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The ‘Leaderless Resistance’

It doesn't have a long roster of celebrity endorsements, and it is still fuzzy exactly what the Occupy Wall Street cause is all about. Yet the so-called leaderless resistance movement is gaining the support of ordinary individuals and labor organizations worldwide and spreading like wildfire from New York to Mexico City, Dublin, Athens, Sydney, and Hong Kong.

Let's not get entwined in the details of their demands or even try to define the demography of the protesters. Moreover, wondering who serves as director, president, or executive manager of the Occupy Wall Street movement is pointless. The short answer is nobody. There is no formal structure, no hierarchy, no global headquarters, no blueprint for achieving the equally blurry goals, and certainly no Washington-based lobbying group. But the movement is raising money ($300,000 for the New York group, according to a recent account) and rapidly transforming into a global phenomenon.

That's why ignoring the Occupy Wall Street protests may result in a giant headache for businesses and corporate executives. They are pitting corporations and governments against ordinary citizens. There is really no formal body to engage or leadership to converse with. It is an amorphous movement that, despite a central coordinating organ, continues to grow globally by simply attracting folks who share a distaste for our current political and economic system, which they believe is not serving their interests.

A quick Google search (follow this link) reveals a lot about the history of the Occupy Wall Street movement, some of the goals the protesters hope to achieve, and the diversity of the people behind the movement. Even then, you may end up more confused than enlightened by the kaleidoscope of demands and objections to conventional business practices.

What's clear, though, is that the Occupy Wall Street movement doesn't like something — or a lot of things — about the current capitalist system. In other words, it doesn't like something about the way you do business: the influence your company and industry have with politicians, the profits you make, how they are distributed, the amount your business pays in taxes, how and what you pay your executives compared with what ordinary workers get, the carbon footprint your products leave on people's doorsteps or in the air they breathe. The list goes on and on.

The protesters also don't like being ignored, and Wall Street is doing its best to wave them off as dissenters who don't understand or appreciate the value financial experts have supposedly created. As Paul Krugman of the New York Times puts it in a recent column: “The modern lords of finance look at the protesters and ask, Don't they understand what we've done for the US economy?”

Simply acting as if the Occupy Wall Street movement won't touch your business in any way or believing it's not related to your operations isn't a smart strategy. I wish I could tell in my crystal ball how this movement may influence businesses, but that's not possible. The movement is still taking shape, but the trajectory of its growth, underlined by the systemic problems in the global economy with workers hurting across businesses and industries, tells me it shouldn't be ignored.

Sometimes I feel like going out and protesting myself. But don't ask me exactly what I would be chanting. I have no problems with the billion of dollars in profits companies have made, and I don't envy any executives the millions they may be getting in salaries, stock options, and other compensatory packages. What I feel is a deep sense of consternation about political leaderships in general (in my country and elsewhere), along with disappointment and perhaps even anger about the financial mess created by lenders, borrowers, and regulators over the last five years and a deepening sense of apprehension that we haven't plumbed the depth of the challenges the global economy faces.

What I feel is difficult to express and even harder to define, which makes me understand why the Occupy Wall Street protesters are clogging up financial centers globally. I am unlikely to go out and join them, but I share their distaste for politics and business as usual. If this movement continues to gather force, you'll feel the heat eventually, and it won't matter whether you are on Capitol Hill, in the White House, in a Silicon Valley boardroom, or on Wall Street.

9 comments on “The ‘Leaderless Resistance’

  1. Eldredge
    October 17, 2011

    If it's politics that they dislike, they seem to be choosing the wrong locations.

  2. SunitaT
    October 17, 2011

    What's clear, though, is that the Occupy Wall Street movement doesn't like something — or a lot of things — about the current capitalist system.

    @Bolaji, you are right that they dont like current capitalist system. These protestors claim they are demanding accountability for Wall Street crimes. They feel some of the greedy banks and corporates who don't pay taxes, cut jobs, engage in mortgage frauds tanked the US economy and still they pay themselves record setting bonuses.

  3. SunitaT
    October 17, 2011

    If it's politics that they dislike, they seem to be choosing the wrong locations.

    @Eldredge, I dont think its just politics. I think its also about the way the financial systems are handled. Its about political and corporate nexus which makes this system skewed.

  4. prabhakar_deosthali
    October 18, 2011

    I will become a staunch supporter if such a movement starts in my country. I firmly believe that  all this stock market business is nothing but the a tool for manupulating the economy in the hands of rich and powerful people and the common small invester is always a looser.  The stock markets worldwide are driven more by the rumours than the real facts, artficial fears than the real situations. Otherwise how could the share prices tumble on fears of Europian crisis on one day and next day again bounce back. I don't think the crisis of such nature is created and solved in a day's time.

    People world wide have to become aware of how ther hard earned money is being stolen away by the background controllers of stock markets and such movement as Ocuupy wall street will serve this purpose

  5. jbond
    October 18, 2011

    What I feel is a deep sense of consternation about political leaderships in general (in my country and elsewhere), along with disappointment and perhaps even anger about the financial mess created by lenders, borrowers, and regulators over the last five years and a deepening sense of apprehension that we haven't plumbed the depth of the challenges the global economy faces.

    I don't think I could have said that any better. I feel the exact way. Though I do have my doubts that these occupy movements will make any drastic changes. I guess if even one thing is changed due to these movements, then they have won a small battle.

  6. FLYINGSCOT
    October 18, 2011

    I share your concerns over this viral protesting we are seeing across the globe.  It is a real force that could do a lot of good as well as evil.  I am a firm believer that every organization needs a “head” that is empowered to speak for the whole but these viral organizations must be a real challenge to deal reasonably with.  It is a phenomenon that will not go away so we need to harness the good and disempower the evil.

  7. AnalyzeThis
    October 18, 2011

    What I feel is difficult to express and even harder to define, which makes me understand why the Occupy Wall Street protesters are clogging up financial centers globally. I am unlikely to go out and join them, but I share their distaste for politics and business as usual.

    Well said, and this mirrors my feelings on the matter as well. I'm not sure if I support the “Occupy” movement and I'm doubtful that they'll actually accomplish any actual change, but I do understand why they are doing what they're doing: there's a lot of frustration and anger towards the current status quo.

    Obviously the economy isn't doing well which is probably the main reason this is happening, but there are numerous other concerns these protestors have. Since this is a leaderless resistance, the group often seems kind of unfocused in terms of their goals… but then again, there are indeed plenty of hot-button issues and a good number of fed-up people out there. So again, it’s understandable.

  8. bolaji ojo
    October 19, 2011

    @Eldredge, They chose Wall Street as the focal point for the protests because it represents the arm that controls the puppets in Congress.

  9. t.alex
    October 22, 2011

    I belive lots of the activities are coordinated via social networking tools. This is really the powerful way.

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