BY SHANNON CAIN
I have so many questions. Where do I start?
How about this: what would the Occupy movement in Tucson do differently, if we could start over at October 15, 2011? Which twists and turns of this movement did we foresee and which have taken us utterly by surprise? What has changed in the movement since those early heady days, and why? Can our decline in numbers be blamed on the American attention span? Or are we to believe the narrative of the mainstream media: the Occupy movement screwed things up so badly that people got frustrated and went away?
What mistakes did the local Occupy movement made? What successes can we claim? How have our own structures and values (direct democracy, horizontal decision-making, outdoor meetings) hindered us? How have they sustained us? Which strategies have worked and which need to change?
How well are we representing ourselves to the public? To what extent is honest representation even possible given the mainstream media’s hunger for conflict?
In what ways have we been manipulated and tricked by the police? How did the police and municipal government cooperate with national efforts, including the Department of Homeland Security, to quash Occupy encampments around the country, including Tucson’s? How have our weaknesses made it easy for them?
How have shenanigans perpetrated by individuals affiliated with Occupy Tucson damaged our credibility? How have these incidents of individual misbehavior been used against the movement, and to what extent might these incidents have been instigated by provocateurs? What do we do when an individual disrupts us? How do we react when a fellow Occupier becomes a hindrance to the movement? Does the movement eject that individual, and if so, how?
Given we’re a movement that welcomes and amplifies all voices, should we even be thinking in those terms?
How well have we treated one another within the movement? In what ways are we waylaid by the frustrations, angers and oppressions we are here to correct? How lousy does it feel to be on the receiving end of that anger & frustration? How much lousier does it feel to catch ourselves misdirecting that anger at our fellow activists?
What does it mean to be a movement that values transparency? What does it mean to make our decisions out in public, for everyone to see? What happens when that process is messy and conflicted and sometimes screwed up and subject to all the ways humans make mistakes? Now what happens when 8,000 people on Facebook watch those mistakes unfold, because we’re a movement that values transparency?
What happens when trust is compromised within a movement? How is the breakdown of trust an excellent tool for crippling the movement, and how does infiltration—and subsequent discovery thereof—feed that breakdown? How does our culture keep us from trusting one another?
How well are we applying the wisdom that comes with hindsight?
How has the diversity of this movement handicapped us? How has it been our strength? How could we possibly have believed we could organize “the 99 percent” into agreement? Do we need to relearn how to participate in our democracy? Do we need to relearn how to talk to one another?
Readers, will you join me in using this forum as a space for honest inquiry? Also, will you support me as I wield a heavy moderator mallet here? Will you say Oh Hell Yeah, let’s make this a productive and considered and deep dialogue, not a nasty-ass internet free-for-all? Will you smatter me with light applause as I smite (nonviolently of course) the trolls & haters & uncivil egomaniacs, to give us all some space to ask the tough questions?
In what ways are these the wrong questions, anyhow? In what ways are they right? What comes next? Where do we start?