Back during the Arab Spring, I asked my readers to speculate about what it would take to get a large number of Americans to say: “It’s time, it’s up to me. This is more important than my favorite tv show or surfing for funny videos.”
Comments were sparse, but I mentioned then that people need to feel the oppression in their daily lives. We’re now in the “American Autumn”, as it’s been called, and something has begun that’s far from a revolt, but there’s no end to it in sight right now.
(See my Recent News Links for articles about the movement in general.)
The idea of “Occupy…” is to say “We’re going to sit here, violating the law if we need to, but still sit here, until you respond.” It mimick’s Tahrir Square in that way, but doesn’t yet have the mass response that
would make law enforcement difficult and mess with the economy in a general strike kind of way.
Critics have complained that the demands are not articulated, and there are no “leaders” to represent them. In a tactical way, that can be a good thing. “Leaderless” means that there’s no head for the enemy to chop off. Having no set demands means that you’re
turning the tables on the Man. Every authoritarian has a certain attitude for keeping people in fear. I believe it was once best articulated in some prison movie. (Googling is no help to me for finding which one.) It was one of those “welcome speeches” that are in nearly every prison movie:
WARDEN: You’re job is to keep me happy. When I’m happy,
…………………you’re ok. When I’m not happy, you’re miserable.
Very effective, to keep people constantly anxious, guessing what will make the boss happy or unhappy. No room for arguing about rules and bringing in the pettifogs, because rules are never articulated.
That’s the kind of society we’ve been drifting into lately, with the executive branch claiming the right to assassinate or disappear anyone for anything, without even showing evidence.
The occupiers are going the Man one better. They simply say: “We are the 99%. Make us happy. Until then, we’ll be a pain in ass.”
It’s brilliant, if you can bring it off.
(Late development: Adbusters has asked people to get behind a 1% tax on financial transactions, which might or might not fly: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/24/us-protests-wallstreet-g-idUSTRE79N61I20111024)
So, after a week of reading about this on the web, I decided to see some of our own local occupations first-hand, if only to be able to talk about them. There seem to be two separate occupations in the County that arose independent of each other:
One centered on Irvine:
And one centered on Santa Ana:
They each had a march last Saturday, at different times in the afternoon, so it was possible to go to both.
For the moment, I think the opposition to this movement is a little off-balance. At antiwar demos, it was a frequent occurrence for a troll to show up and try to start arguments. That happened only once Saturday, in Santa Ana, and didn’t last long. Expect more of it later.
One thing you’ll hear from the people who don’t like this movement is that it’s the same old “far left” people, or that it’s a front for Obama & the Dems. I saw right off that that is definitely NOT true.
If anyone doesn’t know already, I used to work in various “leftie” causes locally, but have largely pulled out for sanity’s sake. That’s explained in some of my earlier posts. What I often notice when I still go to these things is how many of the faces are familiar. A good sign for this movement: Not many. Nothing like the 50 or 60% that were familiar at the Progressive Summit a while back. In Santa Ana it was maybe one out of twenty. In Irvine, one out of ten, including some people I hadn’t seen for quite a while. NOT the same old lefties trying to cobble one more demo together. The Santa Ana people averaged a little younger, with a somewhat more confrontational style (four arrested later),
and it brings to mind a requirement for revolt that hadn’t occurred to me before: a new generation that hasn’t yet burned out on activism.
Many of these people weren’t old enough for Seattle or the Nader 2000 campaign, or even the early Iraq demos. They also have something we didn’t have then: a clear manifestation of their grievances in their personal lives — student debt with no jobs. It’s a situation that’s been building for decades, but has now become ridiculous.
Partisanship was notably absent. My low-key, small-lettering Green t-shirt was about the only thing proclaiming a party in Santa Ana, and the PDA banner, left over from
last year’s healthcare debate, was about the only additional bit of partisanship in Irvine. That’s good. I remember the antiwar demos hijacked by Dems. Part of what killed the movement.
A downside of this birth-of-Athena thing is that they didn’t really take advantage of already-established means of communication among “progressives” much. It’s as if they didn’t know such things existed. Somebody made a Facebook page.
It apparently reached a lot of people, but also missed a lot. Many politically aware people stay away from FB for good reason.
Assuming for the moment (with known risk) that the Register article was accurate, and D’Marie Mulattieri was the the apparent kickstarter of the Irvine group, I’ve seen or heard nothing about her suggesting previous political activity. That’s a good thing. New blood. Hope she finds her feet and gets more people on board.
What I saw of “leaders” in Santa Ana were also unfamiliar, and most of what they send out seems to be on Twitter.
Looking at the two web sites for the two groups, one very soon gets the impression that it’s necessary to float around among the main web site, Facebook, and Twitter to make sure
of getting all the info. This is not good. Back in the day, we’d have a web site and a listserve or two, and that was it. If you wanted a calendar to plan ahead, you went to the calendar on the web site. If you wanted the latest news, or to discuss things with other members, you read your email, period. It was simple.
KISS is a principle I would try to teach these people if I felt like getting involved. I tried the “email subscription” for occupy-oc and it didn’t work. Their web site also lacks a “contact” link such as you find on most web sites.
Having said all that, I wish both groups well, and plan to see them again. Support them if you can, and I don’t mean with lame “endorsements” (Well, yeah, if that’s you’re thing,
no harm in it.) but with donations and your corporeal presence. Irvine seems to stay scrupulously legal for the time being, taking all kinds of crap from the local authorities. Santa Ana seems to take more chances, but still makes it clear that the police are not the enemy. You might want to choose which one is more your style.
Another late development: The Irvine City Council seems to have given them permission to camp: http://www.ocregister.com/news/occupy-323785-lawn-irvine.html. Also, after posting this I found that the email subscription does appear to work. It’s just that when I originally clicked the confirmation link I got one of those “We’re sorry, the page you requested…” pages. A tad confusing.
Some readers are undoubtedly more familiar with all this than I am. Please comment and inform the rest of us.