Start A Movement, Occupy Wall Street, Create New Stereotypes

October 13th, 2011 | Categories: Other

Several years ago, How to Start a Movement went viral. In three minutes, the Derek Sivers explains how one person’s actions can motivate others to act in ways that can have a large impact.

Recently, I published an article titled Small Behavior, Big Change that highlights a learning activity that I use in class. The idealistic activity asks students to think of a small interpersonal behavior like not using the word “gay” in a negative way or giving someone a hug that , if a lot of people did this, could have a positive effect on some large scale life or death social issue (e.g., suicide rates, anorexia).

Turns out other folks have thinking idealistically too. Advocacy campaigns abound. In the New York Times recently, organization purchased a full page advertisement to encourage people not to use the phrase “That’s so gay.” All around the world, free hug campaigns are taking place in large cities. Imagine being offered a free hug in Times Square, and the offer being legitimate?

Social movements often start out with small interpersonal behaviors that become more meaningful as more people become involved. Conversations via Twitter facilitated civil unrest in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia.

Somehow, I was still surprised to see a social movement bloom in my own backyard. I visited Occupy Wall Street about three weeks ago and it looked like a makeshift homeless tent city. It was, frankly, laughable although endearing and heartfelt. And now… well, it’s not laughable anymore. Check it out:

Right Here All Over (Occupy Wall St.) from Alex Mallis on Vimeo.

The Credits:

Directed by Alex Mallis + Lily Henderson
Cinematography by Ed David
Edited by Lily Henderson + Alex Mallis
Assistant Camera: Andrew McMullen + Diana Eliavoz
Assistant Producers: Dana Salvatore + Jillian Mason
Titles by Jason Drakeford.

Social movements create change. As social movement blossom they also create stereotypes that represent this new group that is created as a result of the social movement. The positive versions of these stereotypes empower those they target. The negative versions intentionally incite anger on both sides.

These communicated stereotypes are embedded within and fuel social movements. As the social movement develops so to does the stereotype. The “lone nut” becomes the cool funky person. The touchy-feely weirdo who is giving away hugs becomes the generous soul. The politically correct over-sensitive self-righteous person becomes the activist hero. The no-good rebel causing havoc on the streets of some foreign country becomes an international renegade for human rights. The lazy bums with no jobs occupying Wall Street become a new brand of hippies.

Whatever and wherever a social movement occurs, communicated stereotypes are not far away.

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