Change It Forward

This is an open letter to

supporters of the American Occupy Movement.

Its purpose is to offer suggestions on how to carry the movement forward.  The author has observed this movement with great interest and sympathy, but also with trepidation because of a lack of definition and direction which, if unresolved, will destroy the movement. When an organizer of Occupy Wall Street was recently asked by a reporter what possible endgames for the movement were, he replied, “That‟s a dumb question. The movement isn’t yet three weeks old.” It was not a dumb question– it was extremely relevant. At the very least, the question was an opportunity to suggests that neither of these exist.

This movement, though very young, is at a critical juncture. Many threats exist that can quickly extinguish it, including:

  • Blistering attacks from opponents. This movement is perceived as a severe threat by many on the right, and in particular, by the Tea Party. This is evidenced by the energy they are expending as they attempt to destroy it before it can mature.
  • The withdrawal of support if the tactics of the movement turn too radical.  Millions of Americans sympathize with the movement, but may not support long-term occupation of public spaces, lawlessness, or filth.  These are not just someone else’s parks and neighborhoods that are being occupied— they are ours, and support may evaporate if actual occupations increase in both number and duration, or turn dangerous.
  • No clear identity. The movement today could be characterized as “loosely defined” and “loosely organized.‟  This lack of definition and direction has resulted in no clear identity, which in turn has allowed it to be easily co-opted across the globe by more radical groups, including anarchists. These groups, while labeling themselves part of the Occupy Movement, have very different agendas that include violence, arson, and rioting.  Should this continue, it will destroy the credibility of the movement.
  • This movement will either mature quickly into a strong political movement, as it should, or disintegrate into nothing more than a paragraph in the next generation of American history books. What follows are four suggestions on how to prevent this disintegration. There’s nothing original here– successful movements, including the Tea Party, have followed a similar path.  Whether you agree or disagree with these suggestions, or feel they are naive, incomplete, etc., is immaterial.  The point is to get a discussion going, now, before the movement’s opponents, or elements within it, destroy it.  If you find value in this letter, please forward it, post it, etc., and help it go viral so we can extend the discussion. A PDF version is at Thank you.

1. Find strong leaders, now. You need, and there are among you:

Brilliant, strategic thinkers, young and old. Successful movements need visionaries who see past the excitement of the moment, blend the diverse views of many into a common vision, and develop realistic plans to achieve the vision.

Speakers who can take the common vision and use it to inspire and motivate others. Beware of ideologues, for the goal is to unite the movement, not splinter it. Beware of renegades, for the goal is to stay on message and not hand your opponents anything that can be used against you.

Political veterans who know how the game is played at all levels – in the community, in state houses, in the halls of Congress, in the media, in houses of worship, and in boardrooms. Do not let ideology blind you from the reality that, if successful, this movement will eventually need some level of cooperation with the leaders of the business world it seeks to change. Be extremely wary of bringing current political leaders into the leadership of this movement. Many of these leaders, including those expressing support, are the same leaders who allowed the excesses and abuses that contributed to the crisis, and who to date have been ineffectual in addressing these excesses and abuses.

Those who understand how to effectively use media at all levels – press, radio, television, Internet, Twitter, social networks, blogs, etc.. The coverage of this movement is dominated by cable networks that air the disheveled young men, grey-haired hippies, and incoherent anarchists that represent what the networks want this movement to look like. But look beyond these persons, and you will see the “real” movement– men and women, rich and poor, of all ages, races, religions, and political persuasions, who believe that no-one speaks for them anymore. The diversity of the movement is one of its greatest strengths, but this has yet to be leveraged.

2. Let the leaders define the goals, strategies, and tactics of the movement.
Be specific, and don’t overreach. Too many goals too early give an impression of an unfocused and undisciplined movement, and saps energy from the most important goals.

