Saturday, November 26, 2011

World Changing Ideas: How the Occupy Movement Will Win

"How can they possibly beat such a powerful and entrenched system?!?"
Most people rightly observe that the Occupy movement has a huge a task ahead, but again, everyone I know who is actively following Occupy is energised by the challenge. In this post, I will explore some more unique aspects of Occupy that are helping it to succeed.

My last post references a piece by Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic. Although it is nerdy in the extreme, it is one of the most insightful pieces of Occupy commentary that I've seen to date so I encourage you to read the whole thing.

As a sometimes computer nerd, I adore Alexis's REST API analogy. It really helped to drive home an idea that has been nagging at me for a while.
Occupy Wall Street is not a movement. It is a meta-movement.
For my non-computer nerd friends who were completely lost by the article or by that last comment, I apologise. Put simply, this nerd-speak means that what the mainstream media tries to portray as a weakness is actually Occupy's greatest strength!

Yes, everything you hear is true. Occupy Wall Street is not a protest about anything specific.
Occupy Wall Street is a model for a protest.
Although it uses the fairly abstract example of the global financial system, Occupy provides a framework that can be used to protest about anything and everything. The value of Occupy though is that it ties all previously disconnected protests to a single root cause. This root cause is, of course that...
The entire world has been corrupted by the 1%, to the detriment of the 99%.
This is why we see (and will continue to see) Occupy X protests springing up like the proverbial Whac a Mole game - go on, have a little break - you know you want to (Sorry about the ad - it was a freely embeddable one, but it is not a trojan, I promise it is safe to click on the "Play Game" button if you want to relieve some frustrations - Can someone please hack me up an embeddable Lt John Pike Pepper Spray the Mole game? :-)

Feel better now? Ok then, back to the topic at hand which is the relationship between the Occupy Movement and Sustainable Human Flourishing.

Today, no matter how generally content they are, everyone can think of something that is not right with the world. Let's call that something X. Everyone has an X about which they would like to do something, if they only knew how?

So, what is your X? Education? Tax? Healthcare? The Environment? Fossil Fuels? Unemployment? Childcare? Corrupt Politicians? Local Food(forgive that gratuitous plug for a friend's new business) Price of Beer?, ...?

Most of us also make a mental connection to some kind of abstract system that has let us down with respect to X, but that is as far as we get before giving in to a sense of powerlessness.

Me? Well, hmm, I've got dozens of X's :-) I'm conscious that so much related to Sustainable Human Flourishing has been corrupted by the 1%. It is heart-breaking to realise that my children have been condemned to significantly impoverished lives because their future is being stolen by the 1% today.

The Occupy meta-movement changes all this. Even at the most basic, semantic level, if we simply add an Occupy prefix, we transform an X that we care about in the abstract into an active, participatory imperative!

OccupyEducation! OccupyTax! OccupyHealth! OccupyEnvironment! OccupyEnergy! OccupyEmployment! OccupyChildcare! OccupyPolitics! OccupyFood! OccupyBeer! (Ok, that last one is a bit of a joke, but I'll be watching it nonetheless ;-)

Are you ready to try something cool? Think of your X then type your new OccupyX word into Google, Twitter, or Facebook. You will be instantly connected with hundreds or maybe even thousands of people who share your concerns and who want to share your stories. Go on - try it right now.

See! You are not alone!

This Occupy X meme is so powerful. As a personal example, last Monday I was lucky enough to be a part of a small audience as "Identity Woman" (a.k.a Kaliya Hamlin) gave a practice run of her TEDxBrussels talk. (I got to see it for real the next day, and you can now see it here too.)

Obviously, the new 9 minute format didn't let Kaliya even scratch the surface of this massive subject, but after the practice run, she talked for 75 minutes with another domain expert. She drilled down and exposed an awful picture of how our digital lives and digital identities are being abused and exploited for profit by big corporations.

More importantly for Sustainable Human Flourishing though, she then presented a more hopeful alternative. A user-centric digital accountability framework that she's working on with many others in the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium (PDEC).

She presented the PDEC model as a framework that provides an alternative to the entrenched digital identity system that allows our online lives to be sold out to huge corporations. She described an alternative that gives people control of their own digital destiny.

I had to ask the question, "It sounds to me like we're talking about a way to Occupy Identity, right?"

The smile that Kaliya gave me, along with her simple answer "Yes" was priceless. At TEDx the next day, I tweeted this idea. Kaliya's reply announced that she had taken out the OccupyYourIdentity domain :-)

The Atlantic article also mentions another nerdy but incredibly powerful way to think about the Occupy Movement. It draws an excellent analogy to the Open Source Movement that has so transformed software.
"GET Strategy/open source ideology: From the beginning, the occupation was meant to take on a life of its own. Organizers and occupiers alike have not tired (sic) to maintain control of the message or methodology for spreading ideas or occupations. Anyone who wants to support Occupy Wall Street can just do something, trusting they'll be able to connect to the movement. Hence OccupyHistory and hundreds of like sites."
What this means is that, like Open Source did for computer software, Occupy provides a framework for smart people to "moonlight", doing stuff that they are good at and that they believe in. It means that even if we are getting paid by Murdoch, Goldman Sachs, Philip Morris, Exxon, …, in our spare time, we can Occupy in our domain of expertise wherever our conscience wants us to be. 

I'm convinced that this is an important part of how Occupy will beat the system - The system will not be able to stop itself from being beaten from the inside.

I also don't see how the mainstream media can control the Occupy X meme... Can you?

So, what X will you Occupy? How will you help all those people who are moonlighting to help improve your X and make the world a better place? What skills or expertise will you offer to all your newfound, like-minded friends?


  1. Well said!

    Keep thinking the big ideas and I have bookmarked your site to read more.

  2. Thanks for the good vibes t. Appreciated.
    Stop by anytime.

  3. Even CNN/Fortune are starting to get it: