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What #OccupyWallStreet Could Learn From Us Parents

The older I get, the less interested I become in activism that’s more about showoffy stunts than in getting results. And that’s why as a progressive American who supports many of the stated goals of the organizers behind the Occupy Wall Street movement, I am frustrated by how these folks have executed.

In my opinion, the Occupy organizers made a very misguided strategic error in so closely tying movement goals to a specific form of activism that is inherently NOT sustainable for any length of time – namely, encouraging supporters to squat outdoors in public spaces.

The Occupy movement has organized around the showy premise of having groups of people physically inhabit specific, generally uninhabited (or uninhabitable) locations in various cities. And as we are now seeing, as the weather gets colder and city residents and administrators become impatient with tent cities in their municipal parks and on their civic plazas, there’s no way these groups of people will be able to remain in those physical locations for the length of time it would take to achieve any of the movement’s actual goals. So now, when these groups of people inevitably disperse and leave those “occupied” physical spaces – whether that’s by choice or by official decree – the movement looks like it failed.

One of the central tenets of effective parenting is that those of us raising children should avoid promising consequences that we are very unlikely to be able to deliver. So, for example, when I tell my middle-schooler that if he doesn’t stop leaving his filthy, smelly gym socks all over the house, I am going to make him consume the socks in a dinnertime stew that I will cook up and serve to him, I’m not going to get very good results. He knows damn well that he isn’t going to have to eat sock soup any time soon. It’s all talk on my part.

When the Occupy folks have suggested or even promised that they plan to stay in these non-residential physical locations around the country until they achieve major policy changes, they are setting themselves and their whole movement up for failure and ridicule – just like with my sock soup parenting threat.

Downtown tent cities with nightly drum circles aren’t going to change the way hedge fund managers are compensated, and they aren’t going to provide more Americans with access to health insurance. Really, in my view, this was just a bad plan altogether.

But what do you think?

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