Saturday, March 10, 2012

Reflections on Occupy "Hopelessness" From Take The Square

"Fight Week" in Barcelona.

"Take the Square" was a very early central hub of information and insight for the Global Occupy Movement with particular but not exclusive emphasis on Europe. Many of the practices that have become so customary and even iconic in American Occupations were adapted directly from the M15 Puerta del Sol occupation in Madrid in May of 2011, and the Puerta del Sol "Quick Guide" became very nearly the organizational bible for Occupy in the beginning.

In the following essay posted at Take the Square, Timothy Davis Frank reflects on the problem of "hopelessness." Occupy has engaged in four months of constant global protest and agitation and sometimes all we have to show for it are hundreds of injuries, thousands of arrests, and the destruction of hundreds of encampments around the world. Also, too, there is the constant carping of those on the sidelines who insist Occupy is "doing it wrong."

An extended excerpt:

While David wishes for the end of the suspense and the wake-up call of social orecological collapse, some other people around the world are attempting to find other ways of moving our society forward. These people have suffered the chills of winter and sacrificed their own individual space in order to engage with a wider community and speak up against environmental destruction, corporate greed and corrupt political systems. They have raised a voice and built communities around the belief that “another world is possible”. Now after multiple evictions, arrests, public condemnation and defamation, many of these active citizens are feeling disheartened and increasingly pessimistic. Why is it that football teams who continuously lose matches retain their fans? Why can a politician say “The evidence that led to us invade that country was not correct” and still have their achievements lauded? Why is it not enough to celebrate critical analysis and self-sacrifice for a more ethical world?

It seems that there is a strong push from people to utilise the ‘hopeless defence’. “We are never going to be able to change the world. It is too difficult.” A resident of the Finsbury Square Occupy camp explained to me this morning. This defence seems to protect us all from having to engage in our political system and participate more than we might consider comfortable. This position means that we can blame ‘human nature’ and throw our hands in the air. It is such an attractive fail-safe that when people rudely suggest that it is not all hopeless and we should not just leave the fate of the planet in the hands of those who profit from its destruction, we get really upset.

I suggest that the joy with which people shout, “See? They achieved nothing!!!” says more about our own fears of empowerment than illustrate any specific failure of a movement.

But read the whole thing. And if you've never visited Take the Square, this might be a good opportunity to get to know some of our international comrades...

[Adaptation of Oakland Commune slogan removed upon further reflection. This is not to slam or denounce the Oakland Commune or Occupy Oakland. The issue is "combating hopelessness" and in Oakland, that includes actions and statements that may not apply throughout the Occupy firmament. Occupy situations vary widely, for example. The relationship between OO and the OPD is tense and often hostile, and this is paralleled in many other cities, but where I am, it is not. The relationship between the local Occupy and the local police is actually surprisingly positive (despite some incidents and individual officer behavior). There are no FTP marches here, and for the most part there is no necessity for them. That could change of course. What happened at the Capitol on March 5 did not involve the SPD until after the state troopers, RoboCops and horse police were withdrawn. And so far as I know, there were no hostile incidents between demonstrators at the Capitol and SPD officers. So for the purposes of this reflection, I decided that adapting Occupy Oakland's slogan as a quasi-universal thing was inappropriate. Occupy is not at that point. Not yet!]

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