Saturday, December 31, 2011

And What of the Occupy?

Did I get wrong-footed on this Occupy Thing? Is Teh Revolution an illusion after all?

Well, no. I don't think so.

Having been reduced from hundreds of Occupations to a few score of active ones today, the Occupy Wall Street Movement seems to have stalled or even reversed in the face of Implacable Authority -- and winter. From appearances, the Movement has not gone away, but it is certainly nothing like what it once was. Diminution has not resulted in concentration; instead, the energy seems to be more and more dispersed, and in its dispersion, dissipated.

I thought it was interesting that during the hey-day of this rabble rousing phase, Lambert Strether over at Correntewire always saw it as spreading like rhizomes in the plant world. I, on the other hand, tended to see the development of the Movement-cum-Revolution as akin to egg-laying. The Idea would be deposited pretty much everywhere. There would be a brief -- and rather spectacular -- initial life cycle followed by a potentially prolonged hibernation/chrysalis phase during which a metamorphosis would occur, from which something almost altogether different would emerge.

The two are not entirely incompatible versions of the possible course of development of what's come to be called The Occupy, because they both rely on biological models. That was a discussion I had with a number of Occupation participants fairly early on, in that it was obvious even then that the model for the Movement was organic and evolutionary, rooted in biology rather than rhetoric, and it would grow -- and in some cases diminish -- like an organism rather than a construct.

So it has been.

The many efforts to suppress it have been something like futile efforts to eradicate a biological pest, one that is both hardy and evolutionary. The object of suppression takes on different forms, disappears, reappears, develops, retreats, and eventually overcomes. It is not ever really suppressed. It becomes part of the landscape; the best Authority can do against it is learn to cope.

But then, why be against it?

This is the question that is being raised, hopefully more and more. What, exactly, is Authority against, anyway? Taking over the Public Square to petition for redress of grievance (this is a First Amendment issue, but not strictly a Free Speech issue) is simply not a chargeable offense; it is something that We, the People not only have the right to do, we have a duty to do it. Fighting against that right and duty -- as Authority has been doing more and more brutally -- is a losing proposition. Which, apparently, Authority is recognizing, slowly, and with great trepidation and reluctance.

The People are demanding hearing and redress of their grievances. They are not simply gathering for the sake of it (though that has always been a part of the process of Revolution, the massing of the masses for the sake of it). Their message and their demands are not unclear at all, but always, when presented with such petitions, Authority claims not to "understand" what it is the People clamor for, what it is they are discontent about, what it is they want. This is universal when such situations arise.

Authority insists the People's Message is so muddled there is nothing they can do about it, much as they would like to respond positively. But unless the correct forms and rituals are observed in the petitioning process, Authority must remain blind and deaf to the plight and pleas of the masses. So sorry, please.

And yet Authority knows exactly what the People are yowling about.

Oh yes they do.

Their efforts at suppression can at best be temporary stop-gaps while they figure out what to do. In this regard, it is worth noting that there was no effort at all to suppress the Tea Party during its brief fluorescence; in fact, the Tea Party's pseudo-Revolution was encouraged at every crossroads by Authority -- both governmental and corporate -- until, of course, the candidates they'd put in office proved so intransigent and antithetical to the interests of the Global Elites that they were ignored and sidestepped. Not suppressed. Sidestepped.

The Tea Party was never a popular movement; the Occupy is. That makes a big difference in how The Powers That Be respond. The 'Baggers essentially were brought forth -- and brought out of -- the hothouse of Bernaysian Manipulation, as a construct that popular discontent could glom onto; a product in other words, to be sold to the masses as the answer to what aggrieved them.

It was really quite a skilful campaign, starting with a low-key, almost underground, "resistance" campaign immediately after the presidential election of 2008, targeting the alleged "socialism" of the new Obama administration. It was all phony from the get, but that didn't matter. What mattered was that those who were discontent with the fact that a colored man was shortly to be squatting in the White House, and discontent with the fact that Power in some abstract sense was now taken away from its rightful possessors had somewhere to focus their rage and anger and frustration, even if only underground initially.

Shortly after the Obama Inauguration in 2009, the "Resistance" that had been underground came to the fore as the all-but-fully-formed "Tea Party" subsequent to the Rick Santelli Rant on CNBC that was put into heavy rotation on all the "news" for days and weeks. Game on.

The "Tea Party" became a 24/7 obsession of the FOX "News" cable network -- their pet, their joy, their pride -- and through FOX's constant promotion, and the efforts of numerous well-funded political consultants and hate radio personalities (which is actually where it all started anyway) the rightist rabble was most effectively roused.

But as a product being sold, it had a limited shelf-life, and after the 2010 congressional election, it essentially disappeared. Well, the plug was pulled. The point had been made, and the congressional landscape had been transformed; there was no further point for a rightist populist movement. Victory had been achieved.


It's a Pyrrhic Victory at best. The situation continues to be shitty for all but the very wealthiest of the Global Elite, and helping them to acquire more does nothing for anyone else. And as for all the reactionary social garbage they wanted enacted, good luck with that.

