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.