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Challengers of growth take to the streets

by Janet Newbury on 13th October 2011

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A movement striving for economic reform that prioritizes wellbeing over financial growth is … well, growing.

Occupy Wall Street has become such a force that it can no longer be ignored even by mainstream media.  Described on its website as “a horizontally organized resistance movement employing the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to restore democracy in America”, it has been growing daily (in scale and intensity) since the call to occupy Wall Street was released on July 13, 2011.  For more details, click here.

I’ll leave it to comedian Jon Stewart to address the predictable critiques of the occupation, and will instead use this space to acknowledge some of the aspects of this movement that seem to strengthen alternatives to growth, not only through the content of the protests, but through their very form.  Occupy Wall Street seems to be unfolding in ways that bring to life some fundamental post growth principles, as identified in our charter:

The Human Microphone: The ban of loudspeakers and microphones has not been stopping voices from being heard loud and clear.  As an alternative, the protestors amplify the words of speakers by collectively repeating what they say.  Although not flawless, such creative and resourceful – not to mention collaborative – responses are precisely what are needed in order to imaginatively move in new directions.

Collaborative and Peaceful Approaches to Change: Despite great bureaucratic challenges, the generosity and organizational effort of countless volunteers has enabled free food to be made available for protestors.  By taking the basic right to sustenance for all seriously, this movement is managing to enact the very reality it is hoping to promote through the protests.  Additionally, organizers have gone to great lengths to ensure this is a nonviolent protest, and this commitment has been embraced by protestors as well.  Prioritizing peace adds integrity to the overall message of justice within the movement.

Art and Music: Recognizing the transformative potential of art and music, protestors have artfully created beautiful signs and placards.  Local performance artists are featured and celebrated, and drumming and music jams are an integral part of the assembly.  This highlights the important point that, while attending to basic needs is an important aspect of the justice being sought by Occupy Wall Street, so is quality of life for all citizens.

Globally Relevant, Locally Enacted: Despite its location-specific name, Occupy Wall Street as a movement is not confined to the streets of Manhatten.  Already it has taken life in other locations throughout the United States, jumped the border to Canada, and exploded as a truly global movement.  The intricate relationship between local realities and global political contexts is clearly exhibited by those participating in the occupations.

Diversity of Approach:  While some critics are concerned that there is no focus when it comes to the demands of the protestors, I for one am relieved. I see great unity in their overall message – about striving for an egalitarian and genuinely democratic world in which wellbeing of the masses is prioritized over profit for a few – but great diversity in their approaches.  Intentionally inviting diverse voices, needs, and perspectives into this conversation will, I hope, lead to the mobilization of diverse actions in response to it.

And it is only in diversity that we might resist yet another dogmatic regime and perhaps even cultivate a world in which everyone can thrive.

 

 

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avatar Janet has just completed a PhD in Child and Youth Care. She has a keen interest in matters of social justice and in community-based approaches to change. She lives on Canada's west coast.

Janet has written 23 posts on Post Growth Institute. Contact Janet

{ 1 comment }

avatar Janet Newbury October 14, 2011 at 07:28

I just wanted to draw attention to this article by Harsha Walta, out this morning, which raises really important issues in relation to this matter: http://rabble.ca/news/2011/10/acknowledgement-occupations-occupied-land-essential.
It also makes the good point that supporting a movement doesn’t mean not critically engaging with it.

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