Minnesota’s branch of the Occupy Wall Street movement kicked off on Friday. I hit the event up on both Friday evening and Saturday afternoon with several of my libertarian friends to see what was actually going on. I can say with certainty after conversing with many attendees that a great deal of diversity exists in those attending which is the opposite of what many media outlets are reporting. Regardless of what you’ve heard these events aren’t made up entirely of unemployed Marxists. With that said a large majority of those in attendance certainly subscribe, at least in part, to the failed philosophy put forth by Marx.
Both days I attended there were quite a few people there with shirts and signs saying, “End the Fed.” The people there to protest the Federal Reserve make up the second largest faction after the Marxists. It was interesting to see two groups who are usually in direct opposition of one another existing in the same place peacefully. I had the pleasure of meeting several other voluntaryists whom I had not previously known along with a couple of guys up on Austrian economics (in fact one guy was wearing a shirt with Ludwig von Mises on it).
The variety of people attending this event puts further credence in my theory that these occupations are basically bring your own grievance protests. It could be best summed up by saying the one unifying aspect at these occupations is that everybody in attendance is pissed off about something. Some are there merely to portest American’s wars, others are there to protest the banks, and others are there to protest the entire corporatocracy we currently live under.
I’m sure it’s pretty obvious that, with such a diverse group in attendance, organization isn’t evident. While there is good organization as far as having good, water, and sanitary needs on site there is little in the way of determining overarching goals of the occupation. Each night there is an event called a general assembly which is basically a big collectivist circle jerk. Like most collectivist ideas, these general assemblies are great at taking up a ton of time and accomplishing very little. As an individualist I have no problem with this as it prevents the collectivists from establishing complete domination over the occupation. What makes the general assemblies so ineffective is the fact they are trying to please everybody which is impossible. Minor topics, such as decided how things will be voted on, can take an hour or more. Once the attendees of the general assembly have voted on how they’re going to vote other topics are discussed and decided. While many topics can be discussed and voted on quickly as there is an overall consensus other topics can take an apparently endless amount of time. Personally I prefer my individualist system of deciding things which can be summed up as, “I’m going to go do whatever the fuck I want and you’re welcome to join me. If you don’t want to join me that’s fine, you can go do your thing.”
Some interesting things to note about the Minneapolis occupation are the lack of electricity and shelters and an overall desire to do everything within the rule of law. While many participating in the occupation use the phrase civil disobedience I don’t thing those words mean what they think they mean. Civil disobedience is showing disregard for the law and doing what you want to do. For example the county has ordinances against erecting tents on public property, which the Government Center Plaza is considered, so the people sleeping overnight are doing so without shelter. Were the participants performing acts of civil disobedience they would just erect tents and give a big middle finger to the police surrounding the Plaza. In fact the regard for obeying the law is so strong that several of my friends who were going off to protest the Federal Reserve met with some resistance from the occupation organizers. The organizers stated that they made an agreement with the police to inform them of any marches so the police could escort the march participants. My friends, being the individualists they are, questioned why they are being hassled for going off and doing what they want to do (which was walk the distance from the Plaza to the Federal Reserve Building in Minneapolis).
I mentioned the lack of electricity and this is entirely due to a dirty stunt pulled by the city. The Plaza has openly accessible electrical outlets available that were fully operational Friday but sometime during Friday night the city cut them leaving the occupants without any source of power. The organizers questioned why the city would pull the plug on the electricity when taxpayers are footing the bill and I have to agree, those in attendance or taxpayers and should have access to the electrical power on public property. In luie of working electrical outlets the occupations have erected a couple of solar panels but as we know solar panels are incapable of providing much in the way of power. Currently the organizers are trying to obtain some bicycle generators as the city will not allow any form of fuel-powered generator to be in the Plaza (against the words civil disobedience do not apply to this occupation).
The lack of shelter is also a notable issue. As I state the country has an ordinance against erecting tents on public property and the attendees of the occupation have been unwilling to give the law a nice big middle finger. Since they are unable to erect tents some people have resorted to covering themselves with tarps which are legal so long as they’re not propped up by any type of structure. While some of the participants are petitioning the country board to get permission to erect tents I believe their concerns will go unheard as the country would like nothing more than getting the protesters out of there. Without any form of basic shelter I doubt this occupation will last much after the temperature starts dropping.
Free food is being provided to the protesters but another ordinance prevents anybody from preparing hot food on site. Thus all of the food being provided is in the form of sandwiches, previously baked goods, and food heated offsite and brought to the Plaza.
From what I saw during the weekend it seems Minnesotans are again earning their title of Minnesota nice (which should actually be called Minnesota passive-aggressive). The number participating in this occupation is fairly unimpressive and the numbers seem to be dwindling with each day. Those who are actually there have been very good at obeying every law on the books instead of performing actual acts of civil disobedience. I’ve been checking in on the live stream periodically to get an estimate of the number of participants and I’m noticing a definite surge during the evening hours. When I checked in this morning there were, I estimate, a little less than 100 people. Tonight when I checked it it seems there could be close to 200 people (but as I’m checking the live stream I can only see what the camera is focused on to make my estimates, hardly accurate data).
I’m glad to see people have finally gotten pissed off enough with our current corporatocracy to start demonstrations. I wish a large number of participants had working knowledge in the field of economics and history. If the majority of Marxists attending these occupations understood both economics and history they would know socialism can only lead to decimated economies and high death tolls (the latter isn’t a guarantee but the first is with time).
Many participants also seem to believe the government is going to listen to their grievances and thus change will occur but I believe they need to reconsider this belief. Our “representatives” rarely listen to the people and prefer to enact legislation that benefits their large campaign contributors. Instead of pleading with these “representatives” the participants of these occupations should simply ignore the state as much as possible. A good amount of peaceful civil disobedience combined with agorism is going to do far more to change society than appealing to the better nature of our so called “representatives.” Stop worrying so much about getting group consensus and instead promote the individualist ideal, have each person bring their own thoughts, actions, and strategies to the table. Competition is good so having competing ideas and actions to enact social and economic change is going to work far better than getting everybody to sign onto one single method.
After all we should remember that American was founding on the individualist ideal while the Soviet Union was founded on the collectivist ideal. Look which of the two is still around and consider that fact.