Do not stray far from the ideals that provided the impetus for the movement, including:

  1. Addressing the influence of corporate money on government, at all levels.
  2. Addressing the absence of legal repercussions for actions that contributed to the financial crisis.
  3. Holding the financial sector of our economy more accountable to its customers, who, by the way, are us.
  4. Addressing the growing disparity in wealth between the richest 1% of Americans, and everyone else.
  5. Do not dilute the primary goals by attempting to address many of the other issues that are supported by factions within the movement, but whose inclusion may fatally split it.  There are other groups and movements pursuing these goals. Let them.
  6. When explaining the goals, avoid demagoguery.  Blanket statements that condemn corporations or financial institutions are simply not going to cut it.  The millions of Americans who support this movement include:  Customers of the financial sector. Many supporters have 401k’s, IRA’s, pensions, and other investments with these firms.  These people will support constructive change, but not destructive change.  If this movement is perceived as a threat to their purses and wallets, it will not be supported.
  7. Employees of the financial sector who, while sharing the movement’s concerns, have loyalties to their firms.
  8. Avoid threatening behavior. Showing up in large groups in front of CEO’s homes is threatening behavior.
  9. March on the institutions of business and government, but not on individual homes. Actions like this will turn off millions of Americans who sympathize with the movement, but will not tolerate this type of behavior.

3. Continue the protests in a more sustainable manner, and put in place now the organization required to accomplish the
movement’s goals.
The movement cannot only protest for change; it must move quickly to actually begin to implement change.  It is attempting to address fundamental problems in government and society caused by the excessive influence of corporate money has already been corrupted by the very elements the legislation will need to address. Change of this magnitude will first require a significant change in the composition of Congress. Occupation protests are difficult to organize, manage, and sustain, and have significant risks. Instead, continue to take advantage of technology and organize many more „flash‟ protests involving many people in many locations simultaneously. As the volume of protests garners massive attention and support, find the political candidates that will be needed to implement the changes demanded by the movement. This is exactly what the Tea Party did. The conservative protests of early 2009 quickly evolved into a well-financed political movement that steamrolled its way to a Congressional majority in just 18 months. Therefore, get very busy finding and promoting candidates for 2012 who support the movement‟s goals.

4. Plan now for the long-term sustainability and vitality of the movement.
It is not enough for the movement to achieve its goals.  It must remain viable and powerful for a significant period of time to allow the achievements to become entrenched in our system. Otherwise, its opponents will simply chip away at them until they exist no more. We must remember that the “1%-ers” did not conduct a hostile takeover of our government and economic system. We gave it to them.  We allowed them to dominate the airwaves, then the political discourse, and finally our political institutions.  By themselves, the 1% cannot exercise the power they do.  They require our cooperation, or at the very least, our indifference to their activities. We must plan now to ensure the movement stays relevant and people stay involved.  While we must look forward while doing this, we can also learn from history:

Study previous American movements that survived for significant periods of time to understand why they survived.  Pay particular attention to the Progressive Movement of the early 20th century. Begun in response to political and economic corruption in the late 19th century, it lasted over a generation and was largely responsible for four amendments to the Constitution. Regardless of whether one agrees with its goals, its longevity and impact on our nation is indisputable.

Study previous movements that started strong but ended prematurely to understand why.  Recent examples include the 1980 gun control movement (after the Reagan assassination attempt) and the Christian Coalition movement in the 1990‟s.

Voting habits are developed early in adulthood and are difficult to change.  Millions of young people [around the world] are getting involved in our political process because of this movement.  To keep them involved for life, include in the plan a comprehensive and continual educational campaign to instill good voting habits in our young citizens.

• • • • • •

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
—Margaret Meade

Civilization has always been advanced through relatively small groups of forward-looking personalities.  These people are seldom known to us— except in rare social emergencies and spiritual exigencies— wherein these few personalities function for the prevention of the breakdown of evolutionary culture, or the extinction of the light of living truth.  We think now is one of those times. If you think so too, get involved;  and help spread this message by sharing the link to this letter.


  1. Below is a transcript of Alan Grayson’s recent appearance on the Rachel Maddow show; it’s worth reading and letting it sink in.

    MADDOW: “Joining us tonight for the interview is former Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida. Mr. Grayson represented Florida’s Eighth District from 2009 to 2011. Congressman Grayson, thanks very much for being with us. It’s nice to see you again.

    GRAYSON: Thank you.

