This section of the reading of Organizing for Social Change is extremely important in understanding systems of oppression. I think that the dialectical approach that the authors take is excellent in illustrating societal forces functioning for or against certain groups of people. I cannot help but relate this reading to my experiences over fall break.
I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a few days at the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City over fall break. I witnessed some of the most impressive community organizing I have ever seen take place. As the movement continues to grow, the main concern of the occupation is how to conduct its meetings (called General Assemblies or GA’s) in the future to be efficient yet still have all people heard. The dialectic of fragmentation vs. unity in the reading reminded me a lot about what I witnessed in New York. As the article points out, unity can sometimes serve to silence certain members of a group for the benefit or perceived benefit of the whole. At Occupy Wall Street the silencing of marginalized people was a big issue during the General Assembly. Due to the diversity of opinion at the protest (old people, young people, communists, socialists, capitalists, Ron Paul supporters, anarchists,) unity would destroy the movement. This is also the reason that Occupy Wall Street has no set of “demands” as the media has not failed to point out (if they give coverage at all). I think that in many social activism projects, the goal is often unity, or to unify. Part of this is because the word just sounds so nice. In fact unity cannot be a goal because it would require a set of opinions/objectives/morals that applies to the whole group and thus would alienate others. Fragmentation cannot be a goal either because complete fragmentation leads to conflict. I saw many instances of conflict caused by fragmentation arise at Occupy Wall Street. For example, the group of drummers called Pulse were discussing a proposal at the GA about how long they should be able to drum during the day. The argument got heated and the result was the alienation of these important members of the occupation. For me, the real goal lies in changing the way we see difference or those who are different from us. This is a personal change that allows us to acknowledge difference and do our best to detach it from whatever preconceived notion we may have. Reverend Jeremiah Wright put it well in his speech at the NAACP national convention: “I believe a change is gonna come because we are committed to changing the way we view others who are different.” I think that the only way true social change can be achieved is if the concept of difference is separated from the concept of deficiency.