Will Occupy Radicalize and Globalize or Fizzle out and Die?

The Occupy movement seems to be at a cross road, and quite frankly loosing steam. It is localized and fragmented and in many cases has regressed to become again an online movement of discontent. Despite the claims by organizers, very little has been accomplished. What could have been the strength of Occupy was its diversity, but it has turned out to be its Achilles heel. Liam Fox and I expressed these concerns as early as January 2012, when we wrote “Has Occupy Forgotten Why?”. Growing ideological conflicts between “peace loving” neo-hippies- who think the movement should be strictly non-violent- neo-Marxists and Anarchists who embrace a more muscular approach have not been resolved. Despite the fact that Occupy was supposed to be a leaderless movement, ego issues have been getting in the way of cohesion and efficiency. Especially in the US, an elite has flourished within what was paradoxically supposed to be the voice of the 99 percent. Through anonymous Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, they want to control the message of Occupy, and have done this all along.

In the United States, the fact that 2012 is a presidential election year has actually handicapped Occupy. By refusing to become a real political force on a national level- such as pushing and backing up Senator Sanders to challenge president Obama- Occupy will naturally-thanks to group like moveon.org etc- join the ranks of the so called “progressives” to support president Obama. Occupy’s strategies and tactics have been deeply flawed as well. Many within the movement in the United States became afraid of the word Revolution -and its potential violent connotation- and started using the word Evolution. This fear of the word Revolution is fundamental. For the part of the  movement who believe that the world can be changed with flowers and peace signs, Occupy became quickly an opportunity to “raise awareness”. Unfortunately peaceful but effective tactics such as global strike and consumer boycott were discussed, but never implemented for lack of basic coordination between the different “chapters” of Occupy.

Globally, the fact that the Arab spring became muddy shortly after NATO’s intervention in Libya didn’t help the cause of a global revolution either. With Islamist fundamentalists such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis on their way to hijack the Arab revolution, thanks to the support of Saudi Arabia, in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and probably soon Syria, it doesn’t seems that there is any hope of political power for the secular left which originated the movement. It seems that the global optimism of 2011 for the revolutionary cause is over, and has been replaced by a general malaise. As if many people worldwide have become emasculated again, and have resigned themselves to stay the modern day slaves of a very small global elite. The promise of a global revolution has faded, and a majority of people worldwide are again suffering-with no end in sight- the misery of a global Stockholm syndrome. But now, it is time to hear the point of views of a US Occupy activist known as @Kaymee on Twitter. I asked Kaymee a few questions.

Gilbert Mercier: You are frustrated by the direction Occupy has taken, can you briefly explain why?

Kaymee: I am not concerned with building coalitions, nor with building the movement along “party lines”. Everyday, ordinary American people-the 99 percent- are suffering, and current political parties and coalitions have not prevented the ruin our nation faces. An Occupy framework built on a set of coherent resonant goals would allow the movement to focus, and national actions built around that focus appear to be the next step. We can not be all things to all people, nor take up every cause on the planet. This is a relatively small group, and it needs to deploy its resources to maximum advantage. Focusing on a few survival issues may provide a more successful result. Executing planned strategies in a coordinated manner around the country seems key, and Occupy National Gathering is where this will happen. I don’t believe daily actions stating our dissatisfaction with every facets of our lives are helping us at this point. We are training law enforcement to effectively resist us.

The Department of Homeland Security ( DHS) is training police and delivering weaponry around the country in response to Occupy. These exercises allow the DHS the opportunity to solidify, in the mind of police, that anyone who does not agree and comply with the current system is the enemy. It also gives them practice in stomping out any sign of resistance. Right now, police forces have to borrow manpower from one another during large actions. If we coordinate large actions, they will have to spread themselves thinner during responses.

GM: Many activists and observers have expressed that ego and power struggles are a big problem within Occupy. Where do you stand on this?

