Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Failure to Occupy

Sean Ewart

The rhetorically retrograde movement known collectively as “Occupy” has failed. Now an unorganized and disconnected system of cells across the United States, it has succumbed both to inclement weather and to the ineptitude of the multitude. What is remarkable, and indeed shameful, is its staying power; as if the Left is so desperate for a movement that it will cling to whatever rag-tag collection of trust-funded college students and schizophrenic anarcho-socialists that come its way. After the so-called “Day of Rage” on September 17, 2011, parks from New York to L.A. were held hostage to press a message which was not just lacking in definition, but somehow self-righteously emboldened by that fact. It should be clear, however, that the failure to Occupy is not a failure of the Left, but the defeat of the degenerate refuse of the Left – that mass of philosophical filth which views fighting for internet freedom in the same light as freeing the slaves. We can do better.

We can, of course, agree with the reasons for the rallies. Economic injustice is very nearly a pillar of our government which seems more kleptomaniacal than ever. Corporations are now viewed as individuals, at least in campaign financing, and yet not a single person has been penalized for the 2008 financial meltdown – business interests clearly trump the interests of American citizens. Furthermore we have had a series of leaders who have done little good for the public: we have been engaged in a war in Iraq since 1990 (and while we may be pulling out, it is nothing like a victory); we have been in bed with dictators the world over and seem little interested in the democratic movements currently ongoing; we have increasingly deregulated our business sector while cutting back on protections for the weak and the poor. Americans are angry, and for good reason. We don't need a day or rage so much as an entire election cycle of it. Voting out incumbents seems a veritable civic duty.

We can even see the malcontent within the Right. The Tea Party movement, of which I have previouslywritten, is composed of misguided Americans who have bought into a political snare paid for by corporate interests with the sole purpose of reducing our government to nothing more than a means for advancing business ventures across the globe. The public relations brilliance of the Tea Party is in its ability to get the poor and oppressed to vote for their own oppressors. It is a strategy that is working and has, in just a few years, already managed to build a Republican Party which has radicalized far beyond even the insanity of Reagan. The point is that the Left, even as embodied by the ineffective and mojo-lacking Democratic Party, has something to offer the average Tea Partier far and above corporate welfare and decreasing wages. The Left has somehow managed to bungle the job of selling a better quality of life, social justice, human rights, and economic security to those people who need it most. The Tea Party surely does hate America, but the Left seems entirely removed from it.

The problem with Occupy can be summed up pragmatically: it has inexplicably terrible public relations. Occupy has yet to actually identify why it exists in the first place. It calls for an end to corporate greed, the war in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, the Patriot Act, the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the FED, and seeks to raise the national minimum wage to $20 an hour. But it also pretends to have no leadership, to be “undefinable” and thus unadulterated by the warping influences of power, and to be a movement made up of equals where the new comer is ranked the same as someone who has been involved from the beginning. This is all very nice, but worthless for several easily identifiable reasons. The first is simple: without a system of leadership, whoever speaks the loudest gains authority. Occupy has implemented mob rule and called it democracy, and I suppose this is democratic in the most primitive understanding of the term, but there is no system to balance the tyranny of the majority established within Occupy. Furthermore as a movement without a message, it has become a mass of angry people protesting real crimes, but with nothing to actually say about them. Just being angry doesn't change the world.

Occupy painted itself into a corner as it early on seemed to reject working “within the system” due to the corruption of the “system.” Well, OK Che, but the only actual way to work “outside the system” is to violently overthrow it (even MLK Jr.'s non-violent protests were working within the system as they were accepting the punishments they were given and were constantly lobbying the government). Occupy is currently stuck between not having the courage to throw a Molotov and not having the ability to win at the ballot box. The former would demonize them in the public eye, and the latter would mean working within a system which they either don't understand or are philosophically opposed to. It must be a painful position indeed.

There has also been a repeated cry by many that Occupy is useful to the Left because it has gotten ideas like “income inequality” into the mainstream thought process. While we can agree that this is a positive, the Occupy movement itself has only decreased in its public support. Even as early asNovember, 2011, Occupy had a lower approval rating than the Tea Party– which is just absurd. The point isn't that Occupy is “wrong” to be upset, but that it not helping anything; Occupy is a hindrance to the Left.

Occupy has seen its day and failed to take advantage of it. The Left deserves a movement with substance, a message, and a contingent of people who care more about advancing social justice than creating a public spectacle. Zombie-walks and communal camp-outs have nothing to do with economic inequality: the focus should be on the problem not the protestors. So while I am sure that this will enrage those who participated in the Occupy movement, know that I too have been in the camps and engaged in the protests. Don't let pride get in the way of making a difference. Occupy has failed to connect with a population that so desperately needs to know that there is an alternative to corporate greed and kleptocracy. Please continue to protest, but leave the freak show for the circus. The Left deserves better.

1 comment:

  1. "which was not just lacking in definition, but somehow self-righteously emboldened by that fact." I was quite amused by the constant assertions that being vague was somehow better.

    Your comparison to MLK Jr. is very apt. While he was a voice outside the system, he still had a clear voice. He defended justice not on the basis of partisan politics or personal glory, but purely because it was the right thing to do. He worked very deliberately so that people went in with a common message and a common plan to move society forward even in the face of societal injustice.

    "Activists" today avoid clarity in an effort to avoid "failure" which undermines any possible success. But for MLK Jr, there was no way to fail, because public failure and shame only proved the very injustice he was crying out against. Every step was victory.