Does OWS need a statement of vision and goals? If so, what should it say?


The "Vision and Goals" statement that Michael Moore quotes in this piece was presented at the General Assembly I attended in Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square in NYC on Sunday.

At the Sunday GA, the presentation of this vision statement was controversial and generated some hostility for having its head in the clouds. Tensions rose, as did defenses and reactivity. Friendly amendments to the statement were proposed about racism/sexism/institutional discrimination but the entire statement was ultimately tabled (i.e. back to the drawing board). I was intrigued enough so that on Monday night I joined the "Visions and Goals" working group at 60 Wall Street. After some electrifying discussion, I left feeling ambivalent. Does OWS need a vision statement? How long-term are the goals we're discussing: 1, 5, 10, 100 years? Is it desirable to craft a concise document outlining the political philosophy of such a diverse group of people, which is essentially what this would be? Would a statement of goals alienate people otherwise sympathetic to the OWS movement? Should it be general and lofty, or get into specifics? There was little consensus on these issues at the GA and within the working group itself.

The "Visions and Goals" working group–one among many– was feeling let down. I recommended to them that, rather than see themselves as a writing subgroup that's looking for quick approval from the larger GA, or even in contest with them (one man used the metaphor of a football game: we were intercepted by the GA, but we have to go back out and not give up…), it would be more helpful to view themselves as an opinion-gathering and -synthesizing research project. This way of thinking was generally appreciated and accepted, yet there was also a lot of anxiety that the group needs to get a vision statement to the public-at-large right away following the eviction from Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square and in order to counter criticisms that OWS has no goals.

If consensus is ever reached on a vision and goals statement it's going to need to be crafted from the ideas of everybody involved at OWS, not just a small group of volunteers. While the NYCGA does not speak for all Occupy encampments, it holds extremely important symbolism. Developing a statement of goals, if people believe this is necessary or desirable, should involve a complicated process of give-and-take among many people that should not be rushed (e.g., see Hannah Arendt on "praxis").

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