Kaymee: We are human attempting to amass power in order to change our world. Of course there are struggles between egos! Where there is power and passion, there is ego wanting to seize it. We need to build a clear communication system that shuns grandstanding, and clear guidelines regarding the type and format of acceptable communications to curb it. We must have boundaries between the work and our egos, and I believe Occupy began with this well under control. Bowing to concerns about our  inclusiveness allowed dissonant voices to fragment the effort. Not maintaining operational boundaries between the general assembly and working groups, as well as within them, further encouraged destructive egos. I know for a fact that people were paid, from the beginning of this movement, to sow discord and reap havoc however they could. We began a response to such efforts after they had already succeeded rather than proactively. Organizational planning to circumvent this expected tactic will maximize our success against it. And there will always be trolls to ignore.

GM: Should Occupy objective be a Revolution or just an effort to set up the course of an evolution?

Kaymee: Your question is telling- “just” an effort toward evolution (smile). I came to Occupy for a Revolution, not to engage in a politically correct navel gazing or petulant screaming and provocation against those who seek to bind us in servitude. We ARE the majority, and are already strong enough to create another world. I think of my friend in New-York City who had to burn all of his furniture in the fireplace to keep his daughter and himself warm through the winter. Laid off, his savings allowed him to pay the rent and barely eat while he fed his child and pounded the pavement looking for work through the brutal winter. There is so much wrong with that picture, I cannot address it all in this statement. The wrong begins with “rent”, and ends with our current notion of  “work” and “afford”.

A  Revolution is the only solution that makes sense to me. I like the metaphor of “Vampire Squid ” to describe the pervasive, life-sucking system that have all of us trapped. I don’t believe we can “evolve” a system as corrupt and unsustainable as ours. That attempt has been made for the last 50 years by very dedicated people and has failed. We are worse off now than we were then- propaganda notwithstanding- and we must revolt.

GM: The issues of violence or  non-violence keep coming  back. But if a global revolution is the goal, can it happen without violence and how?

Kaymee: How can a Revolution in this country happen with violence? There is no violent or military way to win against a power that has enough weapons to destroy the planet. Those that do us harm have prevailing custom, media, government, police, and law as their tools to manipulate or subdue us. We need to be strategic, and strike with weapons-other than violence- at the dependencies that put us in their control. Informing the public about what is wrong through alternative media is likely the least powerful tool we can use, because a “message” can always be spun. People care about their ability to survive and thrive. Words about what is wrong are useless if there is no awareness that options exist aside from current survival systems.

Occupy Solution is a hash tag I use on Twitter to highlight tools I find that can assist us in becoming independent of the system we currently rely on to survive-a system populated by a minority that control and benefit from it. In addition to calling out the corruption and failures of our current system, I believe the movement needs to focus on solutions for everyday “survive-and-thrive” issues, helping to build an alternate world while the current one buries itself. Detroit, Michigan is an example of what will happen if our current abusive system remains unchecked. It is also a wonderful example of what can go right when people get together at a local level to survive. While corruption in government at all levels, and over-dependence on greedy corporations and large infrastructure in decay has all but destroyed Detroit, many locals there are pulling together to thrive as an alternative community. Look beyond the Ruin Porn, and be inspired!

GM: A few months ago, I pushed for a global tactic of general strike and consumer boycott. Do you think it should be implemented?

Kaymee: I wish we were ready, as a nation, for an action like that. But I don’t believe we are. Those who are not yet homeless or jobless are too afraid of losing what they have to risk this. There is not yet enough pain for a large enough percentage of the population to successfully support these actions. I Would love to see analytic that would tell us exactly what the tipping point is-right now I just have observation and intuition to follow. Another hindrance to success of these actions is that there is no safety net in place. If people strike and boycott, they will have no income. What will they eat? Where will they sleep? How will they power their homes? Get an alternative in place and they might risk it. If it was in my power, I would not try to crash the system before other forms of support are in place-though it may just be a matter of time. Unbridled greed appears to be doing a fine job of crashing the system around the world right now.

GM: What do you think Occupy has accomplished so far, and what is the best case scenario for the movement’s future?

