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Occupy Unseen: Where is the American Spring?

The snow is gone, the first day of spring arrived weeks ago, the baseball season has begun, and one question has come to my mind: Where is the highly-anticipated American Spring that we had been hearing about for months?

In January 2012, I discussed various "prologue protests" that appeared to portend the coming of an American Spring. At that time, I wrote, "Given recent developments [in Occupy Oakland], struggling economic conditions, and recurring political rhetoric in the news, an American Spring appears to be fast approaching." In this way, the Occupy Oakland protests, which included protesters storming city centers with police making use of tear gas and flash grenades, appeared to be signaling a tumultuous American Spring.

At the time of the Occupy Oakland protests, it appeared that "the American Spring would begin in early April." That being said, the Occupy movement appears to be out of the public view for the most part for the time being. Does this mean that the Occupy movement has lost strength? Does this mean that there will not be an American Spring?

A recent Huffington Post article from Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar Chuck Collins discussed "the 99 percent spring and extreme inequality". Collins: "In the coming weeks, millions of Americans will take to the streets as part of the '99 Percent Spring,' echoing last year's 'Arab Spring'." Collins discussed how "extreme inequalities of income, wealth, and opportunity" are at the root of socio-cultural discontent. In terms of what is to come, Collins wrote, "This spring, watch for millions of people in motion, participating in protests at banks, outside lawmakers' offices, and in the streets. They'll be pressing for an economy that works for the 100 percent, not just the 1 percent." Collins continued, "This is a healthy sign for our nation because it dramatizes that the people aren't powerless in the face of extreme inequality."

Glenn Beck's website TheBlaze.com recently had an article written by Tiffany Gabbay questioning whether "former Obama administration green jobs czar" Van Jones' new book Rebuild the Dream is laying out a "blueprint for [Jones'] upcoming '99% Spring' uprising." Gabbay: "Van Jones' book might in fact serve [as a road-map] for participants in his upcoming '99% Spring' revolution." (So the phenomenon's name has changed from being the "American Spring" to the "99% Spring"?) Gabbay suggested that Jones is "one of the prime movers behind an upcoming 'American Spring'." According to the article, Jones "wishes for progressives to emulate the Tea Party model to gain entry in electoral politics and to do so in an even more successful way than conservatives have done." Interestingly, Jones recently commented that "[the] Occupy movement pretty much saved the entire country from destruction."

It is significant to note that various Occupy factions continue to protest. The Associated Press reported on April 6, 2012 how Puerto Rican officials are warning the island's Occupy movement to "clean up a public park they occupied for five months and abandoned suddenly this week." Minnesota Public Radio's Rupa Shenoy reported on April 8, 2012 how Minneapolis police "arrested a dozen Occupy MN protesters" in violation of city ordinances owing to protesters' erecting tents in a plaza and park downtown. One local Occupy MN movement organizer commented that if "authorities again take [protesters'] tents, demonstrators will regroup and collectively decide their next move."

Salon has previously said that the website "is committed to telling the story of the unemployed as part of the American Spring." A Salon article from April 3, 2012 discussed how protesters from Occupy San Francisco had attempted to occupy a vacant building to use as a "social and community center." Salon: "Around 80 people were arrested as police in riot gear cleared the two-story building." Another Salon article discussed how the Occupy movement is planning a "general strike" on May 1, 2012. The most recent Salon article on the Occupy movement discussed how the movement is putting forth candidates in state elections.

In light of the fact that the Occupy movement has become removed from the public stage owing to a lack of media attention for the time being, recent developments in the movement have shed some light on problems for Occupy going forward. To say the least, it would appear that the Occupy movement has become a bit discombobulated and incohesive. Given Occupy's setbacks in having protesters' camps torn down and a lack of media attention, the movement may be left to reassert itself and redefine its own purpose going into the spring and summer.

That being said, the problems that Occupy Wall Street sought to draw attention to have for the most part not been corrected and continue to be major problems threatening the US economy. Excessive student loan debt, youth unemployment, income inequality, rising living costs, boomerang generation -- these all remain serious issues that the American public will have to address at some point. Despite Occupy's obstacles, the fact that serious socio-cultural problems remain may give the Occupy movement fuel going forward.

Even so, one cannot help but notice an emerging Zeitgeist of political apathy and lethargy in American society. As time passes, it may become harder for the Occupy movement to solidify itself as working for a genuine "American Spring." And even then, the lack of a coherent, consistent message or purpose may become a problem in maintaining legitimacy and credibility. It is significant to note that the Arab Spring began in December 2010 and reached full bloom in January-February 2011 in Egypt with the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. From this perspective, any such "American Spring" in 2012 is off to a very slow, sluggish start.

A Huffington Post article written by Max Bean published on April 8, 2012 discussed how he personally "stopped working on the [Occupy] movement." Bean: "Like many in my generation, it seems, I had waited my whole life for a social movement whose dimensions and ambitions were commensurate with the shortcomings I saw in the world around me. By now, I am convinced that OWS is not that movement. Maybe it will grow into that movement, or maybe that movement will grow out of it." Bean discussed a "rise and fall of hope" that he experienced in light of Pres. Obama's election and the Occupy movement.

Bean continued, "So many of us who have stepped back from the movement in recent weeks have departed only to search for a better movement -- or else to build one. The shroud of despair ... is not quickly mended." While discussing the Occupy movement's "spurious" nature, Bean commented that he stopped working for the movement (1) because Occupy "was not moving in a direction" that he wanted to go with worsening "internal problems" that were "coded into cultural and ideological foundations of the movement" and (2) because he lost energy in working for the movement, going from "indefatigable to torpid."

Bean's discussion addresses some critical problems for the Occupy movement and significant barriers to any American Spring. Even as political apathy sets in for the American populace in the midst of a weak economy and ongoing socio-economic problems, the situation portends that some sort of American Spring may still be in store. Nevertheless, maybe there is something to be said for having a leader...and a coherent message...and defined organization...and specified list of policy goals. It is reasonably foreseeable that the spirit behind the Occupy movement could be redirected towards alternative socio-political movements that have sharper aims, goals, strategy, and tactics. I believe it is still too soon to say what will become of the Occupy movement. Per Bean's analysis, we may begin to see new movements emerging with a range of perspectives on national issues. In this way, the political apathy is ominous and the silence is deafening. Even if the Occupy movement dissipates, the problems and societal frustration remain.


"It is evident that several persons could by no means preserve the stability of the community if they totally disagreed. For union is necessary among them if they are to rule at all: several men, for instance, could not pull a ship in one direction unless joined together in some fashion... So one man rules better than several who come near being one... This is also evident from experience, [for] provinces or cities which are not ruled by one person are torn with dissensions and tossed about without peace."
~St. Thomas Aquinas, from De Regno

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