoate, public illumination of what was and is wrong in America changed the political dialogue in this country. It received media attention, it raised consciousness, and it showed that organizing could make a difference (take a look at labor's recent victory at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles). It also left a legacy of very worthwhile programs, most notably Occupy's Rolling Jubilee program, which asks people to give small donations to a fund so other people can get out of debt and save their homes from foreclosure.
Rolling Jubilee is a beautiful thing. It may be that the first phase of Occupy's mission is over, but in communities all across America, not only does it do good work but its spirit lives.
It has never been easy to find a balance between cities' responsibilities to protect residents from public disturbance and to respect free speech. However, new rules such as raising fees for permits to hold protests and higher fines for violations are extreme.
Silencing dissent narrows the perspectives on social issues by limiting what less-powerful groups can bring to the negotiating table in their fight for equality and justice.
My pal Lee Camp does it again. Let's not forget what Occupy did for us, how it changed this country for the better. Protest and change are messy, but this one was, and is, mandatory.
A year ago Occupy Wall Street burst onto the scene, changing the conversations going on around this country and perhaps the world. Has it had some defeats, some hurdles, some difficulties? Sure. But who honestly thought it wouldn't? This war isn't over. [LeeCamp.net]