    MADDOW: You have and have always had a knack for saying things in a way that connects with people. Sometimes you upset your critics, but you definitely always enthuse your supporters. The “Occupy Wall Street” protests also seem to be connecting with people despite a campaign on the right to portray them as scary. What do you think is resonating so much here?

    GRAYSON: I think that they have their eyes open, and more and more people are seeing the scales fall from their eyes as well. The “Occupy Wall Street” people are saying, first, that there’s no accountability on Wall Street. They wrecked our economy. Years ago, they took a healthy economy and they gave us 9 percent, 10 percent or more unemployment. And they destroyed 20 percent of our national wealth in the course of just 18 months, from the middle of 2007 to the end of 2008. They destroyed 20 percent of our national wealth accumulated over the course of two centuries, and nobody`s been prosecuted for it. Nobody`s been indicted. Nobody’s been convicted. So, first, there’s no accountability.

    The second thing is that they’ve created a system that is enormously unequal. And the result of that is people are struggling to find a job to pay their bills, to pay their rent, to pay their credit card bills. According to Wikipedia, there are only five countries in the entire planet that are more unequal than the United States, in the distribution of our wealth. That’s a system that Wall Street created, that Wall Street maintains, and that Wall Street enforces.

    And the way that they enforce it is the third gripe. The third gripe is Wall Street controls and dominates our political system. One party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street, and the other party caters to Wall Street all too much. So, people got into the situation right now where they feel that the system is completely unresponsive, and they`re driven deeper and deeper into debt and misery.

    MADDOW: With a movement with that kind of message, how do you think it ends up playing out and affecting American politics more broadly? Not even necessarily in strict electoral terms. But how does it change the framing of issues. I mean, the right is trying to denounce the existence of protests at all as mobs and social unrest. Glenn Beck today ranting that people are going to be dragged from their homes and killed in the streets. The kinder, softer version of that on the right is to say that the protesters are motivated by class envy and class resentment, dividing the nation. The right is reacting to this in slightly hysterical terms. That implies to me that people have a message here that the right is worried about.

    GRAYSON: Well, I think that Glenn Beck is right. It’s only a matter of time before they do take him away — but not the way that he means — you know, in a straitjacket. That`s how they`ll take him away. That much is obvious.

    But fundamentally, ask yourself what do people want? Solutions to their problems. And what is either side offering in the next election? People don’t see any solutions to their problems.

    You know, as I said earlier, there are 24 million people in this country who can’t find full-time work. There are 50 million people in this country who can’t even see a doctor when they’re sick. They want to know what’s being done about this. What is going to help them in their ordinary, everyday lives. They’re desperate for solutions to those problems.

    The Right certainly isn’t offering any. You heard Herman Cain. His answer is: get a job. Well, it’s not that easy. You know, if one person is out of work, maybe that one person can find a job. But if 24 million people are out of work, that’s just not possible.

    The economy has been grossly mismanaged by Wall Street and by others. And people see that Wall Street is running our economic policy. That Big Oil is determining our energy policy, and that the military- industrial complex is determining our foreign policy and miring us in these endless, costly wars.

    People are just fed up. So, what do they do? What’s left to do? What is the one thing you can still do as a human being? You can go someplace. You can go someplace, and in this world of the Internet, you can show yourself. And that’s what the people on ‘Occupy Wall Street’ are doing. They’re doing the one last human thing left. They’re going somewhere.”

    NOTE: After the Maddow interview, Politifact contacted Grayson, and asked him to prove the statement that the United States has the fifth most unequal distribution of wealth in the world. Which Grayson did, adding: “there is overwhelming, staggering inequality in America, however it is measured, and that inequality substantially exceeds the inequality in many other countries. That is not merely ‘True’ but ‘Profoundly True’ and ‘Largely Ignored.’” Politifact then rated Grayson’s statement as “True.”

  2. Totally agree, nonnie. In the universe at large, where two or more will creatures act in cooperation, there is always provided the authority of leadership.

    “Leadership is vital to progress. Wisdom, insight, and foresight are indispensable to the endurance of nations. Civilization is never really jeopardized until able leadership begins to vanish. [Hellllllo!] And the quantity of such wise leadership has never exceeded one per cent of the population.” —The Urantia Papers

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