In connection with the US presidential election, Robert Reich is advising people of progressive outlook against cynicism. He's urging them to vote for Obama (and other Democrats); and he's urging them to get organized and active after election day as well. I have no quarrel with him on any of that.
But in making the plea Reich also slips in this:
The alternative to cynicism is to become more involved in politics. Help create a progressive force in this nation that grows into a movement that can't be stopped.
We almost had it last year in the Occupy movement. We had the arguments and the energy. What we lacked was organization and discipline.
You've heard of speaking truth to power. Well, I now propose the companion phrase: speaking bullshit to illusion. Because that is what it is to tell people that they 'almost had it' in the Occupy movement. The Occupy movement was certainly something: as has been said many times, it gave prominence to issues that deserve prominence. It is, however, well beyond time for individuals of some political longevity and (one hopes on that basis) maturity to stop advising the young that serious social change is easier than it is. The Occupy movement was nowhere near being a movement that couldn't be stopped, as its later 'development' demonstrated. Whatever the reasons for its rapid decline, it was done no favours by older members of the left who applauded its lack of political demands or of a credible and coherent programme, as though these were a virtue and not just the unavoidable circumstances of origin; or who enouraged it in the delusion that sitting in tents was either a substitute for more regular modes of political activity and organization, or the germ of a new civilization.
The politics of radical change are very difficult, a long slog; and you can be pretty sure you won't win a majority by or for sitting in tents, or by or for claiming the right do it wherever you please.