October 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm #255883
Hi all, it seems to me that living simply is one important step in the process of living in opposition to the global economic system that has gone amuck. On that basis I thought the following musings on the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations might be of interest to some of you (especially those in Melbourne, as an occupation is planned for City Square this Saturday, 15 Oct).
I presume you have all heard about the occupation of Wall Street that began a few weeks ago in New York? Thousands of people have been staging an extended protest – an occupation – of Wall Street, voicing their diverse objections to a global financial system that has gone amuck. It may well be, however, that some of you have not heard about this historic event, and the reason would be because the newspapers are barely covering it. The occupation of Wall Street has only just started getting attention in the U.S, despite it commencing several weeks ago. And in Australia, where I am writing, the occupation has barely been mentioned in mainstream media at all.
Why is this? Why is it that thousands of people camping in the streets, in peaceful, democratic protest, for weeks on end, does not deserve media attention? It is because mainstream media are intimately connected with the very politico-economic system that is being objected to – that is being rejected – by the masses in the streets. The newspapers, of course, find space for terribly important articles on the infidelities of movie stars, as well space to cover the latest verbal ejaculations from climate change deniers; and there is always space for pages of advertisements to tell us what we need to buy if we are to be happy and successful. But the newspapers cannot seem to find space to cover this truly remarkable grassroots expression of civil discontent. Free press? Yeah right. Those days are well gone, and let’s not pretend otherwise. If you want news, don’t rely on Murdoch.
However, by deliberately avoiding any significant coverage of this prolonged mass protest – a protest that, it cannot be denied, deserves coverage – mainstream media (as dutiful representatives of Empire) are telling us something critically important. They are telling us that they are nervous about what is going, that they feel threatened by it. Otherwise why pretend that nothing is going on? It is clear they are scared of fuelling the fire. Little do they know, however, that those on the streets smell this fear, and are now feeding off it. To read more, see: http://occupywallst.org/ and http://www.occupytogether.org/.
Let’s face it, thousands of people camping in the streets of New York doesn’t happen everyday. And now the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has spread across America and indeed the globe. At the time of writing, there were 1235 cities involved through meetup.com and a growing list of cities currently ‘occupied’ can be found here: http://www.occupytogether.org/actions/. What’s going on here? Is this the start of something? Are we the people we have been waiting for?
This Saturday 15 October the occupation of Melbourne is commencing at City Square, and the organizer’s Facebook page already has more than three and half thousand expressions of support, and counting. No one can predict whether this movement will realize it’s potential. Perhaps it will flop and merely signify our last opportunity to avoid having the boot of Empire stamp on the face of humanity forever. But perhaps – just perhaps – there is something real going on here. Just perhaps this is the moment of madness that will shake the world awake.
I must confess that I do not have a great deal hope that anything will come of this movement, but I have some hope, and that’s all anyone should need to take part. As Gramsci stated: ‘Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will.’ I’ll be heading down to the City Square in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon to see what’s going on. I invite all of you in Melbourne to head down too, and please tell your friends about it. It’s strictly a peaceful, no alcohol or drugs, protest, so bring the family; a book; a picnic; the guitar; perhaps even a sleeping bag and a pillow! And if it turns out that only a few hundred people show up, then so be it. At least we can say that when we were called we stood up to be counted. We don’t get opportunities like this everyday. In fact, this opportunity could be unique. It would seem, then, that we are the people we have been waiting for. We must be.
As I was writing this post – there is so much more to say, but for now this must suffice – I found myself thinking of the closing passage in one of William Morris’s essays of 1884, which I will leave you with to mull over. I hope to see some of you on Saturday.
It is Peace, therefore, which we need in order that we may live and work in hope and with pleasure. Peace so much desired, if we may trust men’s words, but which has been so continually and steadily rejected by them in deeds. But for us, let us set our hearts on it and win it at whatever cost.
What the cost may be, who can tell? Will it be possible to win peace peaceably? Alas, how can it be? We are so hemmed in by wrong and folly, that in one way or other we must always be fighting against them: our own lives may see no end to the struggle, perhaps no obvious hope of the end. It may be that the best we can hope to see is that struggle getting sharper and bitterer day by day, until it breaks out openly at last into the slaughter of men by actual warfare instead of by the slower and crueller methods of “peaceful” commerce. If we live to see that, we shall live to see much; for it will mean the rich classes grown conscious of their own wrong and robbery, and consciously defending them by open violence; and then the end will be drawing near.
But in any case, and whatever the nature of our strife for peace may be, if we only aim at it steadily and with singleness of heart, and ever keep it in view, a reflection from that peace of the future will illumine the turmoil and trouble of our lives, whether the trouble be seemingly petty, or obviously tragic; and we shall, in our hopes at least, live the lives of men: nor can the present times give us any reward greater than that.October 11, 2011 at 8:00 pm #510099
reddit.com is a good source of general news on this sort of thing. It is a sort of group-collective of articles. Try the Politics section if you want info on OWS. They are making a deliberate effort to counter the lack of mainstream media coverage.October 11, 2011 at 9:04 pm #510100
That was beautifully written and expressed. I agree wholeheartedly and lets hope that Saturday turns out to be all that it has the potential to be.
MauziOctober 12, 2011 at 11:21 am #510101
Huh, what protest?? I didn’t know about it…
Thanks for the thread… :tup:
I meant to add that I agree with Mauzi… Well written!!October 13, 2011 at 11:23 am #510102
Hi, thanks for your kind words.
A friend of mine, Mark Burch, wrote to me on this subject and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me sharing it with you. He makes some interesting points:
“I think the lack of media coverage of the Occupy Wall (or your street of preference) Street might partly be explained by their inability to cover any event that doesn’t fit the paradigm of TV journalism. There must be a hero (preferably an underdog) and a villain. Demands must be few, simple, and clearly able to engage the popular imagination the way soccer does, or celebrity scandals. Sensational content helps immensely. That’s why bloody conflict always trumps peaceful, well-disciplined civil disobedience. What the media absolutely cannot deal with is a multitude of critiques and causes that find their common object in a monolithic oppressive system. The media neither understands the system nor the diversity of reasons it might be opposed. Thus hugely significant events are often unreportable.
But I think a much more important consideration is the possibility that this event will repeat the mistakes of the “counterculture” of the ’60s. Back then we knew quite clearly what we were against, but we had no coherent, widely supported platform detailing what we were for—even if it is a complicated platform. It isn’t necessary that the media understand the revolution, but it is essential that the revolution understand itself. I worry that many people now, as then, have not bothered to do their homework. The Carnival of street demonstrations combined with the momentary communities of anarchy that emerge at such times are deeply appealing and engaging, but they don’t amount to a different society. They constitute moments when we can glimpse other possibilities, but they don’t constitute realizations of those possibilities. (See Rebecca Solnit’s book, _A Paradise Built in Hell._
So if this event is going to amount to anything more than a festive occasion after which it can truly be said that a grand time was had by all…it must produce a coherent plan for an alternate organization of society. If we object to a global economy, then what is the alternative? If we worry about climate change, how shall we redesign cities, stem over-population, rethink consumption and transportation, etc.? If we protest social relations that are subordinated to fear, greed, and oppression, then how shall we configure social relations on love, generosity and liberty? If over-consumption is threatening the ecosphere, how shall we develop a narrative of the good life based on sufficiency, simplicity, humility and cooperation?
Of course we already have most of the answers to all of these questions. But we need to stitch them together into a coherent alternative narrative of the good life. People seldom down tools and abandon what they know, no matter how oppressive it is, unless they have a pretty clear idea how they will feed their children tomorrow. But if the alternate program can be welded up from the huge number and diversity of insightful critiques of consumer culture and its handmaid, globalized capitalism, then the demonstrations can become a movement and the movement might actually go somewhere.”
All the best, might see some of you on Saturday.
SamOctober 13, 2011 at 1:45 pm #510103
Sam, YES, if there was a concrete plan outlined I’d occupy and protest and educate and work towards achieving it. Occupying without this agenda just sounds like a party to me and if I’m confused what would a newspaper report?October 13, 2011 at 2:59 pm #510104
The occupations certainly have to aim higher than merely a day, a weekend, a week, perhaps a month or even two, of festive anarchy. As Mark Burch noted, the risks of repeating the mistakes of the counterculture of the ’60s are very real. But the task of avoiding those mistakes, let’s face it, are tremendous. Last year in Australia, we will all recall, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tried to place a relatively small resource tax on companies earning “super profits” from Australia’s resource base – and he was promptly booted out of office after a multi-million dollar ad campaign funded by those he wanted to tax. If, in this day and age, we cannot even raise taxes a little on the huge mining companies, what hope is there for anything more significant coming from the top down? The same situation applies throughout the West, as far as I can tell. If there is going to be change, it will have to come from the grassroots up, and once the counterculture is strong enough, then, perhaps – only perhaps – the top down reform might arrive. But we mustn’t wait for that top down reform, and that is why these occupations inspire me and give me a degree of hope. I agree that we need some coherent plan for an alternative organisation of society, but the absence of such a plan, or consensus on such a plan, doesn’t mean that the individual and the community cannot just start building a new society today, as you may agree. Once – if – these occupations die down, everyone involved mustn’t think that their work is done, because it hasn’t even really begun.
So yes, a concrete plan is important, but I feel the most important thing about these occupations is that, for the first time in too long, there are large groups of people saying: “Let’s be citizens.” In my mind, that is the first, and a necessary, step in the formulation of a concrete plan, and by pushing the question of equality back onto the public agenda, there is hope at least of concrete change. We mustn’t dismiss these occupations too quickly simply because they lack focus. In fact, the very diversity of grievances is part of what has produced them. Furthermore, it’s ok to be confused. Hell, I’m confused. but it is the public expression of solidarity that will draw me down on Saturday all the same. I’m certainly no more confused than all those people who think that spending their lives in the pursuit of wealth is a worthwhile way to spend the one and only life we have been given.
Change has to begin somewhere. To me, these occupations provide the most likely spark I’ve seen in my life.
Here’s my vision of a better future: http://simplicitycollective.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/LookingBackward.pdfOctober 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm #510105
If anyone is interested, I’ve written an “unspoken” address to the Occupiers of Melbourne (written prior to eviction). Available at the link below:
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