Thursday, September 17, 2015

Occupy Turns Four

To mark the occasion of the Occupy Wall Street movement's fourth birthday,  various #TakeBackOurCommunity and "days of action" against racism, gentrification and police brutality are being held throughout the city and country today. A 5 p.m. rally is planned at New York City's Zuccotti Park, site of the original OWS encampment.

Despite the rumors mongered by the corporate press of its utter demise, and despite an orchestrated national crackdown on the camps in the fall of 2011, the Occupy movement is alive and well in its various offshoots, such as Occupy Our Homes and Occupy Sandy and Occupy Media. OWS is still fighting the police in lawsuits charging false arrests and brutality.  It definitely lives on in the campaign of Bernie Sanders, who uses unabashed OWS rhetoric in his stump speeches. Were it not for the Occupy movement, the concept of the 99 percent never would have been part of the national lexicon.

Charles Lenchner, an OWS "techie" who used his expertise during the original uprising four years ago to spread the message through websites and social media, told The Guardian that the rise of Bernie Sanders would have been inconceivable without the Occupy movement. He now runs "People for Bernie Sanders," which is unconnected with the official campaign.

Pundits loved to criticize OWS for being a leaderless movement. But as Martin Breaugh recounts in The Plebeian Experience, the lack of leaders in popular uprisings has been par for the course throughout history. The original Roman plebs who seceded to the Aventine Hill outside the city never elected a "leader," but succeeded in their goal of representation in the legislature. The Sans-Culottes of the French Revolution, the Communards of Paris and the English Jacobins all were eventually crushed, but they have left lasting traces. On the rare occasions that movements comprised of street people have become co-opted by a leader or a political party (the Ciompi revolt in Renaissance Italy, for example) the original purpose tends to either fizzle out or get watered down, and the designated "leader" does not last very long. The desire for a leader is nothing less than a desire for servitude and a relinquishment of one's own political agency to another.

To his credit, Bernie Sanders constantly cautions that his run for the presidency is not about him. He acknowledges he is but a part of a "revolution." Of course, Barack Obama and his "change we can believe in" slogan broadcast much the same thing. He also readily admitted that he was a "blank slate" upon which we could pin our hopes and dreams. Sanders is anything but a blank slate.

Although leaderless plebeian movements like Occupy have historically been short-lived and physically crushed by the powers that be, their memory is persistent, and their spirits tend to infuse subsequent movements, writes Breaugh. Seeds get planted. The exploitation of the many by the few is rejected. People are educated to become more open to internal dissent and more accepting of  "otherness." The concept that citizenship that goes beyond the periodic voting for "representatives" becomes widespread.

"Despite its tragic nature," writes Breaugh, "the plebeian experience leaves its mark and resonates for others who will be subjected to the same political domination in the future. Its relative brevity does not prevent it from inaugurating a discontinuous history of political freedom."

Happy Birthday, and Vive L' Occupy!


Meredith NYC said...

Karen, how did you find out about the 5pm Occupy rally in Zuccotti Park today?

re the Gop debate---who could top this from Borowitz?

"Millions Watch American Democracy's Final Episode
By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
17 September 2015

American democracy, a long-running institution whose popularity endured for over two hundred years, drew millions of viewers to its final episode Wednesday night.

While the official ratings for democracy’s finale will not be available until Thursday, initial reports indicated that a larger than expected number tuned in to witness the last moments of the nation’s system of government.

Network executives had warned that the final episode was not for the squeamish, but many viewers were still shocked by how dark and apocalyptic it turned out to be.

One reviewer, calling the finale a “shattering conclusion,” wrote, “For casual fans of American democracy who weren’t paying much attention to it lately, what they saw in Wednesday’s episode must have come as a shock: a cast of characters who were thoroughly unlikable, unappealing, and, in the end, totally unredeemed.”

Still, based on the strong ratings for Wednesday’s episode, network executives decided to “supersize” democracy’s death throes by scheduling a dozen additional episodes between now and November, 2016.

In the words of one executive, “American democracy is not as popular as it once was, but a lot of people still want to see how it ends.”

Karen Garcia said...


Found out about Zuccotti from an Occupy email list I'm on. Here's link to their Facebook page:

Good to see Borowitz cutting right to the chase on the real meaning of De Bait: $$$$$$$.

I didn't read any of the Times rundowns except for Blow's. I take it the proper liberal response was to alternately laugh, cry, shriek with rage, call them out on their shocking lies, etc etc etc. In other words, waste an entire day out of your life.

Checked in with CNN for about five minutes this p.m. for shutting it down. They are still covering all the minutiae direct from Reaganland. Brooke Baldwin had on a guest explaining the candidates' body language.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen...thanks for ows link, I will check it.

I hardly read the 3 columns on the much can one stand? But threw a few comments in anyway. I'm not going to irritate myself wading thru Collins'lame jokes. If these pundits want to enjoy themselves let them.

Rachel Maddow had an exclusive interview with Sanders tonight for over half an hour. She repeats at 1am, or transcript. I caught some—same message, but at least he got respectful air time. He came across very well, and his hair was unusually neat.

I said to Charles Blow’s column:
How about stopping the use of ! by Jeb’s name? Sure it’s ironic, but just b/c his campaign uses it doesn’t mean the media has to keep repeating it.

If a candidate has to use ! that means he’s in trouble. Can you imagine “Franklin!” in 1932?

What I’d like to see Mr. Blow discuss is why blacks become allied with the Repubs. How did Carson evolve to identify with the party that’s inflamed racial resentments to win white votes? Seems they want to separate themselves from the group that’s endured bias, and thus a quicker way to success with the right wing? Justice Thomas?

Also, re US world reputation---the British debates were on cspan. And tonight the Canadian debates. I wonder if Gop debates were on any foreign TV. How embarrassing. What does the world think? Maybe I’ll try to google it—later, I’m a big queasy right now from what little debate news I’ve seen.

4Runner said...

As am amateur musicologist, I'd like to recommend the super collection of protest songs in "Occupy This Album", available from Amazon in both MP3 & CD (4 discs). A terrific selection, proceeds to the Occupy org. Give it your ears + $$$.

Pearl said...

Sanders sees burst of fundraising after opposition research against him surfaces