Top Down, Bottom Up, or Both?

How can we best recapture the spirit of the camps?

There’s been some interesting discussion lately about what issues Occupy Ann Arbor should be focusing on, and how we should be distributing our efforts.

Some within OAA favor a top-down approach, calling for us to focus all of our efforts on the big banks and other legal enablers of the power of the 1%, which Occupy recognizes as the root of our country’s current cultural and economic crises. Others believe that a bottom-up approach is needed to change our culture and empower the people so that we can stand together against injustice, through projects like homelessness assistance and education.

The reality is that these non-identical approaches–top-down vs. bottom-up–were both perfectly embodied by the Occupy camps. What were the camps, but the most powerful form of protest against the 1% that we could conceive? And what happened at the camps, but personal and cultural transformation?

But now, we no longer have the camps. So we have a purely strategic decision to make. Occupy only has as much power as we the people contribute to it. So do we spend our energy on banks and the 1%, or on the people who are already homeless and oppressed? Do we continue to split our energies between top-down and bottom-up approaches, or must we all rally together behind one project if we wish to make a difference?

These questions are for you to consider, dear reader. Please tell us what you think.

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6 Responses to Top Down, Bottom Up, or Both?

  1. Orian says:

    The way to recapture the spirit of the camps is to have a camp. The camps were not about spirit but about embodiment and occupying the public space. And yes, you are right that in the camps the bottom-up top-down strands were synthesized. It’s becoming warm outside. We have learned a lot from the experience of our fall-winter camp. It’s possible. I believe people all over the country are talking about re-establishing occupy camps in the spring. Let us be a meaningful part of this movement this time.

    • Joe says:

      Two thoughts:

      -Any camp established in the downtown area is going to get rousted by the cops a lot sooner this time (Prince-John & the DDA aren’t going to want that visible during commencement, or Art -Fair).

      -Any camp that is established should have a “good-neighbor policy” from the beginning. There is no reason that the OWS policy should not be adopted in it’s entirety.

  2. Ian says:

    I couldn’t agree more about Orian’s simple statement that the best way to recapture the feeling of a camp is to HAVE one! And hopefully, if anyone decides to camp, we have learned from experience that a lot of valuable souls simply will not be camping, and there needs to be more respect and cooperation between the campers and non-campers.

    I think those of us who were paying attention last fall know that one big mistake was that the GA’s comprised mainly of non-campers for some reason assumed they could descend on the plaza every couple of weeks and dictate what the camp was doing. If we keep our heads and respect each other, we can easily avoid a similar mistake

  3. Orian says:

    I agree, Ian. Also, people who cannot sleep over can definitely be part of the community formed at the camp in many ways, which hasn’t happened last time, but is totally possible…

  4. Joel Reinstein says:

    I do not understand what the “top down” approach is. Specifically, what would it look like if we were to “focus all of our efforts on the big banks and other legal enablers of the power of the 1%?” And exactly how is anti-foreclosure action not serving that cause?

    Save somebody’s home, keep somebody on our side of the class war afloat. Show everyone how we take care of each other, just in the way that we demand society work. Achieve something tangible. Find allies we can call for future demos.

  5. Joe says:

    “So we have a purely strategic decision to make.”

    I think you’re confusing strategy with tactics. Here’s what I mean: I don’t think you will find anyone who associates themselves with Occupy (anywhere) who would say: “I want the homeless to remain homeless, and the oppressed to remain oppressed.”. We all want the the homeless to have a decent place to live, and for no one to be oppressed, we all want the 1% dominance of the political system that prevents that to end – that’s the strategy.

    Top-down, or bottom-up is a tactical choice.

    “So do we spend our energy on banks and the 1%, or on the people who are already homeless and oppressed?”

    I don’t think you mean to say that one need to be homeless to be oppressed. But just to be clear, if you’re earning less than the $380k that is the national average income for admission to the “1% club”, YOU are being oppressed, oppressed to the extent that your political voice just does not count. Sure the destitute & homeless suffer oppression that is always more blatant, & often more brutal but it’s a difference of degree, not of kind. Their political voice does not count either, and really, your rights or mine are only respected to a greater extent because we aren’t where they can be so easily disregarded.

    Bottom-Up? ok, these folks need help – now.
    Top-down? If that isn’t happening too – it isn’t Occupy for me.