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kyle cassidy

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[Nov. 7th, 2011|05:52 pm]

I don't hold the "lack of focus" as a fault against Occupy Philadelphia, for lots of reasons.

Focus comes from engagement: when you're actively involved in an issue in some way, you're sort of forced to concentrate your efforts and hone your arguments. Many of the people at Occupy Philadelphia are either novices, or they're trying to engage in politics while developing a structure that they can work with. (In other words, if the normal politics of talking to the Councilperson or voting or writing letters hasn't worked, you have to come up with something else. That's probably where most of the "focus" goes.)

Also, if you do get engaged, and you have to make choices as to where you _do_ spend your energies, you have to decide to _not_ spend energy on other issues. You may decide that taxing Wall Street is more important than the rights of gay, lesbian and transgendered people, or that global warming is more pressing than relieving homeowners with massive mortgages. And there will always be allies who weigh things differently.

This is why the Left has always been the province of individualists and mavericks, while the Right can only pretend to be. The Tea Party was "focused" for two reasons: they were run by a handful of people like Dick Armey and the Kochs, and their positions were pretty much an existing national religion of free markets, small government and fear. If you trace their ideas back to the Goldwaterites of 1964, you'll find that the only way they've changed is to become more religious. They don't need to work to find a consensus because, for the most part, they already agree on almost everything.

But the Occupy movement is attempting to challenge some very powerful forces in American culture. It's made up of people who, for various reasons, have found good reason to doubt how things are being run. They're more likely to propose and explore alternatives. So they're less likely to agree with each other. They'll be less focused. If they do develop a consensus of core values, it will comes through a lot of discussion, committee work, and consideration for a very wide range of opinion.

(This is why the Republicans enjoy success as a minority. They have a unified bloc, while the Democrats have to negotiate a lot of consensus even among themselves. To put it bluntly: if the Democrats vanished, government'd be run by one powerful group: if the Republicans vanished, their constituency would still be represented by some Democrats.)

So Occupy Philadelphia's lack of focus doesn't bother me at all. Their _work_ is what's admirable.
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