As some of you know, I'm not a supporter of the OWS protests. So why then, am I telling you that you have a problem and offering a solution? It kinda sounds concern trollish, huh? Well, here's the thing. I think there are problems with our economic system that need to be improved. I want to support you. But right now, that's damn near impossible, because there is no plural "you," as a group, when it comes to what you think.
We are against those that abuse capitalism. We are not against capitalism itself.
Capitalism is an evil system based on the exploitation of the workers by the bourgeoisie.
The bottom line is that these two views are not compatible (unless, of course, the second person is not against the evil system). The protest cannot be in favor of both sides of such disparate viewpoints. And these aren't the only contrasting viewpoints held by OWS protestors. I picked this example because I think a significant number of protestors are on both sides of this issue. I know there are fringe elements that shouldn't be given much attention, but I don't think either of these are fringe viewpoints of OWS. As long as the protest incorporates messages that stand in stark contrast to each other, here are some problems you have:
1. Forget the polls.
You know that 54% favorability rating OWS got in the Time poll a few days ago? Forget about it. It means nothing. I can guarantee you that 54% of the population does not agree with both of those statements. As long as the protest is a blank canvas (or a canvas with everything on it), people will project their hopes on it (in a manner comparable with what many did with Obama in 2008), because they are unhappy with the status quo. The polls don't mean America is with you.
2. What change is good change?
Ultimately, the goal here is to change the system for the better. But people evaluate whether or not a change is "better" by comparing that change to their desired system. So, as long as people's desired systems are so different, the OWS crowd cannot unite behind a change. I think this struggle has been why there has been so little progress made by OWS protestors about what to actually do about the problem.
3. You will be marginalized.
Identifying symptoms and/or problems isn't enough. In the words of my boss, "Don't bring me problems. Bring me solutions to problems." Your role is not to sit back and veto everything that everyone else comes up with. It seems to me like that's the role you want to play in designing our economic system. You don't get to play that role. Nobody gets that role. I have projects in which there are team members who want that role. I remove them from my teams because they are not helping. You have to propose a solution to be taken seriously. You just have to. If you can't propose a solution, you are throwing a tantrum. And you will be ignored, because really, that's about all that can be done with you.
So, what is the solution? I'm sure some people want to start with a platform of big bold ideas, while others would prefer a more targeted approach. Here's my advice. You will not be able to agree on new big bold ideas right now, so your best course of action is to focus on simple impactful policies that the vast majority of people can agree on (things like "tax dividends and capital gains as normal income"). Then make a thousand signs that say that one thing and hand them out. Yes, you'll piss some people off, and some people will leave. That is inevitable. Let them go. A goal of yours should be to minimize that. But not at the expense of developing good, simple policies the vast majority of people can get behind.
Developing these policies will do a few good things for you. First, it will help get people like me (and those in the media) off your back. Second, it will build trust and foster bonding among your group. You'll need the stronger social bonds this creates when you have to tackle larger issues down the road. Finally, with thousands protesting for a simple policy, there will be pressure for politicians to just implement that policy. If they do, you get to claim success which will rally people to your group. If not, you've got a policy just about everyone in America agrees with (and can hear, and can join the fight for), so people will sympathize with you and support you, and your group will continue to grow - which in turn will put more pressure on politicians to implement the policy.
As you should have learned in the movie Inception, for an idea to really take hold, it needs to be positive. Right now, OWS has a negative message. You need to stop fighting against something, and start fighting for something.