Susan and I are being tourists for the weekend in Philadelphia, after I did a keynote and couple of sessions at Montgomery County Community College on Friday. Of course we had to see the Liberty Bell, watch the self congratulatory video (not implying that the American Revolution was big deal) at Independence Hall and are leaving to climb the ‘Rocky stairs’ and the view famous art collection at the Museum of Art for today.
But I wanted to share my impressions of Occupy Phily. In over 30 cities across America young people are ‘taking back” a prominent square and exercising their right of free assembly. They are inspired by a vision to create a change that may be the “American Autumn” – OK the term doesn’t have quite the same promise as the Arab Spring, but the similarities are marked. Both acknowledge a profound sense of frustration with the status quo and both hope and dream for a better form of social and economic organization. As the many placards attest, there are many grievances, but I see at the bottom, a sense of outrage at the way public wealth is being squandered – from corporate bailouts, to unwinable wars, to subsides for the rich. All of these policies resulting in lack of health care, education opportunity, jobs and a chance at the American ideal for the young occupiers. Underlying even the massive public spending and debt is an inability of American-style capitalism to derive a means of distributing the wealth of this richest of countries, in any style except one that sees 1% attain staggering wealth while for 99% are seeing their assets and their opportunity for the “pursuit of happiness” diminished.
The scene with about 500 protesters outside Philly City Hall was upbeat and hopeful. The continuous drum circle set the beat of square that was half camper tents and half meeting, talking, sharing circles and information tables. Slogan printed signs and chalk drawings were everywhere with a host of messages. The familiar Peace sign from the sixties is back, as were many of the slogans I recall from the 60s. A major focus was on attracting the attention of the vehicles passing by, with a small cadre of placard carriers walking, cheering and chanting across the intersection every time the walk light changed.
We were able to overhear a circle discussion of I assume was a central organizing committee. The talk was of strategies, food and responsibility for activities on the square. We saw a number of interesting turn taking techniques and an interesting waving of fingers to show agreement with a speakers’ comments. It seem
Below is a shot of the Communications tent. This revolution will be on and facilitated by WI-FI.s the talk hasn’t yet turned to concrete suggestions fior change, but as in the Arab Spring and the 60’s mearely demanding change is a necessary first step in any making change.