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Monday, April 30, 2012

Why Occupy and Anonymous are Failing

Greetings friends and fellow citizens. As the new year is already a third over, I am looking back on an interesting time indeed in the history of our nation. Due to the continuing corruption of our government and corporations, we have seen open civil unrest in the form of mass protests across the nation. Yes, I am speaking of the "Occupy" and "Anonymous" movements, though in honesty the only thing I have seen occupied are public parks. Both the Occupy and Anonymous movements, as I see it, have several critical failings that are holding them back.

The first is the lack of a defined agenda, statement of purpose, or tangible platform of grievances. Admittedly, these seem to be three ways of saying the same thing, but they are not. They are inter-related, but definitely different from each other.

A statement of purpose defines why the organization or movement exists in a general way. The environmental movement, for example, began as an attempt to address the concerns of how we are destroying our world with pollution, destructive development of our wilderness areas, and wasteful misuse of our natural resources. As I see it, both Occupy and Anonymous need to be defined in the same way.

An agenda is a defined set of goals or objectives. An agenda can be as simple as wanting to educate the public about a given topic to motivate action, such as pursuing the passage of an anti-littering ordinance to reduce the debris on the streets and sidewalks of the community, or as elaborate as a full "manifesto" of political or social objectives.

A platform of grievances is a detailed explanation of why an organization is seeking reform. Perhaps the best examples I could give of this is the Declaration of Independence that heralded the American Revolution and the Declaration of Sentiments that heralded the beginnings of the women's movement in the United States.

The second, and Occupy has been making some serious strides in this in the past few months, has been the lack of public education about who the organizations are and why they are doing what they are doing. Comments I made to members of Occupy Denver back in December seem to have motivated them to begin public education efforts, efforts I truly hope will continue and catch on with other Occupy groups.

The third is, neither organization has, up until Occupy's recent changes, ever offered any realistic alternatives or solutions. It makes no sense to protest and say things should change if there is no defined ideas about what should change or how it should be changed. Our society doesn't just need protests to wake it up; it needs ideas of how to solve the problems.

Lastly, protest groups should never undermine their own credibility by engaging in hostile or criminal activities. Occupy has had its problems with anarchists "joining" the protests and causing trouble, but has made significant efforts to distance themselves from those elements. Anonymous seems to be doing just the opposite. Attacking various companies and websites, regardless of their reasons, are making them a nuisance in the eyes of most, though their attacks on companies hosting pedophile group forums and websites did win some brownie points with the public.

While both groups claim the lack of organization is their strength (i.e. no identifiable "leaders" to be arrested), this lack of organization is also a weakness. The corporations and governments they are protesting are well-organized and well-equipped to respond to the threat Occupy and Anonymous represent to them. A modicum of organization would work in favor of Occupy and Anonymous, particularly if that organization is targeted at educating the public about what the organizations are fighting for and what they would like our society to try in response to those issues.

What Has America Become?

It amazes me that we as Americans have instilled so much political and social wisdom in our science fiction and other literary forms, yet continue to fail in our understanding of how those principles apply to our society and to our personal, daily lives.

We believe that everyone has a right to be heard, that everyone has a right to live as they choose, that they have a right to earn a living and to have the comforts of home and family. Yet we continually violate those principles because what is said offends us, or the way an individual lives seems 'unfit' by our standards, or that their mistakes decades ago dictate a current lack of trustworthiness or fitness to participate in society.

What right do we have to call ourselves Americans and still ignore the rights of those around us? What makes us so pure, so righteous, that we can dictate to others, that we can control or limit others? Are we so fearful that those who have made mistakes must be cutoff from our society? Are we so uneasy in our own beliefs that we cannot allow others to disagree with us or to challenge our assumptions as a society? Does a mistake decades ago make someone less than human today and give us the right to deny the rights we so cherish as a society?

Is this what America has become?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Department of Homeland Security says IDs invalid?

Interesting events yesterday ...

I had to get documentation of my SSI benefits for my student aid paperwork (I've decided to take up the school on their offer to extend my education to the Master's level). When I presented my ID, I was told that I would have to get a new ID because the Department of Homeland Security was invalidating any identification cards that did not have an expiration date.

Wait ... DHS invalidating ID cards? Yep, you read that right. DHS is apparently trying to do an end-run around the states that have rejected the 'Real ID' law (a law, btw, that was slipped into a totally unrelated bill and passed without any debate in the Senate at all, despite serious concerns about it from many Senators). Instead of dictating the issuance of new identification cards, they have simply declared old identification cards were no longer valid for air travel, entering federal buildings or accessing federal services.

And they wonder why the homeless are so pissed off at our government?

The passage of the 'Real ID' law is a fundamental insult to the very basis of our nation. The American Revolution was, in part, triggered by the passage of onerous laws without due representation. What difference is there in this and the way this law was slipped onto the books? Without the Senate being allowed to debate the law, no meaningful representation was present. How many more onerous laws have been passed this way? I think it is time someone started a real investigation on this issue, assuming one isn't already underway.

Or does someone need to start writing a new 'Declaration of Independence'?