The congress, this congress, the one that the 'Baggers elected, is the least popular in the nation's post civil war history, and the various radical reactionary state legislatures and governors swept into office on the coattails of the 'Bagger Rebellion are facing firestorms of rejection from the engaged and enraged People.

What to do?

The Occupy Movement literally came out of nowhere -- well, the mind's eye of a clever former ad-man let's say. But it has become something quite unlike anything he might have envisioned. It ultimately didn't matter what he personally envisioned anyway. The Occupy instantly took on a life of its own, and so it has been ever since.

It is diverse and dispersed, leader-less/leader-full, and is as real as it gets.

It is evolving -- or rather metamorphosing. Evolution may come later.

Staying out of electoral politics is key.

Our electoral politics has become little more than a massive product promotion campaign, a biennial spectacle of salesmanship, that has little or no effect on policy; those policies are set at the "board" level, and whichever electoral product wins the campaign, the same general policies will be carried out no matter.

I think We the People learned this quite clearly over the past few elections. Who you put in office only matters on the margins of personality and finesse. The overall policies of government are never put to a popular vote, and they are carried out no matter who is sitting in the Big Chair or holding hearings about it.

That being so, the only real way to affect it is to act outside it.

This is what so many apparatchiks -- who of course infest the blogosphere, especially at election time -- simply cannot comprehend. They insist that the only way to affect policy is from within (you must participate, vote, support candidates, yadda, yadda, for it is the only way your voice will be heard and listened to). The only thing is, it's not true.

You can certainly have an effect and accomplish quite a bit from within, but unless you are part of a highly select few, you do not have any effect on policy. That doesn't change because you are on the inside or not. What you can do on the inside is achieve some of your personal or mutual material objectives. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does not affect policy, because you must work within policy parameters to get what you want or need.

But what if those policy parameters are just absolutely wrong? Then you have to be -- and act -- outside the system. This is a concept the apparatchik mind cannot embrace or fathom. But it is the only way to seriously affect policy makers and their policies. You have to apply pressure -- significant and sustained pressure -- from the outside.

Pressure from the Outside can become Revolutionary.

The Occupy Movement is intrinsically Revolutionary, and its Anarchist roots are the key to understanding its Revolutionary direction.

Realistically, we are dealing with an Anarcho-Communist/Syndicalist Revolutionary movement that is profoundly affecting the popular consciousness of what is Possible all over the developed world and beyond.

I don't think that anything quite like this has ever happened before. People's minds are being changed one by one and in batches all over the world about what can be done about what needs to be done. Once that happens, there is no going back.

Anarcho-Communist/Syndicalist concepts have never before had more than a very remote fringe appeal; yet now they're on the verge of becoming so wide spread as to be recognized as "natural."

To my way of looking at it, this is an almost inevitable result of the divorce between the Global Financial Elites and their Government lackeys on the one hand and the People on the other. When governments only serve financial elites, as is the case now in many regions, not just the United States, the People must assert their own interests separately.

And that inevitably means on a small scale, mutually, in community. That's been the chief characteristic of the demonstrations made by the Occupations. Temporary intentional communities are put together for the purpose of demonstrating an alternative to the rule of reactionary financial elites who have captured government.

Those demonstrations don't need to last very long for people to see and understand that alternatives are possible. Once they see that and internalize it, the camps can go away. Eviction doesn't matter in the larger scheme of things. The demonstration has been made. That's what matters in the long run.

As people find their own way forward in an alternative framework, the necessity for the elaborate state superstructure created to serve a diminishing global financial elite evaporates.

Even the necessity of The Occupy goes away. Once the notion of Alternative is inculcated through demonstration, it continues to develop on its own.

That's what's happening more and more broadly. Nothing quite so Revolutionary has happened in many a long year, and it can't be stopped once started.

I think Our Rulers are beginning to recognize that fundamental fact.

But we won't know how it will turn out until the butterfly -- or whatever is in there -- emerges from its chrysalis in its due time. Sometime next year, but no one can say when, and no one can say just what that Butterfly will look like or what it will do.

Stay tuned...

Change & Wonder: A Butterfly Complete Metamorphosis from David Britton on Vimeo.


  1. Wonderful, thoughtful, essay. And I think some of it has been borne out by the events over New Years: OWS retaking Zuccotti Park New Years Eve, and the Octopus float at the Rose Parade.
    Of course, before I wax too optimistic, I must tell my own butterfly story. My mother once brought home a Monarch chrysalis, and hung it on the chandelier. We kids were fascinated when it finally opened and the butterfly emerged over a period of days, its wings unfolding with exquisite slowness.
    One night it finally took flight, and flew immediately into a torchiere lamp where it went up in smoke before our horrified eyes.

  2. Re: that butterfly story. Isn't that how it always seems to go, though? It reminded me of the tadpoles I brought home one day...

    Well, we do what we can, but things don't always work out. We used to hope that on the whole, enough of what we tried would work out well enough to at least balance what didn't, but I'm not sure Americans are convinced they have that option any more.

    So. The Revolution comes.

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Próspero Año Nuevo !