In the beginning Occupy was brought together by a glorious idea with a lovely spirit- people from diverse parts of society can come together and make a plan for a better world. Occupiers came to campaign for their right to drink unpasteurized milk, eliminating poverty, economic reform, government reform, union reform, and many others. But, the movement’s big mistake is that it tried to operate without leaders- or, at least pretend that leadership didn’t exist…
The problem is that leadership did exist, in every corner of the movement- it couldn’t not have. Humans have been socialized to need power structures. Even those who deny the need for power still have organic instincts to lead or to want to be led. To say otherwise is to live in denial.
Leadership doesn’t have to imply oppression. If used right, it helps magnify an organization’s ability to do good. Of course, used poorly, it can be a restraining force. And, any time there’s a power vacuum, there are those who will try to take the reigns.
There was a mismatch in how Occupy focussed on ‘organizing’ while, at the same time claiming individual autonomy. Humans don’t organize very well without leadership. Many are uncomfortable with that, and would like to see it changed. Perhaps that can be done- but, denial of our natural instincts won’t make that happen.
The key difference between leadership and oppression is trust. If we don’t believe in our leaders than we are in a de facto state of oppression. The same happens if our leaders don’t respect our trust.
In any organisation larger than a family unit, trust is maintained through transparency and auditability. The members must understand the leader’s intent and plan of action. They must have the ability to see honest reports and assessments of how the organization is progressing- both good and bad.
Perhaps, one day, society will learn how to function without leaders- but it is certainly an uphill battle to achieve that. Until then, we need to work with what we’ve got while improving it along the way. Throwing leadership out the window without a commonly accepted plan was suicide.
But, of course, this doesn’t only apply to Occupy- it rings true for society as a whole…