Dr. Dawg

The winter of the #Occupy movement

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occupy Winter edmonton.jpg

Camp after camp has now fallen across Canada as the police have moved in, usually at night, to chase Occupiers out of public spaces. The ritual of order restoration has taken place in coordinated fashion across the country.

Someone from another planet might wonder about these massive expenditures of state resources deployed against what are now a mere handful of unarmed Occupiers. Why the rush to remove them, with civic officials, courts, police all in lockstep, when snow and numbing cold might have effectively done the job?

The answer is obvious. The #Occupy movement represents (and I use the present tense deliberately) a threat to the natural order—that is, social relations as defined by capital. Relatively small in numbers, Occupiers have attracted sympathy and support in widening concentric circles. They have focused solely upon disparities of wealth and power, wisely emphasizing values over manifestos.

That resonates. The state needs this sort of thing killed in the egg. A show of coordinated force is required, pour encourager les autres. It’s politics carried on by other means.

Mayors and their spokespeople across North America have been invoking “health and safety,” a concept apparently so precious that countless heads must be broken to preserve it. The obedient media servants of the 1% are on board without having to be told. For two days running, Bay Street’s Globe and Mail has been running shrieky editorials demanding the ouster of Occupiers from their encampments.

A sample of what seems barely-disguised panic:

The Occupiers are the immediate menace, never mind what they denounce. Not only should they be obliged to dismantle the tents, yurts, barbecues and portable bathrooms they’ve set up in a Toronto park, and leave between the hours of midnight and 5:30, as ordered by a judge—they should be told to get out altogether.

The rest of the corporate media have piled on as well, proclaiming the “fizzling” of the #Occupy movement.

They wish.

The state may have actually done the Occupiers a favour. Think about spending three or four months in a tent in a Canadian winter, shivering through process-heavy general assemblies and scouting for food. It’s a prospect which even has a longtime activist like me wondering if there isn’t a better way, remembering Saul Alinsky’s dictum that tactics should be fun.

Had the camps been left alone, they would have dwindled, and the remaining Occupiers would have faced the steady, day by day demoralization that the Bad Season inevitably would have brought about.

Now the Occupiers have an alibi, a good one, and when warm weather returns, so will they. It could be a long, hot summer in North America.

In the meantime, I don’t see much signs of “fizzling.” The corporate media, one way or another, have been Occupied, or at least preOccupied, trying to explain it all away, of course, predicting an end to it all, demanding that it end, in fact, so they and those whom they serve can be comfortable again. But there’s the movement, too widespread to ignore, in the news on a more or less continual basis, using up tankerloads of ink and myriads of pixels, one of the more successful Occupations, in fact, of the past few weeks.

It’s been difficult for the 1% and their house-servants. The #Occupy movement hasn’t provided too many solid surfaces to grab and gnaw away at. There have been no authoritarian leadership structures to criticize, no manifestos to sneer at, and the demands expressed as cops and city workers have prepared to move in have seemed almost like afterthoughts, a bit of satirical street theatre more than anything else.

It’s almost impossible to attack the values that are the body and soul and hence the strength of the #Occupy movement. The great grey Jeffrey Simpson writes a column in the Globe today that is a classic of its kind: dismissing the movement itself as unworthy of serious attention, then producing paragraph after paragraph of information about growing wealth disparities—not concluding with a single proposal of how to deal with it.

This is how the establishment in general has its cake and eats it too: wringing its hands and tut-tutting in sorrow about the obvious, while mocking those who are actually trying to change anything. The 1% and their handmaidens are weeping about wealth disparities all the way to the bank.

It has been almost surrealistic on Twitter, two long streams—Tahrir and the Occupy clearances—intermingling to the point that it is sometimes not immediately obvious which is which. Demonstrators occupying public space; tents destroyed; the forces of law and order using brutal suppression techniques.

The violence in Egypt is far more egregious, of course: people are being shot. But who can doubt that if the current power structure were perceived to be more threatened here at home, the state’s use of force would escalate accordingly? As it is, that force has often been astoundingly over the top, utterly incommensurate with what it has been deployed against. It’s different in degree, certainly, but not so much in kind.

And it’s all being recorded. Before social media, before camera phones and YouTube and Twitter and Facebook and blogs and livestream video at Occupy sites, cops behaved in exactly the same thuggish way, but unless experienced first-hand, accounts were met by most people with utter disbelief. Now the general public can see for themselves: from the brutal killing of Robert Dziekanski in Vancouver to the too-numerous-to-link incidents of casual cop violence during these past #Occupy weeks.

“The whole world is watching,” chanted demonstrators in Chicago in 1968 when the cops ran amok in front of the TV cameras for a few hours: now it’s pretty well 24/7. If state surveillance is increasing, so too is counter-surveillance.

And iconic images like this can be mobilizing:


As noted, #Occupy has been, and is, primarily about values. The disgusting Lt. John Pike, pictured above, turns out to be a homophobic bigot whose actions contributed to a quarter of a million dollar settlement against the University of California at Davis three years ago. Hands up all those who are surprised.

Meanwhile, in New York, a conservative reporter was roughed up by over-eager cops seeing just another woman to be routinely brutalized: Occupy Wall Street folks came to her aid.

We’re on the right side. I look forward to the Canadian Spring—and beyond—with optimism.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer…
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums chang’d to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

[H/t. H/t.]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on November 23, 2011 10:17 AM.

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