Happy First Birthday to the Occupy Movement and Their 99% Meme

The Occupy movement has seen both 'the best of times and he worst of times' in its short one year history. Today is it's birthday, one year ago today the first camp was setup in New York City's Zuccotti Park. At first the authorities were baffled as to how to deal with the mix of unemployed college grads, political activists, street people, musicians, celebrities...even the press ran glowing stories. Seemingly overnight encampments sprung up in city after city in America, in Canada, then around the world. Clearly something new, a life form nurtured by social media and a gut level frustration with the 'system' was being born.

What the Occupy movement lacks in organization, direction and goals was/is more than made up for by the bridges built across the divides of age, race and class, between the housed and the homeless as well as the employed and jobless. As Rebecca Solnit, an occupier herself, said in her article 'Occupy Your Victories: OWS' First Anniversary', "There was tremendous emotion around it -- the joy of finding you were not alone." saying also, "Occupy’s other signal achievement: we articulated, clearly, loudly, incontrovertably, how appalling and destructive the current economic system is. To name something is a powerful action."

Historically, successful progressive social movements have taken decades to bring their central message, their meme, to the forefront of public awareness let alone achieve the changes they seek - Civil Rights, Women's Suffrage, Gay Rights,  Nuclear Arms Control. Instead, Occupy's quick success at inserting their 99% meme into the global mindset shows how ready the world was/is to receive the message.

Occupy was/is in many ways a victim of its name. In time the authorities found ways to use media messaging to re-frame the movement's persona from a group of peaceful protesters, like all of us, camping on the commons into a mob of dirty, dangerous and delinquents thereby opening the door for their storm troopers to violently evict 'them', but not their ideas, from the limelight.

Living here in Beautiful BC i'm especially proud of the efforts of Occupy Vancouver to build a truly effective counter-culture - they harnessed mountains of donations and the best energy of many volunteers to feed hundreds of homeless folks everyday, they provided first aid to all comers, a revolutionary library...they fed the spirit's of the poor and gave them dignity. And of Occupy Victoria who's Occupy branch adopted the name 'The People's Assembly of Victoria'. If, as Solnit says above, "To name something is a powerful action." maybe The People's Assembly will find a powerful position in Occupy's future.