I have to say, I honestly don’t understand why so many ‘dissidents’ want the OWS crowd to either a) overturn the government tomorrow morning, or b) be mowed down by the cops as soon as possible. These seem to be two of the strongest reactions to the Occupy movement from lots of people who have spent years railing against the Empire and its many depredations.
I mean, it seems obvious to me that this particular instance of protest in Wall Street is going to “fail” — i.e., at some point, they will be removed, peaceably or otherwise, from the sacred precincts of Mammon. But so what? I mean really, pardon my French and all, but so fucking what already? Who out there actually expects OWS will overturn the empire? Do you think the protestors themselves think that? If it’s not all wrapped up neatly at the end of a 30-minute sitcom episode with parades and ponies and peace on earth, does that mean it’s all meaningless? No conglomeration of human beings has ever produced anything that even remotely approximates perfection, or has ever failed to exhibit the common human frailties and failings we all are heir to. Again, I say, so what? Does this fact render pointless even the slightest attempt to try to find different paths that just might possibly be better than the one we’re on now?
It seems to me that the whole point of the Occupy movement, in its multiplicity of forms, is to MAKE A START. To not simply bow the head and bend the knee, and give up and say, Oh Lordy, the Man is too powerful for me, He controls everything, there’s nothing anyone can do. The point, it seems to me, is just to show up and stand up and say out loud, as Thoreau said, “We disassociate ourselves from this rigged, corrupt, immoral system.”
Isn’t this what dissidents have been urging people to do for years now? I know this site has been full of commenters — and my own blog posts — calling for something exactly like this. Saying: Do it individually, if you have to, do it en masse — but DO SOMETHING! Stand up, speak out and disassociate yourself from all this evil. Start looking for other ways: try this, try that, try the other, and if all that fails, try something else — but DO SOMETHING.
And now here we have people doing exactly that — in a vast, variegated number of ways — and what is the main reaction among so many of our dissidents? In large part, it seems to me the reaction is some kind of scorn, if not an outright eagerness to see the Empire strike back and show these stupid kids that there is no alternative, there is nothing anyone can do, anywhere, anytime, about anything. The Man is too powerful, the Empire is too perfect, it knows all, sees all, controls all, it is nothing less than a god.
Well, I happen, respectfully, to disagree with all that. It seems to me that many dissidents have gone through the looking glass and now practice a kind of negative worship of the Empire, of the System, of the Powers-That-Be. Anyone who actually DOES anything to TRY to shake the system is instantly dismissed as some kind of Pollyanna Pie-in-the-Skier, due for a rude and bloody awakening from our godlike superiors.
I honestly don’t get it. Where did all this cravenness come from? This scorn, this broken spirit, this surrender, these sidelong, servile glances at the gleaming Masters of the Universe? What if it does all fail? (Whatever “failure” might mean in this case. It seems to me that only people who expect, or demand, instant gratification would see ‘failure’ in a protest movement — or, if you like, a stance of disassociation and an openness to alternatives — that might not bear fruit for years, even generations.) But if it fails, so what? You don’t want to go down fighting? It’s too great a sacrifice of your deep savvy to cheer on people who are actually doing something, trying something, putting their bodies on the line to challenge a system you’ve spent years railing against?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course. And I have no way of knowing how the particular coalescence of elements represented by OWS and similar movements will play out, in the immediate future or in the long term. Perhaps nothing will come of it. Perhaps, as some seem darkly to hope, it will all end in a bloodbath and further repression. But I will say that I’ve been surprised by the hostile reaction of many who count themselves rock-ribbed dissidents against the imperial warmaking corporcracy to a movement that is doing what so many dissidents have dreamed of for years: refusing to acknowledge the system’s authority and legitimacy, and exploring alternatives to the rapacious, bloodsoaked brutality of our global elites.
As for me — and again, this is just my personal opinion — I’m glad about the Occupy movement. I’m glad to see sparks and glimmers and partial, provisional expressions of some of my own most deeply held principles showing up here and there on the streets of the world. I hope the movement keeps growing, I hope it stays chaotic — I hope it gets even weirder. I hope it continues to make the comfortable uncomfortable, to the greatest degree possible. If it collapses, if it’s co-opted, then I won’t like it. But if that happens, it won’t crush my spirits, or make me nod my head with a sour, savvy, “Told you so.” It will just mean that this particular (partial, provisional) expression of some of the ‘better angels of our nature’ has been put down — for now. It will just mean that somewhere along the line, we will have to try again, in a different coalescence of elements.
But right now, they’re on the streets, they’re raising merry hell, and all I can say to that is: More power to them.