The media's latest attempt to undercut the message of Occupy movements all across the globe is by touting the "cost" of these protests. Many sources are reporting that Occupy movements are costing cities hundreds of thousands of dollars in police overtime because apparently it takes an entire precinct to make sure that 50 people don't sleep through the night.
When an internal city memorandum stated that Occupy Vancouver had cost its city nearly a million dollars in taxpayer money, the organizers did something brilliant: they broke down the cost of what they were doing for the city of Vancouver.
Referencing a recent press release from the Occupy Vancouver Communications Committee, activist Eric Hamilton-Smith noted "...over 37,000 meals were served, $672,000 of primary medical care was provided, and 30 people were housed for 37 days at a time when beds at primary shelters were not available." This assessment puts the overall price tag of benefits to the community at over one million dollars, approximately matching the "cost" attributed to the protests, as well as picking up the tab for services that would have been stuck to the community-at-large.
According to a Vancouver Sun article, with the average bed at a shelter costing $83/night, the movement has accounted for over $90,000 in housing services. The Sun notes that with the average soup meal kitchen meal costing $3.50, the 37,000 meals served by Occupy Vancouver accounted for over $129,000 in social services.
This is absolutely brilliant, and I suggest that all other Occupy movements take note of this.
Occupy Vancouver has proven that they are a tangible benefit to its own community in terms that even the most cross-eyed, close-minded, right-wing-funded dunderhead can understand: dolla dolla bills (Canadian, y'all.)
Occupy Wall Street, as well as other Occupy movements, may want to take stock (no pun intended, no pun achieved) of the benefits and services they are offering and place a reasonable monetary value on them. These numbers could be very important when it comes to defending the relevance of the Occupy movement as a whole; and make no mistake, the Occupy movement is going to have to vigorously defend its existence on multiple fronts for an indefinite amount of time.
Let me pre-empt a myopic critique of this plan of attack right here:"That's pretty ironic that you want to put a cash value on these things when the whole Occupy Wall Street thing is against money to begin with!"
No. And you can close your mouth if you're just breathing.
1) The Occupy movement isn't against the concept or existence of money, you dolt. There has been much written about its purpose. If you would like my take, you can check this out. If you won't click that because I just called you a dolt, I apologize. I just have very little patience for ignorance. (Actually, I'm not really sorry. If you're old enough to read this, you should know better than to ignore things like the deliberate destruction of the global economy. If you don't think so, you probably just got some Chunky Monkey on your monitor, there.)
2) The Occupy movement is very big, and needs to have many tentacles, just like the financial-legislative complex that it is fighting against. There is not one simple model of change to be adopted in this fight; the new model to be adopted must be the adoption of many models. (Yeah, I know, it's like Noam Chomsky in the background of a Pink Floyd album cover.) One of these models must be the ability to express oneself in the native language of the unconscionable elite that populate our global community of Psychopathic Multi-Nationals Gone Wild and their opening band: Fuck the People, I'm Already Elected.
A well-oiled protesting machine must adopt many tactics, and assessing the value of providing services to a community must be one of them. Instead of fighting the "cost" issue, Occupy movements should proudly declare the "cost" of the services they are providing for their respective cities.
How much does a soup kitchen meal cost in Los Angeles? What is the daily cost to run a library in Portland? How much does a massive clean-up of Zuccotti Park cost? How much does a night in a homeless shelter cost the city of Atlanta? These are only a few ways that these protests are actually picking up social and civic services and alleviating taxpayer burden by subsidizing some of the costs associated with running a city.
There are many other services currently being provided, and many more that will come. I'm sure it won't be too long before an Occupy movement creates a Planned Parenthood, drug rehabilitation, or a domestic abuse education tent facilitated by qualified, licensed volunteers. Perhaps there are some out there already.
It would behoove Occupy movements all across the world to assess what services they offer and to evaluate the material benefit they offer their community. This is not only key information when justifying the movement itself, but it also throws down the gauntlet by clearly showcasing the valuable act of providing services that enhance a city.
As an extra bonus, such an evaluation would also prove to be a source of unflappable encouragement for those protestors thanklessly working for the social betterment of an antagonistic world filled with uninformed water-cooler chatter, villainizing media pundits and hostile civic and federal authorities.
This small bit of unified focus will prove to reap large benefits for the Occupy movement down the road, at the type of cost usually reserved for maniacal Wal-Mart holiday stampedes.