Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Occupied States of America

Despite everything that has happened in the past few days with the reports of fascistic violence against peaceful protesters (and deafening silence in the Obama administration), Occupy Wall Street remains the most potent political movement the left has seen in decades. Their very refusal of terms of compliance and defiance of the calls to issue a list of demands are perhaps their greatest strengths and their most revolutionary concept- the idea that we don't need to wait for millionaires to tell us to cut their taxes. We don't have to beg the corporations not to poison us, not to push us into privation, not to enslave us to jobs designed to service the luxury of those who forever remain above us, not to steal from the collective goodwill of government while lobbying against the levelling power of the state, et al. State and private power are right to be afraid of OWS. What they are proposing is an end to the end of history, a cap on the final judgment of capitalism as the epitomical system of the evolved man, the beginning of the end of settling for the way things are, a final stripping of the institutional chains of bondage that grip us all.

Family obligations prohibit me from participating in the mass actions. This is perhaps the first time in my life though that I've felt optimistic about the future. Yes, ever. As a father, I fear bestowing upon my daughter the dread I felt growing up that adulthood was a continual series of disappointments and compromises, that the entirety of life was a downward spiral that descended from an epoch of community and nurturing to a lonely death wherein the majority of hours lived were spent away from family and loved ones, parked behind a desk where one's intellect is undermined, individuality is suppressed, creativity is wasted, self-worth is decimated, and empathy is systematically proven redundant. After graduating to the "real world", the world of capitalist realism, the opportunities available, even to someone of relative privilege like myself, have mirrored all my most terrifying fears about the end of childhood. I can offer then nothing but solidarity to a cause who refuses this reality for my daughter and for future generations. Let us all be the last men to live for a mistake.

As OWS dominates the news, every other bit of everyday business feels trite and silly. You feel like history is happening without you an you're just a bystander. You can even sense the envy in those who take the system so seriously, those who hold an enormous stake in the success of the status quo (my work requires interaction with quite a few of them). They want to believe that OWS is a hiccup, the work of lazy assholes afraid of a hard day's work and under a spell of mass hypnosis permeating from an ideological vacuum. The apprehension is strong because the potential of OWS's success is far more frightening than its eventual withering and dispersal. The protesters succumbing to infighting and its cooption by petty showmen and hucksters is far more in line with our cynicism. It has historical precedent in the hippies-turned-yuppies, Obama, Kerry, Bansky books in Urban Outfitters, Che Guevara t-shirts, "Think Different" campaigns, and vanguard music in car ads. OWS can come off as just another space for capitalism to itself occupy, a consumer populace that its own mechanisms can accommodate.

If OWS does manage to pull through and create something new in spite of the friction and abrasion of all the history repeating surrounding it, it'll leave the guardians of the new a bit naked, like Adam and Eve at the end of Paradise Lost- finally free of the deadbolts of the Garden, yet still burdened by the original sin of having created this massive empire of suffering in the first place. No one knows what happens next if OWS achieves its goal of revolution. We can only be sure that whatever the next step is, it needs to happen together or all of it will have been for nothing. As Jack Shephard is wont to say, "we either live together or we die alone".

That's why it's important to not give in to the demands of the old world who want to break this movement down into digestible soundbites or a scriptable action-item list. This is not a reality TV narrative and OWS is not looking to prove a thesis using the scientific method. The fact that the source of this frustration eludes the wealthy and the powerful only proves how disconnected they are from the world they command.

We all know what's wrong; everything, everything, and everything- the whole goddamned rotten parasitic system, an idea rotting away like a virus in the hearts and minds of an entire race. An entire species working diligently on a massive, complex, multinational project of self-extinction. A planet whose ballooning population is under work orders to render the earth uninhabitable. And if we don't follow our instructions to make the world slightly nicer for a few at the expense of the welfare of the many, we may lose our sweet source of sustenance, the nectar of Capital, which holds in its hands the tools of survival (doctors, food, housing, protection from corporate predators).

But it's not the bosses and the managers who are issuing the orders, mind you. No, they're just the conduits and they're just as compromised as the rest of us, with very little power to break free of their business models without betraying their legal obligation to the shareholders. No, our orders and theirs come from Capital itself, a self-preservational artificial intelligence that can adapt to any state or social model, can incorporate any tradition or custom, and can accommodate any desire. Frankly speaking, it's everywhere, controlling everything, commanding everyone.

An earlier movement in the 90s sought to "reclaim" the territories that the globalizing tentacles of Capital had conquered, but the language or "reclamation" suggests a mere changing of the guard, an exchange of power. Much better to occupy then, to simply "be" in a space whose authority is manifested aribitrarily or illegitimately. In a sense, OWS is existential, because its resistance comes in the form of being. If there is a demand coming out of OWS, it's a cry for that age old philosophical leap of faith, the acknowledgement of the self-outside-of-the-self; the other. Since we can never occupy another person's consciousness, we can never truly know them. We can never truly be clear of their motives or their feelings. We have to trust them, despite all the horrible shit they've enacted upon their own species. We have to trust others, as King and Christ did up until the moment they were killed. We have to contrast the human animal to property, propriety, ideology, and territory. If we don't want future generations to continue growing up in fear of dying alone, we need to stop pretending that we're alone. We're all occcupying everything together. We're already here. The rest is illusion.

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