Nathan Schneider has posted a heart-breaking interview with two of the people Chris Hedges smeared in his outrageous polemic against the "cancer" in Occupy (he has since revised his characterization of those who favor diversity of tactics from "cancer" to "parasites." He keeps digging this hole and I don't know why.)
I took the picture above at the first "public" event for the local Occupy. At the time, I was only vaguely conscious of the anarchist roots of the Occupy Movement, and it was all still very much an abstraction to me.
But when I met this woman and talked to her briefly and took her picture, it occurred to me that I was conditioned to believe certain things about anarchists and anarchism that simply weren't true. I had pretty much the same images of Black Bloc violence in my mind when I heard the word "anarchist" that many people do. I knew some anarchists from my work in the theater, and never saw them as particularly violent people, but who knew what they might do in another context??? Not I. Some, I decided, were simply unpleasant people, regardless of any affiliation or ideology they might espouse.
I was brought up short when I met the young lady above (sorry, I don't remember her name!) and several other anarchists associated with the local Occupy. They were some of the kindest, most open and dedicated people I think I have ever met or worked with. Even when things got very tense, as they did from time to time, I was struck by how sincere and deeply committed practically all of the self-identified anarchists were, and by how much they really cared about the well-being of others.
I've been writing rather enthusiastically about anarchists and anarchism, and I've been fiercely defending them, ever since.
Now, possibly too late to repair the damage done by Chris Hedges and others in their zeal to purge the Movement of the anarchist taint, Nathan Schneider posts an interview he conducted with two of the diversity of tactics advocates at Occupy Wall Street, women who have been with OWS since virtually the beginning, but who are now being harassed and told to get out of "someone else's" movement -- which they are said to be ruining.
The real pain and the anger they feel comes through loud and clear in the interview. As does their frustration at the continuing focus on incidental acts that barely register on the "violence" scale.
From the interview:
A cri de coeur to say the least. There are so many layers and levels of real systemic violence in our society that the continuing focus on the incidental acts of individuals who have thrown things or broken windows strikes me as absurd, and I've said so more than once -- not that it's changed any minds.
Suzahn: You know what I’d like to see that would be constructive? Some actual internal anti-oppression work, rather than this false conversation about violence within the movement. Because, when you think about it, we have never had an action that was more militant than taking the streets.
Suzahn: Anything that people perceive as violent has been an individual’s actions, and we don’t all have to take responsibility for anything individuals do, ever. It has been so rare. On the other hand, I spent the first three months of the occupation talking to other female-assigned people who have been so hurt and have left the movement because of patriarchy and—and racism, I might add, and national privilege. All of those three things, especially in combination. People have left the movement because of that, and their voices are not being heard, and that is violence. For me, it would be constructive if we actually talked about the violence that does exist, and is happening and has happened and has actually hurt people and disenfranchised people, and hurt the movement because we lose those voices. That might be a constructive thing to start doing. I’d be willing to have that debate.
The good thing is that not everyone is so rigid in their thinking. Minds have been changed through the kinds of personal experiences I've had, and new forms of solidarity are being cobbled together.
Because of that, I remain an eternal optimist.
The fall out remains, however, and it is troubling...