|November 3, 2011||Posted by Issa under Counter/Culture|
The revolution has begun, but I’m only watching from afar.
I first heard about Occupy Wall Street (OWS) while I was at Alchemy, and I was immediately riveted. It is exactly what I want out of the beginnings of reform – messy, earnest, consensus-driven, wildly optimistic, and, of course, hitting many of my political buttons.
I’m wary, though.
Our culture is so forcefully stacked against any kind of meaningful change that I wonder if it’s really possible to change anything. And frankly, I wonder if people are really trying. I wonder if the people currently protesting see the problem as I do – something that needs complete overthrow – or if they just want to get more people back into the same jobs/homes/situations they had before.
The post My one demand at Nature Bats Last really captures my skepticism:
“Take a map and draw a circle, then say, everyone outside the circle is to have their labor and resources exploited for the benefit of those inside the circle. If you live outside the circle you say, “this system is completely fucked up.” If you live inside the circle you say, “this is capitalism and it’s the best system on earth you should try it it’s awesome. Sure, people outside are suffering, but who gives a fuck about them?” Now as the circle shrinks, as it is designed to do, concentrating accumulated wealth, people begin finding themselves suddenly outside of the circle. They jump up and down and cry foul, but the ones still in the circle say, “tough shit, you were too slow, shoulda run faster to stay inside the circle“. But then, they soon realize that they too are too slow to keep up with the rapidly shrinking circle, and quickly they find themselves left out, so they cry foul. “The system is broken!!!” they decry! But is it? Isn’t this the way the system has always functioned?”
I’m worried that Occupiers are just wanting to get back inside that circle. I’m worried that they want their jobs and homes and widgets without actually caring about the people who will remain exploited in order to make those things possible. I find the use of the word “occupation” interesting. Occupation is what our culture does to the land, resources, bodies, and minds of every peoples it encounters. Occupation is a word of war. But are the OWS people at war? Clearly not. Yet, I think we should be. Like Derrick Jensen says, if an alien invader did to our country what companies and politicians do to our country, we would declare war. But that’s a deeper question that starts with something simple like air or water quality and ends in contemplating the colonization of your own mind. Whether or not a certain number of people are assured shitty jobs or can remain in their homes built through exploitation isn’t really all that important in the long run.
On the other hand, we have to live here. Maybe people getting booted out of the circle is enough to make them see that the circle fucking sucks.
Whatever complaints about the Occupy Movement I might be able to muster up, the truth of the matter is that I approve of any anger directed towards the people and institutions who are running this civilized show, and I hope this revolutions manages to topple some big things.
And I wish like hell that I was there.
I hear a lot about Occupy Atlanta since many of my friends live in Atlanta. I hear about Occupy Chattanooga from another friend. And here in my own city, Occupy Knoxville continues on as well. And it troubles me to not be there. It feels like I belong there. It causes me physical pain to read things about Occupy and know that I’m not involved.
But. I have a breastfeeding infant, and it is completely out of the question for me to risk being arrested. Sometimes different values are in conflict, but usually one comes out on top. In this case, breastfeeding Dylan trumps my desire and responsibility to participate in this movement. I would support other parents making a different choice, but this one is mine.
And so I watch from the outside. I yearn to be there in the middle. I ache to participate in changing the direction of the cultural tide. Because whatever questions and doubts I might have about the motives of the protesters, from among their voices, I hear my own desires reflected back at me.
I read Starhawk’s blog, and I’m delighted to tears to read her poetic words as I breathe and feel along with her as best I can:
“The plaza is filled with a palpable aura of strong, calm, joyful resistance, nonviolence at its best. People are preparing to stand their ground—not to fight the cops or bait them, but to hold firm and stand together and defend our space and our right to be there. There’s a power in that plaza that is deep and strong, and because the moral ground is so clear, we’ve pulled in people from all walks of life to a movement that has room to grow.”
I hear stories of consensus meetings with thousands of people present, and I’m awed that people are even trying consensus with groups this big, this diverse, this new to revolutionary process. I hear stories of medical tents set up, kitchens, free libraries, and I’m inspired.
I see little hints here and there that’s it’s not just about getting back into the circle. That it might be about redesigning a whole new shape that we can all fit in, one that doesn’t get smaller and smaller by design.
I’m so excited to see where this movement might go and so grateful to the people who are out there making it happen.
In the meantime, it’s my job to be here at home, nurturing new life, and preparing for the future in other ways that make sense to me. To every one participating in the Occupy Movement: Thank you for leading. I’m a little further behind you right now, but I’m on your side and I’m going your way.