Occupy movement mirrors Millennial Generation
Millennials and Occupiers both believe in taking group action and creating a more equitable, community-driven world. But the Occupy movement has a greater chance of success if it adopts even more of this new generation's characteristics. Like neatness, and a local action plan.
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Of course the outbreak of urban protests of any kind has reawakened nostalgia among some Baby Boomers, who have rushed to the aid of the Occupy movement bringing promises of notoriety and money as well as advice on tactics and strategies based upon what seemed to work in the 1960s.Skip to next paragraph
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Millennials respect their parents and often look to Boomers for mentoring and guidance. Consequently, Boomers will be politely welcomed at the protests, but those hoping this will enable their generation to finally foment the revolution of its youthful dreams are bound to be disappointed. Millennials want to fix institutions or establish new ones, but they have little time and patience for tearing them down.
As Bill Maher, a Boomer who clearly gets Millennial beliefs, put it, “They aren’t looking for free love, they want paid employment.”
It should not surprise anyone that this Millennial-dominated protest movement is organizing locally and using social networking sites from Facebook to Twitter, and, most effectively, YouTube, to build its momentum. To be even more successful, it will need to further localize its goals.
For example, Occupy Los Angeles is pushing the LA City Council to adopt a “responsible banking” ordinance that would invest the city’s funds only in those financial institutions that did not participate in the financial wheeling-dealing that led to the 2008 financial crisis. Just as an insistence on only investing in companies that abided by the Sullivan Principles in trade relations with South Africa proved to be effective in helping end that country’s apartheid regime, this kind of locally focused demand could provide additional energy and a series of growing victories to the cause.
In this and many other ways, we believe the success of the Occupy movement will depend on its ability to become even more aligned with Millennial beliefs and behaviors as it evolves. If the demonstrators can avoid becoming co-opted by other generations or groups with their own agendas based on grievances of the past, and focus instead on the changes they wish to see going forward, there is a very good chance that the Occupy protests will become a major milestone in the development of America in the Millennial era.
Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais are fellows of NDN and the New Policy Institute and co-authors of the newly published “Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation is Remaking America” and “Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics.”