"This is not a movement with a traditional narrative arc. As the product of the de-centralized networked-era culture, it is less about victory than sustainability. It is not about one-pointedness, but inclusion and groping toward consensus. It is not like a book; it is like the Internet." Douglas Rushkoff
Something has quite fascinated me about the 'Occupy' protests that have spread across a significant number of cities across the US and around the world. The same question seems to come up again and again in the coverage: what is it precisely that they are protesting about? As Paul Mason wrote in this truly insightful blog post, "if you ask 50 people why they're here and what they want you'll get 50 answers".
The institutional and reactionary response struggles with this uncertainty and fluidity. It wants to know: 'what is it that they want from us?' Yet this is, of-course, the wrong question. It responds dismissively, seeing it as an incoherent, messy, apparently leaderless movement. Yet that is, of-course, precisely the point. It seemingly labours with the diversity of dissent. Yet it is in that same diversity that the protestors revel.
This incomprehension is symptomatic of what happens when institutions are faced with ideas, events and thinking from a world characterised by protean, bottom-up, collaboration that spreads effortlessly across borders. A world outside of current institutional frames of reference. Populated by people who no longer relate to them.
To quote from Paul Mason, the Occupy protests are much bigger than a single-issue campaign. It's a meme. An action "transmitting itself independent of any democratic structures and party political hierarchies…the kind of movement you get when people start to believe mainstream politicians have lost their principles, or are trapped by vested interests, or are all crooked."
Regardless of what happens now, I think it is a powerful admonishment.