Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | October 28, 2011

Occupy Everywhere: What Are We Not Getting?

A consistent thread runs through reactions to the Occupy movements across the country. Everybody wants to know: what do they want? Their demands are unclear, their agenda practically non-existent. When will they figure themselves out?

One blogger posted, “Will debt forgiveness be the main policy push from Occupy Wall Street?” (read the article)

Another posts, “As more of an Occupy Wall Street person, my fear is that if there is no clear agenda set soon or if politicians do not soon respond, the energy might dissipate into who knows what.” (read the article)

And another posts, “…as OWS keeps reminding us, they never had a cohesive message to begin with…” (read the article)

According to a Yahoo! News blogger, “Forty-three percent of respondents to a new CBS/New York Times survey said they agree with Occupy Wall Street’s goals, while, 27 percent said they disagree. Thirty percent were unsure.” (read the article)

Pretty good ratings for a movement that doesn’t know what it wants. Or does it? Maybe we take lack of articulation for lack of definite intent. That would probably be a mistake.

Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post seems to get it. Occupy lies deeper.

If Americans were to realize they’ve been the victims of Republican-style redistribution — stealing from the poor to give to the rich — the whole political atmosphere might change. I believe that’s one reason why the Occupy Wall Street protests have struck such a nerve.

Indeed, the CBO report says that even the poorest households saw at least a little income growth. Why is it any of their business that the high-earners in the top 1 percent saw astronomical income growth? Isn’t this just sour grapes?

No, for two reasons. First, the system is rigged. Wealthy individuals and corporations have disproportionate influence over public policy because of the often decisive role that money plays in elections. If the rich and powerful act in their self-interest, as conservative ideologues believe we all should do, then the rich and powerful’s share of income will continue to soar.

Second, and more broadly, the real issue is what kind of nation we want to be.

(read the article)

Everyone knows that the system is rigged. Even those who like the rigging don’t deny it; they just won’t admit that it’s pathological. Disease or not, the rigging is deep and well-established. Occupy is a systemic reaction to a systemic condition in the depths of our social nerves. Such reactions don’t just disappear. If repressed, they simply pop up–or blow up–elsewhere.

According to Robinson, maybe the real issue is not what the Occupiers want, but what we want. Maybe we should be asking ourselves the questions. The Occupy movements are forcing just that kind of introspection precisely because they lack agenda and demands… and won’t go away.

The lesson for us is, “Start listening, because you are not hearing yet; and start looking, because you haven’t seen it yet.”

You haven’t heard or seen until you understand others from their perspectives, given their values and their ways of sorting things out. Short of that, you only heard or saw what you wanted to. We want the Occupiers to explain themselves, but we have asked questions framed for our convenience, to help us sort these people out on our terms.

When my boys were growing up and felt ill, they would tell me, “Daddy, I don’t feel good.” I didn’t send them away to write up a list of specific symptoms, let alone treatment options. “Come back when you can tell me what you want.”  They knew what they wanted. They wanted it to stop.

America, your children feel gravely ill. Forty-three percent run fevers, and another thirty percent are marginal. They recognize the sickness in others, in their compatriots, by their expressions, their tones, their eyes. General malaise is difficult to articulate, but its fever is spreading and rising. This one happens to be powerful enough to support growing conflagrations in hundreds of major cities, now over more than forty days and counting. Where it all will lead is less important than what led it here.

Something draws them together. Something sustains their solidarity in the absence of handles we wish they would present, so that we could get a grasp. Who asks what that is? Don’t we find it remarkable that heterogeneous crowds have formed, occupied, and continue to self-organize in spite of a glaring lack of the usual cohesive accoutrements? This doesn’t fit our mold; but don’t be distracted by looking for what’s not there. Pay attention to what is going on: something that lies deeper than demands, agendas, or even words. It won’t go away until the fever meets a cure.

The Occupiers know why they’re there. They aren’t bothered by lack of demands or agenda; just talk to them! It doesn’t bother them to deny giving politicians and we as political animals what we  want. Maybe this isn’t a political movement. Maybe this is a human, democratic movement. It looks like one.

It’s not hard to see that we have lost touch with democracy, because this is what it looks like, but we insist there must be something else. The Founding Fathers also struggled to articulate agenda and demands, but no one disagreed that there was a need for them. Maybe the same questions and complaints were leveled against them, at first. It takes time to figure things out in a true democracy, especially if you’re green at it and have to figure out figuring out. It’s harder than paying someone else to do it for you. Get used to it.

The British didn’t get an agenda with a list of demands; they got a Declaration. Stop asking Occupy for agenda and demands, and start hearing their declaration. Start seeing what is happening before your eyes. If you can’t hear it and you can’t see it, you wouldn’t understand agendas and demands even if someone articulated them to you.

The Founding Fathers envisioned a government “instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Abraham Lincoln called it a “…government of the people, by the people, for the people…” Future generations will look back on their work as the beginning of a transition.

We now enter a new phase of that transition, leading to a New Declaration of Independence and a New Constitution. They won’t mention a “government of…” or consent from the governed, because the government will be us.

We the People of the United States will govern.



  1. This is one of your best, Millard. Incisive, vibrant, and thought provoking. If only I had your confidence on the outcome.


    • Thanks Dad. I know you think conservatively, but we’ve come to the end of the current road. Either we’ll find another one and proceed, or we’ll get pushed back into a repressive situation. If it comes to that, I don’t plan to go down quietly.

  2. Hey Millard. I’ve bookmarked you coming across from Naked Pastor. Blessings. I’m starting a blog too – about withcraft and several other wonderful things- but I’m in the early stages. Looking forward to getting to know you… take good care,


    (I’m from Bristol in the S W of England).

    • Thanks Sarah! I have a very good friend in the area who is a Wiccan. Wonderful woman. I learn about getting closer to my primal roots whenever I see her. I’m reading “Spell of the Sensuous” by David Abram these days. You might like it. Mesmerizing stuff.

      Let me know when you get your blog going. I’d love to check it out. This one is my first and has gotten a bit stale. I’m much more active on my other one, I think I’ll get back to this one soon for my more philosophical stuff and use for my more spiritual stuff.

      Still trying to sort it all out, haha!

      Welcome here! 🙂

      • Hi Millard, well it’s about fucking as well as witchcraft if you can stand it which I think you can!

        Are you on Facebook? Let me send you a private message and I’d like you to view it – as a friend. Barish bones but launches at inception no point in wasting.

        FB: Sarah Plimmer Bristol UK as per photo.

        • Sarah, please reply to the FB message I just sent you. 🙂

      • Or derr you have my email so email me.

        Blessings and peace,


        • Not waiting for a reply, I add that I crave (some times) erudite and intellectual discussion on a whole variety of topics. Maybe this is something we can share?

          Kind regards,


          • Haha, just working through my emails, so I didn’t notice this at first. I’ll email you, too.

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