Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Community Psychology?

           Occupy Wall Street has gained everyone’s attention. But how about Occupy Community Psychology?
Readers, is this a fair question? I wonder, largely because I’m not (yet) seeing the connection between this major local then national and now global event and anything we ourselves are doing. Consider: one lonely note on our list-serv to date; nothing on our Facebook page. However, a blog post earlier this month. (“What happened in the 60’s”) opened the door to this discussion; so let’s walk on through it.
Community psychology still stirs my heart. But we have never been strong – we have hardly been visible – on issues of equity, on issues of class, on issues of institutional power, on issues of corporate (as vs. child, or domestic, or substance) abuse. All the more striking, since we are not the 1%, as far as I know.
           Certainly, the issues we do deal with are challenging; and surely, we have made genuine contributions both to knowledge and to human welfare. Nor did anyone ever tell us when we signed up that we should be leading the charge, or camping out on concrete.
Still, here’s the stated vision of our field, from the SCRA web site:
“Promoting social justice for all people by fostering . . . empowerment where there is oppression.”
And a stated SCRA goal:
“To influence the formation and institutionalization of economic and social policy consistent with community psychology principles and with the social justice values that are at the core of our discipline.”
Is SCRA – are we – living up to those ideals? Given that my campus this week was papered with “Occupy UMass/Lowell” flyers, it seems reasonable to ask how we could step up our own contribution.
As community practitioners, for example, we should know what it takes to generate citizen participation. And we should know something about principles of effective community organization, including effective social protest. Granted, we have much to learn from our more social-media-savvy colleagues and students. But the Occupy movement, and whatever succeeds it, should give us plenty of opportunity to advise, support, study, discuss, instruct, consult, and provide moral leadership – to be actors, and practitioners, not only spectators.
Just raising the issues here. What do you think, blog readers?

Bill Berkowitz, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Massachusetts Lowell

Footnote: Just after the above was written, Brad Olson, a community psychologist and member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) posted a note on the SCRA list-serv, and also on the community psychology Facebook page, indicating PsySR's support of the Occupy movement. See the October 22-23 list-serv, and also
Worth a look.  ~~BB 

1 comment:

  1. It seems like a niche that community psychologists might fit well with this movement would be to act as professional laisons between the Occupy movement and engaging policy makers on what action steps might be feasible. I believe that it is probably unrealistic to ask that corporations and wall street be abolished altogether, but maybe we could see some small wins in policy by promoting tax policies that help to reduce the dramatic scale of the wealth distribution; particularly on wealth gained in wall street investments. Perhaps there might also be policies put in place that suggest it is unethical or illegal for political campaigns to be funded by corporate interests. I suppose community psychologists interested in playing this liason role shouldn't take my word on what should be advocated, but maybe listening to the large masses crowding around the country in protest might give us all some ideas about feasible ways to engage policy makers in making critical decisions surrounding this controversy.