by Ian Overton 
Oct. 5, 2011

There is a mass strike breaking out within the adult youth of this country, and the world, because they want a future worth living for. And why not? The inalienable human rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were not granted by the Declaration of Independence, but merely codified by it. That this movement should be everywhere spontaneously assembling itself into action at this precise moment of historic collapse and turmoil, is not a coincidence. The established institutions have failed to uphold these rights, and because they are inalienable, the people have chosen to reclaim them.

The system of the 1% is bankrupt, physically, financially, morally. The movement to replace its worn out traditions is alive, and is gaining ground. Will this movement, however, become profound enough in self-conception to actually change history? Here, I propose three ways the OWS movement must improve its epistemology to really change history.

First criticism: think bigger. “peace, love, solidarity” is a nice sounding slogan, but a slogan doesn’t translate into strategic policy for a nation. Have we realized that our generation, of the 20-45 year olds is the only one that could or will change the governing failed system? And that there is not really any other mass movement in our generation. So why not go all the way? Why are people saying that loving solidarity with an occupation protest is actually a goal to be taken seriously? Why put that limit on ourselves, when the crisis (and thus the solution) is SO much bigger than that? Simply protesting that which is bad doesn’t put forward immediately applicable, long term solutions which are good. There needs to emerge a sense of “we must figure out how to produce the jobs, the skill sets, the logistics this nation needs now, and over the coming years, to actually survive.” We must ask ourselves, “If I were in charge of the nation, how would I task my administration, to put mankind into a mission for development?” Presidents Kennedy, FDR, and Lincoln have some thoughts on that.

Second criticism: it’s non-violence or non-existence. In 1957, Dr. Martin Luther King’s original essay on non-violence and racial justice ( was published in The Christian Century magazine. In there he makes the point that violence as a method could never win. Today one can say it is scientifically impossible. The puppet in the White House is backing Wall Street, and he has bigger guns than all of us. Think about how Obama just “legally” assassinated a U.S. citizen in Yemen with a drone attack, because he was deemed a suspected “terrorist”. No due process, no warrant, not at war with Yemen, no warning, and the evidence against him are state secrets. Dead. His friend was killed too; call it guilt by association. Was he a “real” terrorist? He was a real U.S. citizen. Let that precedent sink in for a moment.

Non-violence is not pacifism. It is a spiritually active form of non-participation in an unjust system. As King was fond of telling people, the bus boycott in Montgomery was not a victory of 50,000 black people over whites, it was a victory of justice over injustice. Thinking on any lower level is failure to grasp the profundity of today’s crisis. To succeed in this crisis, someone, somewhere, must break the chain of hate. We are that someone, or nobody is. Non-violent direct action provides a roadmap on how to do that, to love the person who does the evil deed, while hating the deed he does. 

Criticism three: principles over popularity. History is not made by masses. History is what makes the masses. People shape history with profound ideas respecting man and nature, not with sheer numbers, or by being endorsed by this union, or that political figure. We all should not worry about appealing to the lowest common denominator, so that every braindead slob with half a pulse feels like they don’t have to improve their own thinking to be part of a movement that is trying to change history. That IS what this movement is trying to do, right? Otherwise, what’s the point? We must have a high intellectual standard for people to rise to, because right now, the population as it exists, isn’t thinking on the level necessary to shut down Wall Street’s influence, let alone hash out a real solution. So why start a movement that doesn’t require people to become better, unless we don’t really want to succeed? Yes, having an intellectual standard will make people uncomfortable, because they are being challenged, and confronted with the reality that maybe their comfort zones aren’t good enough to be the change they wish to see. That will make the less serious people fall away. But isn’t that what everyone wants? A movement of serious people? That way everyone can have fun kicking ass, instead of getting bogged down having fights over personality clashes, feeling states, or other non-war-winning things.

 I leave you now with the wise words of the poet Percy B. Shelley:

 “The most unfailing herald, companion, and follower of the awakening of a great people to work a beneficial change in opinion or institution, is poetry. At such periods there is an accumulation of the power of communicating and receiving intense and impassioned conceptions respecting man and nature. The persons in whom this power resides, may often, as far as regards many portions of their nature, have little apparent correspondence with that spirit of good which they are the ministers. But even whilst they deny and abjure, they are yet compelled to serve, the power which is seated on the throne of their own soul.”

Percy B. Shelley, “In Defense of Poetry”

2 Responses

  1. Ian, I really like what you had to say about non-violence, making war on the established system could not be successful. I believe we must bring about change within the system from the bottom up. As far as thinking bigger goes, that will come. Discussion between many diverse people will result in a system that is more inclusive of all
    sides of an issue. I think creating that space for the sharing of viewpoints is one of the most powerful aims of this movement.

  2. King said, “The choice is not between violence and non-violence. It is between non-violence and non-existence.
    As for the guy killed in Yemen:
    when you join the army and wear the uniform of a foreign nation, you lose your US citizenship. This guy was a card carrying member of the terrorist forces, planned and executed attacks against US citizens. As a life long civil libertarian, I claim that this is not the open and shut case. Your disdain for Obama colors your judgement. I hope you’re ready to accept Pres. Romney or President Perry. Stay home and that’s what you get – a second chapter for the Third Reich.

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