What does the Occupy Movement stand for? If we do not clearly articulate what we stand for, those who oppose our cause will do it for us – and in a way that is advantageous to them. We must not give them this advantage, but how can we frame a movement in a way that reaches beyond the choir and persuades those who do not agree with us?
One strategy I propose is framing the Occupy Movement's message around ideals. Some people in the Occupy Movement are framing the movement as a fight against corporations and the rich, but a more effective strategy would be to simplify the message by framing the movement around ideals such as fairness, justice, and democracy. For example, I think corporations should be allowed to make iPhones and other useful products, but I don't think they should be allowed to buy politicians. I don't think they should have more rights than human beings. And the problem isn't that corporations are allowed to make a profit, but that they are focused on maximizing profit with no regard for the public good and health of our planet. Democracy is supposed to be a system where one person equals one vote, not one dollar equals one vote.
Opponents of the Occupy Movement often say, "Those protestors are hypocrites, because they want to destroy corporations, yet they use iPhones, Google, and Facebook." But by framing the Occupy Movement around ideals such as fairness, justice, and democracy, we can say, “This is not about corporations making things. It's about fairness, justice, and democracy. It's about getting money out of politics, because the influence of money in our political system damages fairness, justice, and democracy." Perhaps "Fairness, Justice, Democracy" could be an Occupy Movement slogan, rather than commonly used slogans such as "Eat the rich."
The gap between rich and poor along with the corporate welfare state are actually symptoms of deeper problems, which stem from our distorted value system (where profit is more important than people) and the unfair influence that money has in our political system. Ultimately, if we get money out of politics and create a value system where the dignity of life is more important than profit, a lot of the symptoms we are witnessing today will be addressed. Certainly, there are people in the Occupy Movement today who are framing the movement around ideals (just as Martin Luther King Jr. said that it's not about black versus white, it's about fairness and justice), but there has not yet been a strategic consensus that ensures we are doing our best to resonate with the American public. The people who are drawn to the Occupy Movement thus far are mostly the people who already agree with it, but a movement's success is actually determined by its ability to reach beyond the choir and persuade those who do not agree with it.
To read a more in-depth article about the power of waging peace and the Occupy movement, click here.
Paul K. Chappell graduated from West Point in 2002. He served in the army for seven years, was deployed to Baghdad in 2006, and left active duty in November 2009 as a Captain. He is the author of Will War Ever End?: A Soldier’s Vision of Peace for the 21st Century, The End of War: How Waging Peace Can Save Humanity, Our Planet, and Our Future, and Peaceful Revolution: How We Can Create the Future Needed for Humanity’s Survival (publication date: March 2012). He lives in Santa Barbara, California, where he is serving as the Peace Leadership Director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is working on his fourth book, The Art of Waging Peace: A Strategic Approach to Improving Our Lives and the World, and he speaks throughout the country to colleges, high schools, veterans groups, churches, and activist organizations. His website is www.willwareverend.com.