Please forgive the ‘Oh so clever’ title. I did think that it would be a good idea to state my positions on the issues related to the ‘Occupy’ movement.
First, I am in support of the movement and was pleased to be able to participate in the Oakland general strike on Nov 2. I think that this is a truly organic movement born of the shared frustrations of the disenfranchised. It does not and cannot have a leader except perhaps the economy itself. And this makes it curiously impervious to partisan politics and makes it very difficult for the powers that be to intervene.
‘Occupy’ has many precedents in history and I believe it to be a recognizable historical trend related to civil rights battles, anti-war protests and their like. Sure it has similarities which raise a crucial nostalgia factor which has energized the aging members of the 60’s ‘new left’. But it is its own movement hardly focused on nostalgia and, curiously, not really focused on our war efforts except to the extent that they affect the economy. It is primarily a young peoples’ movement but has embraced and energized all ages and groups.
The ‘status quo’ who seek to intervene/end this movement stick to their talking points and try to frame every police/paramilitary intervention as a movement ending victory. One wonders if any of these people has read any history. If they have they clearly did not understand it. Original attempts to suppress the movement took the form of having the complicit major media ignore the protests. What little independent media exist along with the foreign presses covered it. And it is oh so clear that this is not an orchestrated effort.
And while I lament the violence and the damage to businesses and individuals and such I find that I can’t get all that upset. I do not advocate violence and the movement has not done so. In fact they seem to agonize even more than I about how to more effectively discourage what little violence has occurred. In fact more violence has occurred at the hands and tactics of the police. No one seemed to think there was a need for a significant police presence when the pistol packing tea partiers held their rallies. But clearly the civilly disobedient peaceful protesters motivated the mobilization of massive riot gear laden, chemical weapon (not to mention ‘non-lethal’ and ‘less lethal weapons) wielding interdiction forces. I drove through one of these intimidating interdictions as it was about to begin. Yes it was scary but it also made me angry. Its hard not to see the appearance and tone (if not intent) of these interdictions as provocation.
And the violence that has occurred has largely been done by (beside the police themselves) by splinter groups. This, I believe, is an inevitable consequence of such mass rally civil disobedience. And the violence is what I term, “collateral damage”. As when there is a military intervention the death of civilians and their property is termed collateral damage about which the military and their leadership take no responsibility so it goes with these protesters. Occupiers have discouraged violence from the beginning and cannot reasonably be held responsible for such side effects. No one seems to be concerned about holding financial institutions responsible for the collateral damage which has been done by their shady dealings. So it should be with disenfranchised protesters exercising their first amendment rights. I actually find it amazing that they have not resorted to violence in light of the seriousness of the situation and the ways they have been treated. I think that many may resort to violence as their frustration grows and is fueled by the horrendous disrespect and violence directed towards them.
I continue to be amazed at the talking points wielding right wing commentators who try to discredit the movement by noting that they have no leaders and no demands clearly stated. These things are true but the larger truth is that the protesters are motivated by emotional frustration and are gathering and talking to each other about that frustration. They are teaching and learning from each other. They are formulating ideas which should be coming from the leadership of this country but clearly has not and will not. What leads them are the common purposes which have been stymied and which they seek to remedy, jobs, living wages, human rights including health care and security. This is in fact a very American movement in the best sense. And this is the organic basis which drives this movement as effectively as it mystifies those tied to the now very unsuccessful tactics which drive our government.
And this is a world wide movement. Just look at the actions (which were praised by American leaders) which have occurred and continue to occur in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria, etc. These movements with which we claim solidarity have mounted their protests in the face of death and violence, yet they stood firm. It is amazing to me that we are not embracing the ‘American Autumn’, if you will, in parallel and sympathy with the ‘Arab Spring’.
The powers that be continue to try to shame us when we resort to the sort of tactics upon which some of our greatest accomplishments have been built and which the tea party unsuccessfully tried to connect. They seek to deny us access to free speech and civil disobedience which succeeded in moving forward causes like civil rights, women’s rights, anti-slavery. They try to label us un-American when in fact we are very ordinary but exceptional Americans. Occupiers aren’t seeking the right to carry concealed weapons. They don’t have the support of the NRA. They don’t have the money to make clever commercials to convince people of their convictions as the tea party tried to do. They are convinced of the correctness of their convictions and that is all that matters.
Occupy has managed to enlist other “un-American” types such as labor unions, dissenting veterans, dissenting police officers and their like. That is what scares the remaining 1%. We are teaching and learning and unifying. ‘E Pluribus Unum’, from many, one seems a more apt slogan for this movement every day. Not the ‘In God We Trust’ the meaning of which has been corrupted by manipulative reinterpretation by people who actually claim to know what God wants. I thought he/she wanted peace and equality. Hardly a ‘godless’ movement it is embracing Christians (did you know there was a Christian left?), Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists.
So go my opinions on OWS and its predecessors and progeny. My chronically optimistic self would like to see it become something akin to the brotherhood of man envisioned by Friederich Schiller’s poem which was famously used in Beethoven’s joyous 9th symphony, that it become a movement which embraces ‘der ganzen welt’, the entire world.