This week’s post is going to be a little stream-of-consciousness as I try to wrap my mind around the week’s current events and class discussions. One of the more notable events was the expansion of the Occupy Wall Street movement to cities including Washington and Baltimore. Mainstream media have done a less than stellar job of covering the protests. The movement continues to grow rapidly. Some of my friends have even participated. But I still don’t know what it’s about. I’m not sure if anyone really does.
One of my classmates attended the protests in Washington. He was quoted in the Irish Times as saying, “I think the main goal [of the protests] should be reform of the financial sector.” In other words, he was there and still didn’t know what the goal actually was. It seems to be about protesting anything and everything that’s wrong. In a piece for the New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell said real activism is about organizing and assembling. Gladwell criticized social media activism as being based on “weak-ties” and inarticulate goals. That’s also how I would describe Occupy Wall Street, but that doesn’t mean it’s not activism. It’s just a different kind.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to knock any Occupy Wall Street participants or their beliefs. A lot of frustration has been building up in this country for a myriad of reasons. I understand the desire to rally for change. I’m just suggesting that activism itself is changing. While globalization has made international communication easier, it has also made communication less personal, less organized, and less direct.
Dismissing the people who tweeted about Iran or Tunisia as “slacktivists” is cynical. Sure, it could be that some of those people were couch potatoes who pretend to embrace causes to feel better about themselves. Or it could be, as I believe, that most of those people were actually concerned about events in the Middle East and wanted to spread awareness. Maybe they are occupying Wall Street as you read this blog. No one can attend or financially support every cause. We have to choose. Luckily, we can be involved in other ways. It’s not the same as being in the thick of it, but it’s not nothing.