Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

None Dare Call It Concern Trolling

with 5 comments

Erik Loomis has almost exactly the same reaction as me to news that the encampment Zuccotti Park has been cleared (and apparently permanently):

The clear strategy in response for OWS is to keep reestablishing the tent towns, forcing the cities to continue responding, burning money and political capital to do so, potentially creating situations of police brutality. But this also begs another question–is this movement becoming more about occupying space than a progressive upheaval? I think the lack of concrete goals really plagues the movement here–because they aren’t asking for any specific, at what point do they leave? Because there has to be some kind of end point to this. No city is going to allow this to continue for 2 or 3 years. Nor should they.

The worst case scenario here is that Occupy Wall Street ends up being the 2011 version of Mexico City’s UNAM protests in 1999-2000. These protests started in response to the creation of tuition at the nation’s most prestigious university. While it was only intended to apply to those who could afford it, it threatened to limit the poor’s access to higher education. It also tapped into general discontent over the neoliberal reforms overturning the gains of the Mexican Revolution. The government backed down on the tuition, but then a large group of protestors stuck around as part of a movement not dissimilar to OWS–anger at globalization, economic inequality, and rapid changes in Mexico that were hurting the poor. They didn’t have any concrete goals at this point either other than to spark political upheaval in the name of change. And while noble enough, the protestors also quickly wore out the patience of the Mexican middle class, not to mention the government. When the military finally dispersed the encampment after 10 months, not a lot of Mexicans were too sad to see it go.

The encampment needs to be a strategy, not an end in itself.

On Twitter, too, I see I’m not alone in this even among the occupiers.

RT @elliottjustin: Hearing *relief* from a few occupiers that the park was cleared. Is a potential PR win+was becoming distraction #ows

#Occupy speaks to a ton of crucially important issues (here’s just one!) and retains the potential to spark a long-term, wide-ranging progressive revival. Reducing this movement to a series of quixotic fights with police over the right to sleep outdoors in winter is almost the worst possible issue for #Occupy to decide to unite around. There are other ways to Occupy; it’s time to move on, time to grow.

Written by gerrycanavan

November 15, 2011 at 6:33 pm

5 Responses

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  1. There are other ways to Occupy; it’s time to move on, time to grow.

    The problem is finding them: we’ve had an ineffective left for decades in this country, and the occupy tactic seemed successful in a way nothing else has. I’m concerned that if/when it goes, there is nothing to replace it and we’ll be left each with our solitary, hopeless rage.

    Stephen Frug

    November 15, 2011 at 8:37 pm

  2. and the only solution i’ve been able to see, practical occupations (unused or abandoned buildings), seem to bring even greater repression. it’s a real bind.


    November 15, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    • That’s true — though at least in the case of practical occupations fighting with the cops is productive in challenging the notion that a property should remain disused in the face of people who want to use it simply because a bank can’t make enough on rent. Challenging the unquestioned/unquestionable supremacy of property rights seems important to me in a way that fighting to sleep outside doesn’t, precisely because if successful it would be an meaningful change in how capitalism works going forward.

      The encampments, in contrast, are by necessity temporary; nobody (not even the occupiers) really believe they’re going to be doing this forever. So fighting with the cops for the right to do it a little longer doesn’t make sense.


      November 15, 2011 at 11:38 pm

      • But you’re definitely right that the potential for violence is much greater with building occupations.


        November 16, 2011 at 12:16 am

  3. though as with any action, the risk of violence decreases the more people are involved…hopefully this will be one direction calls for a retributive strike on bloomberg & nyc take


    November 16, 2011 at 2:16 am

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