To some people, the individuals that currently “occupy” Cal and other parts of the country are heroes. These modern day Davids stand against the Goliath that is the institution, the “one percent.” To others, these occupiers are nothing more than a pestilence, a waste of time and energy that should be spent on more useful things. Regardless of any opinion that you have, the fact of the matter is that the movement does exist and will continue to exist unless everyone suddenly stops caring, or things do in fact change.
While most people choose to focus their thoughts on the actual occupation and what it is accomplishing, I choose to wonder about the intent of some of those occupying. I would like to believe that the people involved are actually knowledgeable about what they are protesting, but as fate would have it, many of these people do it for no reason other than the fact that it’s what everyone else is doing. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… the bandwagon effect.
It’s been documented that, as human beings, we seek to gain some identity within our society by establishing ourselves with other groups of individuals, even if it doesn’t exactly match up with who we are. It’s a phenomenon known as groupthink. By becoming affected by groupthink, we allow ourselves to be swept up into emotions that don’t necessarily belong to us; the idea of unity and harmony are so appealing that we might choose to go along with almost anything. This can be seen in the world of sport, when one chooses to rally behind a team they don’t normally give a shit about simply because the fellowship that it promotes is too much to pass up.
The Occupy movement does the same thing, it picks you up, gives you a cause, and makes you feel a little better about yourself. I truly believe that at its center, there is a solid purpose for what is happening, and to those few camping out right now on the steps of Sproul, I say more power to you. But, while there is merit to these protests, I want to bring attention to the fact that Occupy serves as an example that people will participate in anything as long as it makes them feel better about themselves.
In November. of last year we saw what have so far been the largest gatherings of protesters, not only on the Berkeley campus, but in other campuses and cities across the state and the country as well. We saw students get hit with batons and sprayed in the face by police officers on power trips, grandmothers with bloody faces engaged in urban riots and we saw our leaders abandon us in our time of need. It’s enough to make you mad, enough to make you want to shake things up, to yell 187 at a mothafuckin’ cop.
There is nothing wrong with gathering on the precipice of history and demanding change. There is, however, something wrong with not knowing what you are demanding. I’m pretty sure that everyone has the potential to educate themselves at least on the fundamentals of what is being protested. Don’t just jump on the on the bandwagon for the fuck of it — take the time to learn why you should be angry. Chances are, once you fully understand the situation, you might not really care to change it. If you do find the reasons for demanding change compelling enough, then for God’s sake what are you waiting for?! Thrust yourselves upon the gears, make yourselves heard. As I said before, there isn’t anything wrong with demanding change, but there is something very disturbing about a person not being able to think.