Sunday, December 11, 2011

Occupiers Of Pittsburgh, Unite (Effectively)!

For months, Occupy Pittsburgh has been surprisingly successful, refreshingly resourceful, pleasantly persistent, and intensely worthwhile.

Every American who recognizes the injustice (and chronic, unsustainable trajectory) of accelerating income inequality, every citizen who chafes against undeserved privilege embedded in our system, everyone who believes our society would benefit from diminution of greed and corruption should be grateful to the Occupiers, many of whom have sacrificed comfort for the worthy purpose of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

Pittsburgh's Occupiers -- based at a Sixth-at-Grant camp, conducting periodic field trips (left) carrying a message to scattered neighborhoods -- have been especially admirable. They have avoided most of the problems -- some self-inflicted, some provoked, others ascribable entirety to thuggish politicians and police -- experienced elsewhere.

Others deserve ample credit for working with the Occupiers to arrange a good situation. Most prominent are BNY Mellon, which has graciously cooperated with protesters squatting on property (right) that it at least largely private, and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, which has exhibited a civic-minded restraint it has often lacked in spotlighted situations.

Most of these noble circumstances could change today, however. That would be unfortunate, and avoidable.

BNY Mellon has informed Occupiers that it has withdrawn its permission for an encampment, effective at noon today. It has declared that it would seek an injunction tomorrow if the park is not cleared today. BNY Mellon likely is entitled to enforce its wishes in this regard, and the Pittsburgh police would possess a duty to protect BNY Mellon's rights.

Some Occupiers have promised to resist an effort to clear the park. We hope those voices have been the loudest but not the most numerous among the Occupiers; that the Occupiers who have expressed defiance will reconsider; and that the Occupiers' collective body will choose sound strategy over counterproductive tactics, for the sake of preserving and expanding the good their altruistic actions have accomplished.

The history of populist movements is not encouraging in this regard. The wealthy and privileged customarily win these battles, even as the majestic arc of our nation's progress has traced toward justice over the long term. One important reason for the elites' enviable record is that they select strategy over tactics, and an important reason for that choice is that they have better advisers.

The wealthy have strong lawyers, astute financial consultants, effective lobbyists, smooth mouthpieces. Those counselors have excellent support systems, and their clients are well-organized.

The common man is not so fortunate. Unions have leaders and advisers who permit pension plans to submerge members' interests under decades of underfunding and mismanagement without so much as a modicum of inquiry, a moment of recognition, or a murmur of objection. Average Americans must rely on small legal offices to counter the privileged interests' huge, powerful law firms. The wealthy are served by financial magicians who enable billion-dollars companies to evade taxation, while the blue collar worker puzzles his own way through the 1040 to a higher tax rate than a hedge fund titan pays.

Occupiers choosing counterproductive tactics without regard to finances and other resources, legal issues, and other factors would be destined to follow a predictable path to futility. They would squander public support, splinter their organization, disserve their message, and lose.

Their ideals and accomplishments deserve -- and can be served -- better. They could devise and implement a long-term strategy that inclines success. For example, they could thank BNY Mellon for its hospitality, then negotiate with public officials for another location. (Several public parcels in or near downtown seem suitable.) They could try to persuade another private owner to provide another location, perhaps involving indoor accommodations. They could attempt to arrange an invitation to return to BNY Mellon's property after winter breaks.

To engage in legal jousting with BNY Mellon and/or a physical confrontation with law enforcement personnel would be to succumb to short-term and longshot tactics when long-term and effective strategy is indicated. There is still time for Pittsburgh's Occupiers to avoid the temptation to rely on emotion, to take the low road, to play into the hands of their opponents.

We hope our Occupiers find leaders, advisers, and strategies able to guide them to continuing success.

Infytune: Before The Deluge, Joan Baez and Jackson Browne
Infytune: Strange Fruit, Billie Holliday
Infytune: Only A Pawn In Their Game, Bob Dylan
Infytune: This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land
Infytune: Occupy (We The 99), Jasiri X


Anonymous said...

The Occupy movement has certain things embedded in its DNA -- not all of it good, but all integral to what it is and has managed to so far become.

A base ingredient in that cocktail is defiance. The entire movement can be seen as a remedial training program in defiance for Americans: defiance of both law enforcement and of property rights as being the supreme consideration over all else (such as the dire, intolerable emergency of our political and economic situations).

It's an upping of the ante, a raising of the stakes, a dramatization and a symbol. It aspires nothing less than parity with the Arab spring and the heyday of this nation's civil rights movement.

I hope and honestly believe we won't see any "physical confrontations" with police in Pittsburgh. But acquiescence would be seen as a major break in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and the rest of the movement, and probably isn't being seriously considered.

The best we can hope to expect is to see all the protesters limply and proudly being carted off one by one. Then the band can consider a rendezvous and prompt reignition, maybe under more sustainable circumstances.

Infinonymous said...

Fine points, well stated.

Defiance can be deft, thoughtfully tailored to the circumstances. Effective. Defiance also can be ham-handed and foolish. Predictably and deservedly counterproductive.

Let us hope Pittsburgh's Occupiers follow your proposed course and emulate Gandhi and Dr. King, men to be admired. We should remember, however, that our Occupiers inhabit Pittsburgh, which reveres the dangerous and stupid recklessness of James Harrison more than it honors the judgment and record of good men.