Thursday, March 01, 2012

'Diversity of Tactics' anyone?

As our Quaker meeting reassesses its support of the Portland Occupy movement, Occupy's pondering the term “diversity of tactics” has found its way into our discussions.

George Orwell would have had a field day with this one. (See his classic essay, "Politics and the English Language" in which he asserts, "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.")

The term means to suggest that Occupy should employ a full range of actions, from violent to non-violent. But some have seen through the phrase and labeled it a euphemism for “anything goes.” For instance, the definition of violence has been left vague. Tactical nuclear weapons anyone?

Others say the term is a cover for young anarchists simply acting out their anger. Still others hint darkly that the proposed policy is the work of agent provocateurs trying to destroy the movement.

Whoever or whatever is behind it, I see "diversity of tactics" as Orwellian “double speak.”

Start with “diversity,” a term that carries positive connotations in our multi-cultural, increasingly diverse society. To not recognize (some would say "celebrate") diversity is a form of ignorance at best and prejudice at worst.

So those using the phrase “diversity of tactics” are off to an appealing start.

How about “tactics”? The suggestion here is that “tactics” are a proven way to a goal, presumably a common, shared one. Tactics implies that tacticians — experts knowledgeable in tactics — are in control.

There’s a “trust us” aspect to the phrase.

Again, this is all sounds good, but is it?

Will using “a diversity of tactics” in fact help Occupy achieve its goals?

Of course Occupy has never been explicit in stating its goals, just as it has never offered an identifiable public leadership. Still, the movement’s single most prominent goal would seem to be ending inequity — in education, justice, opportunity etc.

Will a “diversity of tactics,” including violence, move our society toward less inequality?

No way. In a media-defined world portrayed by carefully selected compelling images, conflict is the predominant public narrative. Visual violence attracts attention to itself, not the issues that have sparked it.

Moreover, if violence actually did serve Occupy’s stated ends, the movement would then rely on violence in the future. It’s the old story of violence breeding violence.

And make no mistake, those advocating a “diversity of tactics” are condoning violence, unwittingly misdirecting public attention and opinion, and undercutting their own cause.

It is time for the Occupy movement state unequivocally its opposition to all forms of violence and disassociate the movement from those who practice i.

The diversity that the movement needs is a diversity of non-violent tactics. Fortunately, thanks to successful liberation and rights movements, there is no shortage of them.

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