Like you, I have read about and watched videos of the Occupy ‘movement’ over the past several months. And, like you, I have had a variety of reactions: hippy kids making noise; expression of legitimate frustration with an dysfunctional industry; liberal version of the Tea Party; is Phish playing on Wall Street?; etc. But I’m not sure I know what’s going on with this thing anymore, I can no longer pinpoint a single issue or agenda at the center of this thing….which excites the hell out of me because it means that something generative may actually be happening at these events.
One of the distinctions I engage my students in is ‘Protest’ versus ‘Profess’. I won’t work through the entire distinction in the main body of this post but want to explore the issue of Protest. What does this term mean for you? Most likely something along the lines of: standing in opposition to, challenging, dissenting, etc. This however is not what the term originally meant.
‘Protest’ is from the Latin roots: testus (to witness or stand) and pro (for). A much more useful – and accurate – understanding of ‘protest’ is as a witnessing for or standing for a certain possibility. ‘Protest’, properly understood, has nothing to do with opposition. My question to the students in the Graduate Psychology program I teach in, the majority of whom what to pursue careers as change agents in organizations, is: what is the Protest that is at the center of your life’s work? In other words, what is it that you are witnessing for through your work as an Organizational Development practitioner?
Over the past week or so, I have seen some things from the OWS community that extends far beyond the bounds of the habitual understanding of protest. These folks may well be legitimately witnessing for something. There is a possibility that many – certainly not all – are at work on holding space for the conversation about what a post-industrial society looks like. If you’ve read my – admittedly infrequent! – posts here or read the Trip-Soy Era book, you know that this conversation is central to the protest that’s at the core of my work. So, I’m intrigued; so much so that I’ll be spending time over the next month or two attending some of these events. Stay tuned…
In the meantime, check out this video; what do you see?