Kaymee: Occupy has changed the national conversation- we hear the phrase everywhere, and politicians and unions attempt to use or try to control the movement frequently. That tells me Occupy has been successful in raising awareness and building discontent with the status quo. Collectively, “We the people” have moved beyond “can we change things” to “how can we get there”. And it is because of Occupy. I love the “Occupy Homes” and “Occupy the SEC” actions, though for different reasons. Occupy Homes actions are solution based on knowing we must rescue ourselves-our society doesn’t function on our behalf. Shelter is a basic survival requirement, and the fact that we are unable to provide it for more than 636,000 people in this country is a real crisis-especially considering that this statistic is from 2011, grows daily and that sometime illegal and always immoral foreclosures are escalating.

In addition to fighting against foreclosure, I would like to see us pry loose from the death grip that finance has on housing. We are able to build sustainable and comfortable structures for $5,000.00. For those willing to do so, let us assist in this effort to avoid becoming debt slaves for the next 15-30 years in order to have shelter. Though Occupy Homes works with homeowners seeking to stay in their traditional housing situation, I would love to see it embrace some alternative housing options as well.

Occupy the SEC is an amazing group of sophisticated finance technicians who thoroughly understand the current system- unlike our elected officials. Their effort to build an alternative banking structure is inspiring, and it is the group core activism. They identify in simple language the major problems with financial structure while confronting politicians about their lack of willingness to fix them. They are taking on the real beast behind the “Vampire Squid”- the corrupt financial system and the purposefully blind politicians supporting it. We must be able to communicate freely. The true (not Fed) activists from Anonymous are my core hope for this endeavor. Their technical skills and willingness to teach others to communicate outside the monitors of control is invaluable. As activists, they are fearless, and it is exciting to watch them assist “the people” against despots and abusers around the world. I can only hope they become stronger and even more willing to be the army behind the people here in the US. Their weapons are the only ones that stand a chance against Vampire Squid. Less propaganda and more honesty would make them an even more formidable force.

Editor’s Note: All photographs by Gilbert Mercier.


4 Responses to Will Occupy Radicalize and Globalize or Fizzle out and Die?

  1. Maria Odete Madeira June 17, 2012 at 3:34 am

    «I don’t believe we can “evolve” a system as corrupt and unsustainable as ours.»

    The “system” is us: we are/exist in a (co)related (inter)directioned rotative dynamics, we are/exist in a face-to-face of irreducible survival, determined by an evolutive mechanics/organics of aggregation/disaggregation upon which our sustainability depends.

    If we look to the causal systemic dynamics that sustains the capitalist system, we understand that the system attained a Laplacian critical connective density. Any attempt of palliative effectiveness that acts upon the effects will be quickly absorbed by the causal dynamics. Thus, a movement, with the characteristics of “Occupy”, will quickly be turned into a gadget that will only serve to fatten up the causes, which makes things very complicated.

    Having the system attained its Imperium phase, the system has lost diversity, therefore, contamination at the points of catastrophe is the contamination of the system in the system, which generates an anthropophagy of survival: “god” will feed upon himself, and will go on feeding, while he can go on enacting his sustainability of omnipresence and omnipotence.

    Revolution has to take place in us. While the majority of us continues to enact corruption, greed and power gluttony, the system will remain, because the system is us. Probably things will only change when, in our DumbSapiensSapiens heads, we are able to understand our (co/inter)dependent porosity and that what of bad happens to others necessarily will reach us all.

    If the “Occupy” movement was interesting, despite everything? Of course! Critical activity is necessary, some memory remains, some contamination remains. Afterwards…, we will see.

    Anyway, the system’s survival, that is, our survival, is not an ideological or political matter, it is a matter of life and reason, a matter of dignity, a matter of existence, a matter of intelligence in the existence. It is not a matter of being good or bad, it is not a matter of good and evil, it is a matter of survival, of the survival of everyone, because we need each other, whether or not we like each other is not the issue, we need to respect each other, because we are the system, and that is not a choice, we are genetically determined to depend upon each other.

  2. Nihilo Zero June 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    The idea of daily protest actions being counterproductive but larger actions being needed, is sort of missing the point. A lot of good can be accomplished with a range of daily actions and it’s not just the DHS who learns from these experiences. Further, any small righteous action has the potential to grow exponentially in terms numbers involved and subsequent effectiveness.

