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Why Martin Luther King's Dream Endures (and others Die)

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The Occupy movement appears to be losing strength and support. Certainly the media has moved away from it - perhaps a reflection more of its insatiable need to cover the 'next' thing than the movement losing steam - but it is hard to know what, if anything, is happening. And stories indicating that those involved may be losing energy for the fight contribute to the overall impression of 'failure.'

While many contrast the seeming failure of Occupy to gain momentum and grow with the overwhelming tide that Civil Rights movement is remembered for today, it is important to remember that that movement also began with similar acts of defiance--occupying lunch counters and seats on buses--that grew into an organized movement.

Back then, I thought that Occupy might be the long-awaited public call for a sustainable form of capitalism, one that took into consideration - and sought to enhance - human, social, environmental as well as economic capital.

But then, Occupy deviated from that successful strategy in two important ways that ultimately may have sealed its fate.

First, by hoping that numbers and the rallying cry of 'we are the 99 percent!' would bring together people from all walks of life to join in a spontaneous overthrow of corporate cronyism, corrupted capitalism, and a host of other social, environmental and economic ills, Occupy may have overestimated public support (or underestimated complacence) of the vast majority of people.

Second, as was said during the recent commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 'I Have A Dream' speech, the civil rights movement, as President Obama remarked: "offered a salvation path for oppressed and oppressors alike." By meeting hatred with love, billy clubs with passive resistance, incarceration with singing, etc. the movement led by Martin Luther King won over millions of people by appealing to their hearts as well as their minds.

Occupy, like Civil Rights movement are each a reflection of the times in which each movement existed. In the 1960s the civil rights movement understood and leveraged the power that comes from uniting and not dividing, which resulting in legal and cultural changes that, while incomplete and far too slow in many cases, changed (and are changing) the world for the better.

Occupy, perhaps reflects today's hyper-personal, polarized environment, and therefore seems to be going nowhere and slowly. That 'gridlock' may not be surprising in today's culture. It is because we have fallen into the habit of fighting each other rather than joining together, shouting down rather than speaking to rise above, and pointing fingers instead of showing the way.