I’m mostly hopeful about the promise of the “Occupy” movement. One of the oft-reported weaknesses of the movement is the lack of a unified message. But this criticism overlooks the essence of the thing: all of these varied concerns have sprouted from the same root. Where the less-thoughtful of the media see a bunch of different demands from a disorderly gathering of unkempt kids, I hear varied perspectives on the same core issue.
One unifying slogan – “Human Needs over Corporate Greed” – seems to encompass the bulk of the message. But not everyone understands immediately that human needs include the long-term vitality of ecosystems (and as little climate destabilization as can be obtained at this late date), health maintenance and health care (not just treating the sick, but providing adequate nutrition, clean air and clean water to all), access to educational opportunities (without being tied into debt) and a commitment to justice and true democracy.
I think, I hope, that this movement is a demand for a NEW SYSTEM in which people can be assured opportunities to do all the work that so needs doing, and a system where their needs will be met while doing it. It’s okay that we don’t know what this system will look like yet. What’s clear, what’s being protested, are the things that are most actively blocking the chance for something new to grow.
And already, within the movement, are the critiques. These are valuable. These are distracting, yes, but we ignore them at our peril. As Frank Herbert said, “A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.” One of the most important considerations has to do with indigenous perspectives on the name of the movement:
What “Wall Street” and the U.S. have become — an imperial-colonial power over the world’s economics and the laws that protect it — is a direct legacy of the fraud and violence committed against Native nations.
Perhaps those who now claim to OCCUPY WALL STREET in the name of reforming America’s economy could remember their history and call it something else (see Racialicious’ post for more discussion of the importance of language in opposition). Wall Street is, after all, already an occupied territory.
As are all of U.S. land “holdings” in northern America, the Pacific, and the Caribbean.
Decolonize the opposition!
(especially now that it is OCCUPYING L.A., Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago….)
Perhaps the movement will find a new and better name as it develops. I hope that the thoughtfulness, the questioning, is retained as essential to the movement’s well-being. The importance of the core unifying principle should provide the coherence to prevent disagreements from becoming faultlines.
The people in power (and no, I don’t so much mean elected officials, I mean unaccountable power that comes from concentrated wealth, and the commercial-funded media mouthpieces for such power) want to ridicule what is happening. They don’t perceive that this is the birth of something new; they only see it as opposing the status quo (which it is), and therefore they link it to older, more familiar terms that were seen as opposition to capitalism (e.g. communism or socialism). But all of those bear the same underlying structure – the same genes as capitalism – for centralization, domination and short-term thinking. My hope is that the new generation of activists is a movement away from those old systems of thought. It hasn’t yet matured into an -ism, and with luck, foresight and courage it may never do so.
I won’t claim to know where this movement is going. But just the choice speak out, to ask our civilization to change course at all from our headlong rush to ecological and cultural collapse is an improvement, a step away from the wrong direction that just might lead to steps in the right direction.
If you have some idle time, here are a couple of relevant essays:
The Awakening in America
Don’t take it as gospel, but interesting reading:
An open letter and warning from a former tea party movement adherent to the Occupy Wall Street movement