Monday, October 03, 2011

For The #OCCUPYWALLSTREET Protest Movement, A Simple Request

First of all, I'd like to say that I've been supportive of this protest since Adbusters initially put forward the idea back in July. I was regularly using the hashtag when few others had, I created a daily aggregator of tweets for the NewsworthyNews Twitter feed, blogged about it, and have supported it in various forums from the get go. I also attended the local manifestation of a solidarity protest in my own city. And while there is certainly nothing at all wrong with being a "Johnny-come-lately" in regard to this protest, I'd just like to point out that I have supported the movement and watched it grow from the start. And, certainly, much more credit for organizing goes to again to Adbusters for initially inspiring the protest, to others who have helped organize (both online and off), and to those who have been in the streets of New York inspiring people around the world. All I'm trying to say is that I've been supportive and I have one simple request of those who are occupying Wall Street....

Please, do not let this protest movement get co-opted. The strength of this movement has been in it's protest of the general system, overall, in its totality. Those who are intent on watering down this protest by trying to draw focus to a single-issue or to a mild reformist agenda, those who would pull people from the streets to instead pass petitions, or those who would take charge and posture for political gain, are all potential drains on the energy of this movement. The "stone soup" model of protest has worked wonderfully so far. People are coming together and adding to the mix because they are all getting screwed over -- in not a particular, single way, but in every way! I do not need to list again the plethora of grievances that so many people across the country have with the corporatism that masquerades as democracy in America. Continuing with the metaphor of the stone soup... What I fear is that someone will somehow poor a gallon of cold milk into the protest stew just as it really starts heating up.

These may be well-meaning people, those who would have us focus on a single issue like campaign finance reform or healthcare, but they are missing the point that bigger problems will still effect us all and catch up with broader society if there are not fundamental changes to the structure of power in this country. And this protest must continue and grow until we get such a revolution. This is what's solidarity is about! It's not about standing shoulder to shoulder until your particular grievance is addressed! That's the trap of reformism and it is, truly, a death trap.

To those who would demean other protesters, or the protest in general, because they don't look like corporate lackeys in the service industry, or because an occupation can leave people disheveled ofter a few days, well... they can take their bourgeoisie ideals back to the mail room as far as I'm concerned. People look different, they have different aesthetics, different cultures, and different styles. And this is an occupation, a protest, and potentially a revolutionary movement. As the old saying goes... a revolution is not a tea party. Nor is it a fashion show, an entrance exam, or interview to be white collar worker in some corporate hierarchy. The important thing is that people show up, not what they are wearing when they do.

Worse than those would dictate fashionable aesthetics however... are those who would attempt to keep people in line, on the sidewalk, and in compliance with the directives of the authorities. As Naomi Wolf points out... "A real protest blocks traffic." It's as simple as that. At the bare minimum, that is what's required. And it's supposed to be a constitutional right! It's the "right to peaceably assemble" not "the right to peaceably assemble unless it inconveniences people." A protest is supposed to inconvenience some people! And the idea that safety vehicles can't route around a large known protest is hogwash. They can whenever there are other large events or road construction projects and they can during this protest as well. The real safety issue is what the corporate-sponsored government is doing to the health and freedom of everyone on the planet! So, since you've already taken to the streets, please do not let pacifying interlopers guide you back to the sidewalks. Tactical withdrawals at some points in some instances may, unfortunately, be necessary... but the goal is occupation, not capitulation, not compliance, not obedience to corrupt authority.

Obviously, and I'm sure many of you involved with the protest have already discussed this, the opportunity for a true general strike may arise. Starting in NYC it could easily spread across the country and around the world. We are talking about an unprecedented international general strike! And the motivation would be, and needs to be, for a fundamental change to meet the needs of humanity for the sustainable future. So while the general strike is not here yet... but the potential is. There are a couple things to always be mindful of in that regard and I don't mind pointing them out here...

The police state in the "land of the free" is historically unprecedented. More people are imprisoned in the United States per-capita (and in total numbers) than in any other nation on Earth. Surveillance systems have progressed as the height of technological innovation. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange points out that we write our own profiles on corporate websites and the government is given ready access to those profiles. It's a simple truism that 1984 was almost thirty years ago. And I'm reminding you all of this so that you stay mindful and are prepared for police violence or other forms of disruption from the state.

The second issue is really a combination of issues. It's the idea that government, using the corporate media, will attempt to get people to "rally behind the flag" -- either by increasingly portraying the protesters as unpatriotic traitors or by creating (or heightening) an international incident (i.e. war). The issue of patriotism is a tricky one, because who and what is a real patriot? I'm reminded of Abbie Hoffman in the American flag shirt. So, while I personally find such patriotic symbolism distasteful, it will probably pop up somewhat naturally anyway and shouldn't confuse us in regard to who our true comrades and allies are. The second issue, of the state intensifying wars, is obviously of a more serious nature. But the anti-war message is intrinsically woven into an anti-Wall Street protest and, if a general strike manifests, ending the wars will certainly be one of the motivations and possibilities for it. We need to recognize that very few people actually want war and we can work to persuade people from participating in the wars.

And those are my hopes, and that is my request. Please, do no let this revolutionary protest movement get sold short and co-opted. Again, I'm merely one the 99%, but I've been involved with related struggles for some time now and so, even if it seems extravagant, I hope you'll excuse this one simple demand.

Stay strong! Keep up the good fight! Occupy Wall Street! Occupy everything!

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