I went. I occupied. I left.
This past Saturday, I decided that since I didn’t, you know, get, the whole Occupy Toronto thing, I’d just go check it out myself. I wanted to talk to people because as I understood it, the group didn’t have a collective goal. It was like-minded people who knew things needed to change and were coming together to… um… be angry about… things. So I wanted to find out what things.
I asked everyone I met two questions:
Why did you come?
What do you hope is accomplished?
Literally nobody I spoke to had an answer to the second question. I didn’t talk to everybody obviously, but I talked to enough people that someone should have had an answer. Heck, even I had an answer. I don’t think it’s enough to just be angry, and again, the importance of a single, simple demand was stressed from the outset of the Occupy Wall Street movement, too.
I think a key thing to understand about this campaign–and really, that’s what it is–is that gathering together the anti-establishment crowds and the angriest people will simply not be enough. They don’t make up a large enough portion of the population to make a difference. You need to sway the opinion of others, which begins by raising awareness, continues by educating them toward acceptance of the fact that there is a problem and that it can be solved, and ultimately, calls for action to correct it.
Occupy Toronto has two parts:
The first is to get the attention of, and then educate, the general population. Enough of it to make a difference to lawmakers. The call to action for them is simply to join the movement, but that’s a pretty big feat all on its own, but it’s one that’s easily defined.
The second is to make those lawmakers aware of the level of discontent. You probably don’t have to educate them so much because they know. If you have an MP or MPP who isn’t aware of the economic situation in your riding, then why did you elect them? So let’s just assume they’re all educated. So you need to convince them to act. But to do that, you need to let them know what you want them to do.
I don’t think Occupy Toronto is a lost cause yet, but I think it has more than a little potential to become one quickly. And that kinda sucks. I wanted it to be more than what it seems to be. There was a great opportunity there, and maybe there’s still time for it to become something awesome.
If there is, I have some thoughts, to be taken with a grain of salt, I suppose, because, c’mon, I’m just some stupid girl.
AMANDA’S TIPS FOR OCCUPY TORONTO
1. Don’t engage in illegal activity.
As I understand it, protesters didn’t even J-walk while marching downtown. Extend that respect for the law and desire to maintain peace to everything else, including marijuana possession. Not only does having pot at the protest create a legitimate cause for it to be disrupted, but it sends the message that Occupy Toronto is just another hippy protest. You may not like it being seen that way, but if you’re running a campaign, you have to accept the reality of perception.
2. Set up an education booth.
Most of the people that I talked to were not well-informed and couldn’t speak with any level of education about the issues at hand. To be fair, most people in general don’t know anything about these things. But it would be great to try to make sure that when a journalist, or a politician, or someone just checking things out approaches a random person from the crowd, that person knows what they’re talking about.
Awareness of this campaign is pretty high. Wall Street made sure of that. Now you have to move fairly quickly into education to keep people interested and convince them to join. As a fairly educated and informed person talking to the people at Occupy Toronto, the judgement I made about it based on talking to people was not very good. Some people didn’t even seem to care whether anything ever came of the protest. They were just really happy to be there and be involved in it. Which brings me nicely to my next suggestion…
3. Figure out what you’re asking for.
It’s difficult for people to know whether they support something if they don’t know what it is. That’s pretty self-evident, I suppose. At this point, Occupy Toronto is a rally not a protest. It’s about to get cold. If you want to see more people acting in support of the movement before they would rather stay home and sip hot cocoa by the fire, then define the movement fast.
There are any number of demands that could be made that I know I would support, and I know a lot of other people who would support them, too. I even know some people who would support them in ways that may reach further than sitting in a park. But give them something solid.
Even at the end of Saturday, I saw this starting to come together. They were trying to figure out how to figure out what the demands should be anyway, so there was movement. But I think people will have lost interest by the time something clear has been defined.
NOT THAT ANYONE SHOULD LISTEN TO ME
Wait, no, actually, they should. Because I was the easiest demographic to hit. I was skeptical but open-minded. I understand the issues and believe in the necessity for certain changes. I actually fully support Occupy Wall Street, if only in my heart, and I hope they’re successful.
So what I’m saying is that after the people who were already predisposed to support this movement no matter what, I was pretty much the easiest person to inspire toward action and should have been the first to sign up. But I was not inspired. I was disappointed. And I don’t think that bodes well for the task of convincing the other 98% of the 99%.