We May Be Witnessing the First Large Global Conflict Where People Are Aligned by Consciousness and Not Nation State or Religion
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Many protesters insist in remaining leaderless, which is a mistake. A leader does not have to sit atop a hierarchy: A leader can be a simple representative. Protesters should elect representatives for a finite "term", just like in any democracy, and train them to talk to the press and to negotiate with politicians.
Protests should model the kind of civil society that their participants want to create. In lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, for example, there is a library and a kitchen; food is donated; kids are invited to sleep over; and teach-ins are organised. Musicians should bring instruments, and the atmosphere should be joyful and positive. Protesters should clean up after themselves. The idea is to build a new city within the corrupt city, and to show that it reflects the majority of society, not a marginal, destructive fringe.
After all, what is most profound about these protest movements is not their demands, but rather the nascent infrastructure of a common humanity. For decades, citizens have been told to keep their heads down - whether in a consumerist fantasy world or in poverty and drudgery - and leave leadership to the elites. Protest is transformative precisely because people emerge, encounter one another face-to-face, and, in re-learning the habits of freedom, build new institutions, relationships and organisations.
None of that cannot happen in an atmosphere of political and police violence against peaceful democratic protesters. As Bertolt Brecht famously asked, following the East German Communists' brutal crackdown on protesting workers in June 1953, "Would it not be easier ... for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?" Across the United States, and in too many other countries, supposedly democratic leaders seem to be taking Brecht's ironic question all too seriously.
A version of this article previously appeared Project Syndicate.
Naomi Wolf is a political activist and social critic whose most recent book is Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries.