Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Struggle and Mutual Aid

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory which states that this has already happened. -- Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

Riffing on Emma Goldman: "A Revolution without music and dancing and laughter and love is a revolution not worth having."

I see by the tone of my emails on the topic of Nonviolence and Diversity of Tactics that the issue has largely dissipated and defused, sort of how I hoped it would be.

The Occupy framework allows -- indeed, requires -- intense discussion of every issue under the sun, and in the case of the re-emergence of the Occupy Movement into the public consciousness through the dramatic and confrontational incidents in Oakland on January 28, the intensity of the discussion that's been going on from before the first day of Occupy Wall Street was magnified.

The underlying question is always one of Trust; how can you trust these people when they cut up plastic garbage cans and make them into shields, painted with peace symbols, my god in heaven! and use them in formations for protection against police fire. How confrontational! How provocative!

Yes. Well. It is.

And we can talk about it. A lot. When people get tired, they can learn to laugh, and move on to the next topic of National Interest and Concern. Dancing is good, too.

Has there ever been a Revolution quite like this? A Revolution for which there doesn't have to be a pre-set answer, goal, outcome, faith, or even action beyond waking up?

I recall how intensely furious some of the early participants were -- and not just the Socialists, either -- that everything was too formless and unorganized and it absolutely positively would not in a million years ever under any circumstances turn into anything that anybody would pay any attention to or that could ever make a difference. Ever! Harrumph! And they were listened to, politely. They were offered every opportunity to provide their own ideas, a few of which they did, but it seemed pretty obvious that what they mostly wanted to do was control what other people did. And that didn't work out so well.

The notion that somewhere there lurk all these armed insurrectionists (in Black, of course, and wearing Masks, acting like Ninjas) who are even now preparing to take over the Movement, or in some places like Oakland have already done so, is... well, it's silly. I've heard and read it time and again, and the idea flies in the face of reality. No, that's not what's happening.

Does it really look like that's what's happening? That all these Ninja Warriors are infiltrating and taking over Occupy and OWS from the Good and Peaceful People for whom this Movement was Meant To Be? It must look that way to some Good and Peaceful People, or I wouldn't be reading and hearing it so often.

No, what has happened in the real world, is that the more militant aspects of the Movement -- militant aspects that have been there since the beginning -- are at the fore.

This Revolution includes both Peaceful and Militant aspects at the same time; there is no necessity that one or the other dominate. One is Peaceful when conditions call for Peacefulness; one is Militant when conditions call for Militancy. One can express Peaceful Militancy::Militant Peacefulness. It's OK. There is no requirement to Occupy.

Those who don't want a Revolution see one hiding in the shadows anyway, ready to jump out at us and spook the Good and Peaceful People who just want some adjustments to the way things have been for quite some time now, but not wholesale overthrow or substantial change in the way we've accustomed ourselves to being.

Any sentient being would be alert to the disruptive potentials of the situation. We are not living in an age of calm. Pressure is relentless and from all directions. Lashing out at phantoms is common. Those Ninjas, you know.

Listening to and participating in some of the discussions going on, it's clear that there is more than a little trepidation that this Thing might just succeed, and no one knows yet what "success" might look like.

I've pointed to the first-level victory in Oakland, where the authority of the public officials and the police has simply evaporated. Delegitimizing authority is a fundamental step in Revolution, essential in order to move forward. And it has happened in Oakland. But what does "moving forward" look like? No one is quite able to say.

Does it mean more formations of NinjasWarriors with garbage can shields doing set piece battles with exhausted and frustrated police? Certainly not! Does it mean more catcalling and heckling the Mayor and City Council. Come come. Once the Power is delegitimized, what's the point of further public humiliation?

On the other hand, unless there are concessions by Power and Authority, the pressure must continue, and so far in the course of these events, there have been no real concessions. In most cases, not even phony ones.

Power concedes nothing without the demand -- Fredrick Douglass

Yet there are no demands. So there is nothing for Power to concede.

Just tell us what you want!

Well, no. Why don't you just do the right thing?

It does boil down to that moral dilemma for Our High and Our Mighty, for they have not been encouraged to do the right thing for many a long year; or rather, they haven't heard the calls to do so.

In fact, they haven't heard the calls of the People for so long, they forgot the People were there. Now that the reminders are all around them, reminders which they cannot escape, they don't know what to do.

They face an existential struggle simply to comprehend.

But their struggle is mirrored by that of the People, whose plight is increasingly difficult, a plight which it is the fashion among the Mighty to flee. There is no longer a Public Interest interest among public officials. They apparently skipped over that section in class.

A government so divorced from its people, as ours has become, cannot be made to serve the Public Interest again. Certainly, if what's going on in Europe is any guide, and I think it might well be, the divorce is finalized. Peoples and Governments are now on completely different planes of existence, not even able to communicate with one another any longer. Not even through their attorneys.

It's over.

The next step is the development of parallel systems. Once authority is delegitimized, alternatives and their demonstration are called for.

The Oakland Commune is an example of an alternative social system relying on mutual aid, something that has largely been lost from our social consciousness over the past few decades -- except, perhaps, in some segments of the faith community and the radical political community.

It's not as if models for the next step don't exist. They're everywhere.

We may not see many giant rallies and marches appear this year (May 1 may be the exception to the rule); their utility is limited in any case. The rally and the march are more and more easily countered these days. Something else is called for.

Strategic thinking, airing conflicts, hearing and considering widely divergent points of view, finding and highlighting alternatives already in place; it all adds up...

Don't forget music. And dancing. And laughter. And love.

Habanera con Muppets

Dignity, Justice, Community, Peace


  1. The Divorce is Final.

    Damn straight. And isn't it perversely, tragically fitting that no better demonstration exists right now in the world than in Greece? That old cradle of democracy . . .

    What could be more insane than to impose even more "austerity" on a nation reeling from it? And America mirrors the high and mighty in Europe by saying it makes sense to slash spending here, thus killing millions of jobs, even though the number one effect of our current crisis is mass unemployment!!

    I think even a third-grader could see the idiocy in that.

    Mass unemployment becomes both cause and effect of the crisis, furthering the death spiral. Given that the high and mighty actually want high unemployment -- it destroys workers' leverage -- there couldn't be a worse "conflict of interests" going on right now.

    Of course, at the same time the "divorce is final," we have the solidification of a marriage across the entire globe:

    Government and Business, with Business calling the shots and pulling the strings. Which is why I continue to be amazed that anyone, anywhere, actually thinks it makes sense to turn everything over to the very businesses that corrupted world governments, threw workers and consumers under the bus, and decimate our environment.

  2. Occupy gets this. At least the part of Occupy that doesn't love Vanilla Jesus.

    That part of Occupy basically does this:

    Seeing government as their parents, the Paulites want to turn all power over to the seemingly kindly patriarchs behind the scenes. They've assured them that they just want "free markets", wherein everything is "voluntary" and nothing is ever "forced" upon anyone. Little do the Paulites know that behind the scenes, those supposedly kindly patriarchs are "forcing" governments all across the globe to bomb the shit out of anyone who stands in the way of their profits.

    To mix metaphors, they (the Paulites and far too much of the right in general) see the government as mafia capos and have decided to support the people they think are anti-mafia -- the mafia dons!!

    "Freedom for the dons" is their aim.

    The real Occupy knows that any form of the patriarchy/oligarchy/plutocracy must go down. It aint just the "gubmint."

    . . . .

    Oh, and my guys, the democratic socialists, better learn some free-flowing Jazz and Zen it up, or they're not going to ever be effective in this movement. It's long past time to get rid of the clutter, the rigidity, the attachments to old dogmas, or they're going to be run over by that proverbial carma.

    We can't "do" emancipation without being emancipated, etc. etc.

  3. It's as if the Powers That Be don't have any clue at all that, hey, maybe this way is madness, and there's another way to go.

    As in the current Greek death spiral, they don't acknowledge the existence of The People; nor do they recognize the possibility of wisdom outside their tight and shrinking bubble. I've witnessed some of this behavior close up in government, but never was it this universal.

    There's been a campaign to drive out dissenters in any case. So it must have succeeded.

    All I can tell from my little corner of creation is that the parallels and alternatives need more focus, because Our Ruling Class is going to implode on its own if The Revolution doesn't get them first.

  4. Oh and Cu-hool, well said in your 9:14 comment (which I found in the Detention folder, how that came to be is anybody's guess).

    Rigidity hasn't worked too well in the past, and it's not working all that well now, either. Dogma is falling before karma, and that's only half a joke. Not everybody can let go, but I was just over at one of the Oakland sites and it's clear -- to me, anyway -- that those who can do it are really very gently shining the light ahead for those who struggle to let go, or more often struggle to hold on to... what? "The way it's supposed to be." The path ahead is scary. Yes. Yes, it is. They're afraid of the dark. Yes. And there's a light, maybe it flickers sometimes, but there is a light. All is not darkness.

    As for the Pauliacs, don't they seem like a complete anachronism by now? It's a wonder anybody pays them any mind....


  5. Great interview with David Graeber here:

  6. Pathman: Graeber articulates the "jubilee" notion, and points out something I and a very, very few others were saying back in the day:

    Household debt relief is the only sensible way out of the financial crisis. Money -- in substantial quantities -- should go directly to households to pay down debt or if debt free already, to purchase goods and services that will enhance energy efficiency, for example, or other long term social good. This was starkly obvious; so of course the Hooverites in Washington gave all the money to the banks to pay off their gambling debts, and left households to drown. It was backwards, and it still is.

    Now, however, it's probably too late to fix the situation through bottom-up triage. Now the only real answer is debt cancellation, and from what I've read, the only way for that to work is if it is global.

  7. And what does it tell us that the powers that be will rail and scream about socialism if we dare to help out the dispossessed? Having themselves just dipped their arms up to the bloody hilt in the till?

    We are so far past hypocrisy it looks quaint...

    Cuch, nice to see you here with your typically thoughtful posts... MM

  8. "So far past hypocrisy it looks quaint..."


    Well put, MM.

  9. MM,

    Thanks. I've sworn off posting on mainstream blogs like Salon. Am pulling back from the political as much as possible these days as well. But Ché's essays are essential reading, IMO. He's created a seriously important document series for the OWS era . . .

    Hope all is well.