Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Follow Occupy May Day protests

Posted by Charles II on May 1, 2012

Greg Mitchell has been doing yeoman’s work (via Meteor Blades, DK)

I remain a little disheartened by some of the ahistorical and vapid rhetoric I hear from Occupy. For example, Marina Sitrin and Amin Hussein are unwilling to say that violent tactics should be excluded. Hussein really should know better. His first protest movement was the First Intifada. While that actually went a lot better than the Second Intifada, this is what a sympathetic account says:

The Palestinians realized that their greatest power lay in mass civil disobedience — boycotting Israeli goods, refusing to pay taxes to Israel, establishing their own mobile medical clinics, providing social services, organizing strikes and demonstrations and unarmed confrontations. The tactics they used took Israel unawares and captured the attention of a hitherto unreceptive Western media. Specifically, the images of Palestinian boys throwing stones at advancing armored tanks totally upended the David and Goliath myth that Israel had propagated so effectively….

This is precisely what Chris Hedges points out in the debate in asserting that the power of protest movements is in their powerlessness. Kids with rocks against tanks is essentially non-violent protest, since there’s no chance of the rocks killing anyone. Any protest movement can only succeed by getting people–especially people inside the power structure–off the sidelines and supporting the movement.

This gets obscured in vapid rhetoric, as illustrated by the DemocracyNow debate, when panelists challenge the meaning of words like “movement” and “we”. It may sound clever to say that this is not a movement, it’s an attempt to stop things. It might even be wise to re-consider words, since they can limit creativity as well as enhance it. But really. Most past movements have been attempts to stop things. What is a factory strike, after all, except an attempt to stop production? Being clever with words doesn’t change the underlying reality.

And I think there’s a certain element of narcissism in refusing to define goals. Sure, getting very specific just leads to conflict. But there should be general agreement that corporations have too much power relative to individuals and wealthy individuals too much power relative to everyone else. So there should be no objection whatsoever that a goal of the movement should be to equalize how much power any individual or entity possesses.

I do believe that Occupy is performing a valuable function in teaching people what real democracy looks like. Maintaining what they call a “horizontal structure” (what the rest of us might call “pure democracy”) not only helps to develop everyone, it helps to make everyone a leader–and therefore immunizes the movement against divide-and-conquer tactics. But I wish that the movement would listen a little more to the old fogies, who were once at exactly the same place that Occupy is, and know what went wrong and why. The old saying goes that if you learn from the past, you get wisdom, and if you don’t, then you get experience.

I suspect Occupy is going to get a lot of experience.
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Adding: Now that the Ohio bridge plot can conveniently be connected to Occupy, despite the fact that it almost certainly could not have reached the level of a conspiracy without the generous assistance of the federal government, the usual suspects (FOX) will doubtless smear the entire movement.

Not that that will solve any of the grievances that are behind the Occupy movement.

4 Responses to “Follow Occupy May Day protests”

  1. Too many of the Occupiers are glibertarian techie kids who because they grew up in the US were taught to fear reading the sort of political and economic texts that European college kids read as a matter of course. So they keep trying to do leaderless movements and they keep getting their movements gamed and hijacked by black bloc jerks and other dingbats.

    The Pirate Party in Germany, like the Occupiers, are made up at their core of a similar group of college kids as the Occupiers; the main difference is that enough of them don’t think that being effective — or knowing one’s political economy — is a sin, which is why they have seats in the German parliament.

    • Charles II said

      Well, like I say, I think leaderlessness is potentially a benefit. In the US, movements are typically destroyed through assassinating, jailing, or discrediting their leaders. The problem arises because Occupy does not have a clear set of goals and values except for inclusivity. Combining no leader, no goals, and the only value being “we’ll listen to anyone” is a recipe for something bad.

      • The “something bad” being in large part their utter vulnerability to being hijacked by idiot leeches with less brains but more willpower, but who aren’t brave enough to stand alone.

  2. jo6pac said

    PW I agree like the fbi

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