By Ian Roxborough
The 8th annual TIDES tech demo is bringing together some surprising people, all of whom want to make the world a better place. On Wednesday there was a panel of folks who started out in the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011: Shlomo Adam Roth and Devin Balkind. When superstorm Sandy hit the East coast a year later these guys – and thousands of others like them – used the connections they had made, and the experience they had gained in the Wall Street protests, to organize community responses to the storm. They called it “Occupy Sandy.”
In a panel discussion at Fort McNair the organizers – along with Isadora Blachman-Biatch who reported on the activities that Occupy Sandy conducted – explained their philosophy of bottom-up organizing empowered by social networking tools. During the Occupy Wall Street protests they had learned how to provide food for thousands of protesters, how to organize sanitation, how to deal with the logistics of getting and distributing the supplies they needed. They then used the same techniques in superstorm Sandy. Within a week they were providing 20,000 meals a day. And they did so without leaders and without a formal organization. The speakers believe that their flat networks enabled them to move swiftly. They weren’t offering charity, they were part of a community that was self-organizing. Mutual aid is their term for what they do.
How do anarchists like the Occupy Sandy activists interface with the military and with other government organizations? That is still a big issue, and one that urgently needs to be addressed. The Occupy activists claim that they can fill in the gaps left by the ponderous government organizations: I think we need to look at this in more detail: it can’t be just a matter of filling in gaps. There has to be something more positive that emerges. In disasters everyone needs to pitch in, each with their own unique expertise and capabilities. Getting synergy out of such dissimilar components as the Department of Defense and the Occupy Sandy activists is a challenge. Let’s see how we solve it!
Want to know more about Occupy Sandy? Check out the report, The Resilient Social Network, put out by the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute.