Friday, November 25, 2011

The Occupation of America

You Have To Change The Name Of This Protest For It To Make Any Sense

For those of you unaware of the Imperialist connotations which the name of your movement implies and which purportedly run counter to any of the philosophies you seem to hold, read this and this and this. Read "Open Letter to an Occupy Wall Street Activist".

I suggest you consider UnOccupy America, Decolonize America, Decorporatize America, something other than let's make this situation worse by calling it Occupy Anything.

Occupy Everything. That. Sounds. Awful. Perhaps it was the goal to imply through "Occupy Wall Street" that the goal of the movement was to destablize and un-occupy the heart of Corporate Empire. Then please change your name to UnOccupy, for this is not at all what your movement brings to mind. You have tents, you have encampments, you have slogans of occupation, and you're getting pissy about having to leave parks that are not yours. You're doing this wrong.

Colonization, occupation, domination, and eradication of cultural diversity are what come to mind for many who have been Occupied by occupiers for a long, horrible time. Occupying territory that isn't yours with encampments, and tents, and a misguided sense of reifying colonial domination.

It makes me crazy. Stop it right now. Please take your well-intentioned hearts and your anger and your spirit and rethink what you are doing please and more wisely channel your energy in a better way.

Now no one loves a good camp out more than yours truly, gentle reader. I mean I really love it. If I could live in a tent in the forest and fall asleep under the stars,oh boy that'd be it I tell ya, especially if I felt it was for a cause. But this is not it.

Occupy Wall Street. Occupy it. The street. And then what?

Its all about the encampments (a disarming phrase bandied about in the rhetoric of the media). What does camping out symbolize? Energy? Unity? Passion? Community? I get the sense that people feel that it does, in fact, symbolize those things. To them. Not to others. Clearly, to others it symbolizes civil unrest, sanitation hazards, and dirty hippies.

To me its a problem of rhetoric. Rhetoric is important. Message is important. Action is service. What service does the actions and rhetoric of the encampment provide? Depends on who you ask, I suppose.

"Occupy" anything sounds like a bad idea to me, as surely we have learned about Imperial policies, and for a movement purporting to counter those type of philosophies the name should not reinforce those policies. America already has a reputation, well-deserved, as The Occupier. I can't imagine Britons enjoy this phrase do they or have they learned their lessons? What does the term "occupy" imply, connote, other than domination?

When an argument reaches the point where someone brings out the Nazis, the argument is over. The argument is no longer. The argument, like Monty Python's dead bird, has ceased to be. Because that is the point in the argument in which rhetorical dialogue has become gutless competition. You can't "argue" for or against the Nazis for pete's sake and anyone who wants to is probably best left alone in a dark room for awhile. Why do I mention the Nazis then? The Nazis liked to occupy things and I'm not being facetious. "Occupy" is what horrific empires do. I don't see a peaceful movement about creating a more egalitarian society being shaped by a phrase that calls to mind the occupation of Poland and other territories as a means to wipe Jews off the face of the planet after first committing unspeakable acts against them and their sympathizers. As the teens might say, SLOGAN FAIL.

"Occupy" is also the sign on the restroom in airplanes. This toilet is "occupied."

Again, while people might think that in fact America has gone down the crapper and corporate greed has brought us there, many soldiers died for our "America" and our American right to protest, and the rest of us are law abiding hard working citizens that cherish our freedoms, our country, each other. So I think the least that we can do with movements trying to bring us all together and improve our lot, is to not name the movement with a phrase that brings to mind both the stench of airplanes and Nazi Germany.

Similarly, one might, I suppose, disregard our history of occupying lands of the Native Americans as well as our allegiance with Western Imperialism in support of other Empires, and our own occupation of Baghdad. One might, I suppose, envision a peaceful demonstration occupying the palace of the king until he hears our demands and gives us justice.

But there is no palace, and no king, and we have no demands, and we haven't explained what we want, and there will be therefore, no justice.

Or are we occupying the occupiers? Camping on the lawns of the rich and powerful? No not really. Just some parks and two major universities.

It is ironic, I think, that such an Imperialist-laden phrase is being used by people to describe the philosophy and goals of their cause celebre, their passion, their frustration, all bottled up in the phrase "occupy", and yet these people are also being called dirty hippies. If someone would wear a shirt that said "Occupy Wall Street. We Were Being Ironic" I would be delighted because that would make more sense, although it would still mean put the tents away.

And do I detect a slight mixture of both hurt feelings and point of pride in those being labeled "dirty hippy"? Hurt feelings because in all probability the people themselves are neither dirty nor hippies, although some are, but not the ones who would care. Point of pride because they think it means they're finally getting somewhere, really getting under the skin of "the other guy." But that's not true, "the other guy" was always pissed off (probably for similar reasons to the dirty hippy, both having been touched by a struggling economy) and always going to not want you to come over for dinner. What I'm really wondering is if there isn't just a teensy bit of pride in being called a hippy because of the nostalgic longing to be a part of an energetic and idealistic community of the 1960s style protests of, well, hippies. Being called on identifies them with that movement, which might but what they were hoping for all along. Deep down. (More later on how the ineffective form of the protests also signify an impotent longing and nostalgia for that same period). Its like when you really want someone to know something about you but you don't want to say, and then they go and notice it and you're just blushing inside... I am a dirty hippy yes thank you! Thank you for noticing! But I'm really mad, grrr...

As a rhetorical phrase, "occupy" is as vague as the movement itself. Occupy Wall Street? Why? To what end? For how long? What will that do? Why aren't we concerned that the corporations are occupying other countries in order to make cheap goods with cheap labor and avoid higher taxation? Corporations aren't "occupying" America and we aren't occupying them. Business isn't being stopped and nobody really understands what is wanted. Furthermore, isOccupy Wall Street metaphorical or literal? I'm wondering because if its literal, does it matter that many of the corporations it has targeted at aren't on Wall Street at all. If it is literal then how do protests against Wall Street relate to "occupy" towns and cities across America? If it is metaphorical, what is it metaphorical about and will metaphors make changes?

Why isn't the slogan "Unite America" or "Free America" or "Energize America" or "Save the Middle Class" or "Let's Bring Awareness"? Occupy America goes against the best of the American spirit as a rhetorical device.

What I suspect is that people are angry and are delighting in this new found "I'm a protestor" identity. "I'm sticking it to the man" they think. And god help me if they were I'd support them. But they really aren't.

The pepper spray incident at UC Davis, baton jabbing at UC Berkeley, and other police incidents in Seattle, Boston, etc. ... sucked. Flat out. Horrible. Shameful. Hard to understand. Sickening. And it is a serious problem that the first response was to militarize the police in riot gear against STUDENTS for crying out loud.

But nothing changed or will change other than potentially some police policy on how to deal with protestors. That's the result of the protests? Well that sucks too.

It is ineffective.

In general, the police are mostly on the side of the protestors, as they too are working class citizens being overworked and underpaid. And the overpaid Chancellor and Board of Trustees, nothing's affecting them. And why should it? No one (on a large scale in the media and nationwide) is paying attention to the issue of school tuition. They can't. There is a serious economic problem in the California university system and it isn't a problem that's going to be solved with tents.

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