Institutions Matter

I think #occupywallstreet is an interesting experiment that we may learn from — and it may even make a difference. But if it does, let’s remember this:

But it was the appearance of the hundred-or-so odd members of the TWU 100, carrying placards and bullhorns, and clad in their blue and red shirts inscribed with the words “Workers Rights Are Human Rights,” that finally lent the protesters an air of solid organization.

TWU 100 members, who, unlike many of the young core group of 200 to 300 protesters, have actually participated in demonstrations before, arrived at around 4:30 p.m during a General Assembly meeting and took to the center of the park to express their support verbally.

This was around the same time that Radiohead had been rumored to play a concert, but those reports turned out to be a hoax. “The people of TWU are here and we have your back,” a TWU spokesman shouted to crowd, “We have a right to occupy our streets!”

Without strong institutions (and frankly, funded institutions) and defined collective agendas social change spins its wheels. Why do you think so much effort is directed at union-busting, defunding colleges and schools, killing ACORN? 

I’m a very firm believer in the power of social media to both start and fuel change. It’s a powerful force that gets around the traditional media and reaches out to people that would otherwise be left out. It reinvigorates movements.

But if you want that change to be meaningful it takes organizations. Without organizations and institutions these things don’t last. 

I’ll let people deduce how this applies to the current “Let’s replace institutions of higher education with social media” debate. 

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