    It’s also the intersection of the expressed sentiments from the interviewee that there is “not yet enough pain” or that we don’t have the resources, numbers, or skills to manage a general strike — while at the same time admitting that reformism is ineffectual (and has facilitated things getting worse) — which jars me a bit. It’s not even about whether or not such a general strike is imminent, but, rather, the point needing to be stressed is that we should continue to overtly push towards that goal. Who is this person to tell others that they haven’t suffered enough yet to begin the the first stages of a general strike? We have enough people saying “not yet, not yet, not yet.” But what needs to be understood is that even seemingly premature actions can be largely beneficial and have the potential to grow. And it’s largely about morale as well. You don’t have to be actively engaged with any particular action to support it and give moral support. When the action that sparks the general strike takes off… you don’t want to be the person still saying, “Oh, no, we’re not ready. I’m not going to support this.”

    And I’m of the opinion that alternative banking or building cheap homes is nothing more than more reformism. Those types of projects can easily be dealt with if there is not an active protest movement pushing for far more fundamental changes, on a basic level, for the general population. The institutions of power have even more power over the value of the currency and housing laws than they do over masses of people congregating in the streets and occupying buildings.

    Finally, on the question of violence, it’s not about whether or not the government will send in attack attack helicopters or employ deadlier forms of “non-lethal” crowd control. The question is whether on not they will continue being able to effectively order soldiers to use that force as their repression becomes more deadly and the system collapses more apparently. Hypothetically, if a real effort were made to literally occupy and dismantle the corrupt institutions of power, some gains could probably be made in that regard. And what would the response from the government be? Assuredly, it would be more violent. But to what extent would soldiers and police continue to violently repress people rather than joining them? And if such occupations became more widespread and bold, what could the system do beyond further shooting itself in the foot?

    I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be smart with their actions, but enthusiasm and rage should not be undervalued. The game of chicken should not be about how much more the people will take before they revolt but, rather, it should be about how much more revolt the institutions of power can withstand before they crumble. Because people are already revolting and rebelling, and I’d prefer to show solidarity with those efforts instead of dismissing them as premature or ill-conceived. And, as it stands, the institutions of power are propped up little better than a house of cards. So why would I discourage people from actively pushing back against those institutions?

    And lastly (I know I already said “finally”), we need to remember that this modern struggle is not merely about the economic sustainability of America. The institutions in question are ravaging the planet’s eco-system in an unprecedented manner (threatening us all) and have impoverished people globally — to the tune of 1 billion people being malnourished each year. So, even if they let you build your little house and let you obtain some fair loans, serious resistance would still be needed.

  3. Kaymee June 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    These are not the only paths I recommend toward Revolution, just those I had space for in the article. I also agree that we need to continue protesting Vampire Squid as vehemently as possible, but I believe a daily protest loses efficacy. The general public get tired of hearing “Fuck the Police” being screamed in the street while being unable to travel unimpeded and I can’t say I blame them.

    Bringing Revolution is not just about helping corruption fail. It is about replacing corrupt systems with something viable – and our problems are systemic. Unless we can replace oil with local energy solutions; big corporations with smaller relationships among individuals and groups; Monsanto and Walmart with cooperative farms & gardens, we will remain under Vampire Squid’s thumb in order to merely survive. Survival needs come first. All else is dessert. Occupy understands that to be successful it needs to address issues the public is already ready for in protest actions. I’m not convinced this logic should restrict the Revolution though.

    The argument to join the system in order to defeat it has often been made, followed and has failed repeatedly. Miserably. Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is insanity. We’ve voted our way into indefinite detentions, free trade agreements, 3 wars, and representatives in government who will sell us all down the river to sustain the current status quo – regardless of the cost in terms of our environment or liberty. America wants to reserve the right be Middle Class or wealthier at any cost to the rest of the world, our own independence, or our environment. We do comply in our own destruction by refusing to see our lifestyles as the driving engine for devouring and destroying the earth we all inhabit together. Our infantile demand that all our desires be met leads us into covert or overt war all over the world to secure them. We are all complicit in the game, and voting will not change that.

    What may change it are options that, today, are either illegal or unfunded. Options for cheap, sustainable building that do not comply with current code. Options for food resources not approved by the FDA. Options for barter & business agreements not beholden to the IRS. Options for energy in every home instead of in the hands of large corporations. Options for small, local investment groups instead of those complicated by all the legal maneuvering of banks and investment houses. These options already exist – they just need to be pushed.

    First step in my mind is to de-fund the monster and secure our survival needs. Remove our survival from the coffers of Vampire Squid by growing alternatives with direct actions of disobedience. WHILE continuing to protest the greed, corruption and lack of sustainability in our current model. The people should be our first priority.

    Personally, I don’t see a way to sustain the current system of government. Large systems are proven to be unmanageable and easily corrupted. There are relatively few areas that need a “national” response – defense (not offense), interstate trade/infrastructure/sharing of resources, and environmental protections. The rest can be left in the hands of smaller communities or a public vote. In areas of national concern, real education about the honest impacts of each decision around an issue would allow us to vote on national issues as individuals. We would not need representatives to make decisions, only to carry out the decisions we make.

    We already have technology that would allow individuals to vote on issues. What we lack are media and education options that would prepare us for this level of responsibility. As individuals, as a society, we would take responsibility for the outcomes from these votes, as well as the outcomes from our local policies. No more blaming Dems or Repubs or this Representative & that Congressional Committee. No more right wing or left wing – a true Democracy based on a true majority will of the people. This mirrored reality might be very horrible for a while. We the people have not ever been responsible for our own decisions. But how can we grow beyond being vampires if we do not recognize the truth of what we are?

    Military exports and war-these are key to any discussion of direct democracy and liberty. US weapons manufacturing was $711,421 million in 2011 and arms transfers were $9,984 million. Note that other industries are also fueled to support this one, and that war support services are not included in the figure – only direct weapons. Our trade agreements and trade subsidies are of fundamental importance when discussing the desire for peace and its impact on the economy. Wall Street and the export of financial services are an interesting portion of the economy as that revenue is not generally distributed – it is isolated at the top. We do not teach the analytic skills and honest history required to evaluate the nation’s decisions for ourselves. All of these systems are connected, obfuscated and extremely difficult to discern patterns in when looking for the clarity required to make informed decisions about whether we want to continue as a nation of war or become one of peace.

    This response should be a book. I cannot go into all the nuanced structural issues these suggestions would require, nor all the issues themselves (like health care, education and religion). But, in my opinion, evolving a new paradigm is no more impossible than trying to get the current massive, corrupted, inefficient, unrepresentative, immoral system to behave itself. Viva La Revolution.

  4. Joost van Steenis July 3, 2012 at 12:52 am

    An important point is missing in the article and the discussion. It is stated that we want another society, a revolution. But all actions proposed and mentioned are only directed at changes within the present structure of society. The attractive start of Occupy pointed at one of the greatest powers in the world, the 1%, the financial powers. Not governments, not corporations but the term 1% points to humans with power. But up till now nothing has been done against the powers that be. Though is said that in the last sixty years actions were hardly successful, still is tried to repeat the actions of the past – general strikes, civil disobedience etc . That inidviduals have power is denied or at least neglected. The enthusiasm for Occupy was caused because the slogans pointed directly at the greedy rich, the corrupt grabbing peoiple who do not care what happens to the rest of humanity. No bankers are arrested or put under pressure while they still coninue to destroy our world. All actions are directed against corporations, making people aware (when do you change from awareness actons to powerful actions that can change the world? ) Will Occupy survive it is needed that there is one clear target (the 1%). Then the 99% can decide which actions fit in reaching the goal. The target are the 1%, the goal is a new Humane World. Now there is not a goal, nor a clear target. Occupy changed from a movement to a kind of leftist organisation. These organisations have failed in the past and will fail in the future. Occupy must become again a Movement with a simple clear target and a simple clear goal.

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