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No Need to Armchair Quarterback OWS

Everybody loves to armchair quarterback.  It’s the easiest way to prove you’re smarter or could have done something better than someone more talented and dedicated than you and actually doing something, while you critique.  Cuss out that rookie’s missed tackle in his first game.  Could you do better? Question Andy Reid’s playcalling in the 4th Quarter.  Could you really do better?  Yell at Tom Brady for not hitting the open man on the post.  Seriously now?  I mean, I think I could throw a pass better than Tim Tebow, but questioning Mr. Giselle?

Yet, I’m guilty as charged.  I armchair quarterback too much myself (why else start a blog?), mostly when it comes to sports, but also politics.  But in certain cases, I don’t really have much of a choice.  I’m invested in my teams but I can’t really affect their outcome, so all I can do is armchair quarterback. Similarly, in politics, I can express my voice, but the chances of it actually being heard and making a difference are slim.

Enter Occupy Wall Street.  After two plus months, seeing Questlove play his Paul Revere role in advance of having occupations torn down and today being a national day of action, what’s interesting (though not surprising) with OWS is that there are a lot of people critiquing from the sidelines.  Some are actually well-meaning, seemingly providing suggestions for how OWS should operate and what they should demand.  Idea generation and discussion are valuable of course.  But it seems like it’s no coincidence that most of the critiques and dismissals of OWS originate from those that are part of the existing establishment and fashion themselves as “leaders” (or future leaders) of the causes they are championing.  That would certainly make leaderless threatening.  It would also make lack of demands perplexing.  But, the very same structure that people are critiquing OWS for (lack of leadership, lack of demands) and providing suggestions for why it should change, is the reason why armchair quarterbacking is not really necessary.  Theoretically, there is no barrier to entry in getting involved in OWS.  Theoretically, all voices are heard (there are some real questions about this in practice of course).  So, theoretically, there is no need to provide suggestions from your Lay-Z-Boy (or from your MacBook Air) instead of engaging in person.

So if you believe in any way what OWS is trying to achieve, but have problems with how they are trying to achieve it, nothing is stopping you from making your case and trying to shape the movement in a way that dovetails with your vision.  If you’re intrigued, but are confused as to what they are trying to achieve, ask a question.  If you are ambivilent about the goals and prospects of OWS, then why are you talking about it at all?  And if you are diametrically opposed …well…this is probably the wrong blog for you (though all viewpoints are more than welcome).  Point being, this isn’t the New England Patriots, where it’s impossible to become involved and even within the organization, no one makes any decisions other than Bill Belichick (hence the term, “In Bill We Trust”).   And it’s considerably more accessible than anything related to the existing political system where no one makes any decisions period.  It’s more open and democratic.  That goes without question.

In case you were wondering, I tend towards the first group of believers but skeptical family. From my non-extensive engagement with the movement, I think there are some real areas for the movement to improve and fear that it may not get to root causes in order to be most effective for those in the direst of straights.  I don’t have a problem with the lack of concrete demands.  I don’t have a problem with the lack of formal leaders.  I do have a problem with the lack of representation from minorities and the truly poor.  And I do have questions about whether the movement can avoid becoming preoccupied with small bore stuff like process and email list serves and can focus all of its energy on helping to solve and support the most pressing issues that affect those that need help the most.  However, ultimately, that means if I want my voice heard and my thoughts and suggestions considered to have my problems addressed and my questions answered, I need to engage more, not less…



2 thoughts on “No Need to Armchair Quarterback OWS

  1. Good topic. An important question is to what extent armchair quarterbacking is an attempt to engage. Political movements don’t (only) happen in the streets, so even if the armchair quarterback lobs criticisms or suggestions from their laptop, the criticisms can still be examined and utilized or discarded by OWS on the merits. If OWS is going to serve as a model for communication and an alternative decision-making process, it will need to figure out how incorporate armchair quarterback-style “participation.”

    Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2011, 5:02 pm
    • i agree that this CAN be participation. a very passive asymmetric participation, but yes, it can be constructive at times. frequently though, at least in this particular case, i find that it is not. i think it’s attempting to engage in a one way conversation where the armchair qb expects that people will listen to their ideas without hearing back from the people they are speaking to regarding what they think and why they think it. and if those people reject the armchair qbs ideas lobbed in from afar without engaging, then, the entire movement is put at a distance, or disowned and discredited in the minds of the latter.

      Posted by chico | November 17, 2011, 8:35 pm

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