Summary: Collective action is democracy in action, unrestrained by the machinery of the formal political parties. Does the surge in political action of the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party Movement represent a new morning for America, appropriate at the start of a new millennium. Or are these peasants’ protests, venting steam while the 1% build a New America?
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
— Not every movement is a revolution, although you often do time in jail.
- The Surge of Activism
- What we are. What we need to be.
- For More Information
- The Boston Tea Party was not cosplay
(1) The Surge of Activism
As a result of our increasing affluence and leisure time, plus more retirees, America has more activists than at most times in our history. Americans dedicated to making things better, often taking to the streets.
Some address tangible, local problems. Service clubs: saving stray animals, helping youth, cleaning up parks, organizing unions, etc. Some work to save the nation, like the Tea Party Movement and Occupy Wall Street. Those of the first type are serious, shown not just by the time and money they devote to their projects — but to their results.
What about the second type? It’s a difficult question to answer. How do we measure seriousness of people in political groups, outside the organized political parties? Especially those formed to transform the nation, rather than the limited political platform of established parties?
We can only guess at such things, but we can compare movements like Occupy and the Tea Party with past organizations. Consider the Revolutionary-era Committees of Correspondence, the abolitionist movement, building unions, the suffragette movement, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam anti-war campaigns. What common elements that distinguish these very different groups, making them effective? Perhaps their…
- elected leaders
- explicit goals
- agreed-upon plans
- individual taking responsibility for the group
These help organizations stay focused, producing results instead of just street parties — producing long-term effects instead of just headlines (film at 11).
These help avoid capture by those with other agendas, as the GOP has captured the Tea Party movement — turning an organization born in opposition to bank bailouts into supporters of Wall Street friends.
These help prevent an organization’s reputation being ruined by people like this guy at the Million Vet March (Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses the significance of this at The Atlantic):
The Tea Party Movement and Occupy Wall Street both have dedicated members with good intentions. Broadly speaking I share both their goals. Neither are the idiots and fools described by those on the opposite side of the political spectrum. But each in their own way is a peasants’ protest, venting steam (our ruling elites approve!) without forwarding their goals. Most obviously, both oppose banks; neither has stopped or even inconvenienced banks and bankers’ activities at the top of America’s food chain.
(2) What we are. What we need to be
This is what we are: “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty” (it’s really a documentary)
This is what we need to be, from “Network” (1976)
It’s an oddity of our time that sociologists know far more about collective action than every before, but never have Americans shown less ability to effectively work together.
We need not consult academics to learn successful methods for political reform. The past gives us many proven templates with which to build movements capable of changing the fate of nations. We need only use them. Many Americans yearn for change, but lack the social machinery to link them together into a larger whole.
See the posts in section 4e below for recommendations.
(4) For More Information
(a) See the FM Reference page listing all posts about Politics in America
(b) About protesting in America:
- How to stage effective protests in the 21st century, 21 April 2009
- More people participating in politics: is this good for America?, 20 June 2010
- How do protests like the TP and OWS differ from effective political action?, 26 October 2011
- What are the odds of violence from the Right in America?, 2 October 2013
- The Million Vet March, a typical peasants’ protest. Does it portend more serious protests in our future?, 13 October 2013
(c) About the Occupy Wall Street:
- Occupy Wall Street, another futile peasants’ protest, 5 October 2011
(d) About the Tea Party Movement:
- Are the new “tea party” protests a grass roots rebellion or agitprop?, 1 March 2009
- More examples of Americans waking up – should we rejoice?, 10 October 2009
- Does the Tea Party movement remind you of the movie “Meet John Doe”?, 27 January 2010
- The Tea Party movement develops a platform. It’s the Underpants Gnomes Business Plan!, 8 March 2010
- About the Tea Party Movement: who they are and what they believe, 19 March 2010
- The Tea Party Movement disproves my recommendation for the path to reforming America, 20 April 2010
- At last we see a Tea Party political platform, 13 May 2010
- Kinsley – “My Country, Tis of Me – There’s nothing patriotic about the Tea Party Patriots”, 15 May 2010
- Why has wild man Mark Williams become a top leader of the Tea Party movement?, 13 June 2010
- God and the Tea Party Movement, 30 March 2012
- A new political party for a New America: the Tea Party GOP, 9 October 2013
(e) Steps to fixing America:
- Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008
- Five steps to fixing America, 19 October 2011
- A third try: The First Step to reforming America, 28 May 2013
- The second step to reforming America, 14 August 2013
- The third step to reforming America, with music, 3 September 2013
(f) Other posts about reforming America:
- Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity, 18 August 2008
- The project to reform America: a matter for science or a matter of will?, 16 March 2010
- Can we reignite the spirit of America?, 14 September 2010
- The sure route to reforming America, 16 November 2010
- Should we despair, giving up on America?, 5 May 2012
- We are alone in the defense of the Republic, 5 July 2012
- The bad news about reforming America: time is our enemy, 27 June 2013
- Why the 1% is winning, and we are not, 26 July 2013
(5) The Boston Tea Party was not cosplay
Politically problematic, bold, effective, criminal vandalism. Civil disorder to protest low tea prices. Done in pursuit of higher goals. Justified by its results.
“The Boston Tea Party” by Luis Arcas Brauner: