The Citizens Handbook
Occupy Wall Street

Charles Dobson

#Occupy has been called a social movement, perhaps because no one knows a better way to describe it. Is it really a social movement? A lot of empirical research has been done on social movements, but few people are aware of this material because it is buried in academic journals and is miserably difficult to read. There is a short translation in this Handbook: Social Movements: A summary of what works.

It is instructive to look at Occupy in the light of what we know about social movements. Occupy has in common with them:
1. a broad issue of injustice that affects large numbers of people
2. dramatic highlighting
3. concentrations of people who have come together to address the issue
4. a robust communication network
5. people with time available to address the issue

This sounds like a good start. Setting up tents in public places provides an opportunity to maintain a concentration of people over an extended period of time. This is unusual and helpful where participants come from many different backgrounds and hold different points of view. Time-in-contact allows conversations to take place that help synch many different points of view. Many occupations have has done a rather good job of sorting out a lot of issues including those related to operating a camp.

But there's a whole lot about Occupy that got in the way of making progress. Much has been made about how Occupy had no clear objectives. But objectives hardly matter when you have no resources. Occupy faced one crippling problem: How do you get anywhere on big issues when all of your time is used up addressing small issues such as finding food, washing, removing trash and staying warm. In a camp setting these activities leave little time for anything else. Add to this security problems that come with attracting undesirable people, and the constant threat of eviction. Under these circumstances about all you can do is try to maintain a public presence as an irritating reminder that something is seriously wrong.

Occupy coined the phrase, the 1% and the 99%, and put the issue of equality on center stage. This is important because the world's most powerful country is also one of the most unequal. Supporters of Occupy should adopt The Spirit Level as there bible, and treat the project of increasing equality as a long-term project that the 1% will continue to oppose.

Occupy symbol pdf

OECD Gini Index of Income Inequality, 2015
gini  image

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The Troublemaker's Teaparty is a print version of The Citizen's Handbook published in 2003. It contains all of The Handbook plus additional material on preventing grassroots rot, strategic action, direct action and media advocacy. You can get a copy of The Teaparty from bookstores, Amazon or New Society Publishers.