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Fascifists like Tina Dupuy from Crooks&Liars (and others immersed in the careerist, “liberal establishment”) have been falling over themselves to denounce, defame, and perhaps worst of all - propagate rumors and plain untruths - about the defensive tactics used by our comrades in Oakland to protect themselves from the militarized assault they endured on “Move In” Day. These tactics (e.g. protective shields, hiding behind corrugated metal barriers, throwing canisters back (and, yes, sometimes other objects at heavily protected riot police) were deployed in response to the continued, exhaustively-documented and violent attacks deployed by the same thuggish brute squad that felled Scott Olsen. Remember, this is a department so devoid of legitimacy as a peacekeeping organization that they are likely to be place in Federal receivership.
This shit is not happening in a historical fucking vacuum. Let Oakland be Oakland. And if #OO calls for mutual aid next time they try to provide social services their city either can’t or won’t provide, let’s hope the aid the liberals provide won’t be in the form of liberal-talking-head handwringing…
Of course, none of that matters to fascifists. This is a PR war, they remind us. All that matters is how the movement plays out on their televisions and livestreams. Not the struggle - that’s secondary - we have to sublimate everything else, even our own bodily defense, to the so called “media narrative” this movement has never once had control over.
After all, don’t we have to appeal to the mythical “99%” to generate change? No? Oh, then we should just use the tried and true “fear” tactic of neoliberals to control this movement, amirite?
It doesn’t seem to bother these privileged liberal elites that “anarchists,” “black bloc,” and “violence” are not interchangeable terms, nor is the definition of “violence” in social movements completely theirs to dictate from their comfortable positions in center-left media circles. Furthermore, this debate is not new - and it’s absurd to think it will be resolved by Occupy at all. Which is precisely why “autonomy,” “horizontalism,” and “diversity of tactics” are so crucial to its survival.
So, if you haven’t heard, current disaffected-yet-still-staunchly-liberal superhero and retired Sprockets dancer Chris Hedges decided to add his own dehumanizing, lie-riddled rant to the mix. Tina Dupuy had already tried to force her liberal hogwash on others, and not a single fuck was given that day.
The do-nothings had to go for bigger, rhetorical guns:
Chris Hedges: The Cancer in Occupy - Chris Hedges’ Columns - Truthdig http://bit.ly/xkVxDJ
Fortunately, occupiers actually on the ground in Oakland had already been discussing this topic before Hedges deigned to come down from his high horse and completely dehumanize anyone who wears black clothing at a protest:
What Lies Beneath the “Violence” Discourse | Hyphenated-Republic http://bit.ly/yWMetC
But it didn’t matter to Hedges, who gave up any notion of journalistic integrity for his own sense of moral superiority and the commitment to the “catastrophe of public self-deception” long ago. He didn’t read, study, or contact anyone on the ground in Oakland before he launched his assault. Instead, he “did listen to several hours of Anarchy Radio before [he] wrote this.” We’re all so thankful for your prodigious effort, sir!
But yeah, white dude, blame the victim - how fucking novel! Those protesters shouldn’t have dressed so provocatively (there actually wasn’t even a “black bloc” on Move-In Day - oh fucking well) if they didn’t want to incur police state violence. Hedges basically says, “they got what they deserved, and it besmirches his movement”:
Letters and Politics - February 8, 2012 at 10:00am | KPFA 94.1 FM Berkeley: Listener Sponsored Free Speech Radio http://bit.ly/w04oll
Thankfully, the internet has a long memory. And the hive mind can be a beautiful thing - especially when it witnesses frauds being frauds. Hedges is one such fraud.
For example, Hedges recently wrote about Greece:
Chris Hedges: The Greeks Get It - Chris Hedges’ Columns - Truthdig http://bit.ly/wGw1xN
Now, in an interview published today, Hedges says he wasn’t commenting on the tactics employed in Greece. And he goes into some pretty amazing acrobatics to dismiss what he actually did say:
The article and the column lauded the Greeks for responding. It was not an article about tactics. You use the word “insinuate.” That’s correct. You would have to insinuate that I supported rioting, but I don’t know how you can in the long history of everything that I’ve written.
Sorry, Hedges. You said, quite explicitly: “They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot.”
Excise the standardized, progressive platitudes about pensions and jobs from that sentence and what you’re left with is:
“They know what to do… call a general strike. Riot.” Oakland has only done one of those. And it’s not the one Hedges explicitly lauded as “what to do” when you get “screwed.”
When one of our comrades at OLAASM discovered this - we tried to explain what it seemed Hedges was up to ourselves:
OLA AntiSocial Media - COLONIZER: A Postcolonial reading of Chris Hedges http://bit.ly/xhjVnk
But there are so many others in the world who have their own unique take on what Hedges’ article means, why it should be denounced, and even why it could promote the very violence it assumedly intended to pacify. Here they are:
A topiary out of a hedge? We think so.
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The sudden volte-face of famed Liberal destroyer Chris Hedges in his recent demonization of the Black Bloc, sinisterly entitled ‘The Cancer of Occupy’, is a wonderful introduction for North American activists to the field of Postcolonial Theory. Edward Said’s seminal text ‘Orientalism’ examines how Western study of ‘The Orient’ contributes to the functioning of colonial power. Representations of ‘The Orient’ in Western texts purporting to offer knowledge and insight into ‘other’ countries, actually perpetuate the dichotomy between the West and ‘Others’ - in so doing, reaffirming the colonial relationship, even long after postcolonialism has apparently been established following the decolonizing process. The role of former colonizer is adopted in the discourse by the white, educated Chris Hedges, who writes glowingly of Greece’s response to their economic crisis in an article from May 2010:
Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.
The Greeks, here, take the liminal role of “other”. In Hedges’ terms, they mimic his intellectual, activist ideals, without ever becoming equal to him. They are the student: he the master, echoing Thomas Babington Macaulay’s ‘Minutes on Indian Education’ printed in 1835, which set out an agenda to train ‘natives’ who were ‘Indian in blood and colour’ to become ‘English in taste, in opinions, in morals, in intellect’. These mimics would constitute a class who could protect British interests and help them in exerting rule over the empire. They would emulate, but never initiate or fully embody the ruling class values, in so doing ensuring their subjection and reliance on the colonizer. Hedges exhorts his ideal Occupiers to do the same, to denounce Diversity of Tactics, and to hurl their anarchist and Black Bloc comrades beneath the bus, by handing them over to the police. Hedges quotes indignant former eco-terrorist Derrick Jensen struggling with the radical aversion to resorting to the representatives of militaristic rule, to deal with internal problems: “When I called the police after I received death threats, I became to Black Bloc anarchists ‘a pig lover.’”
This indignity alone, it seems, is enough to fuel Jensen and Hedge’s disturbing anti-anarchist rant.
Frantz Fanon writes in ‘Black Skin, White Masks’, that:
… it is not the colonialist self or the colonized other, but the disturbing difference in between that constitutes the figure of colonial otherness - the white man’s artifice inscribed on the black man’s body.
Fanon’s works examine the psychological affects of colonialism upon people of color in a predominantly white world. His work remains salient, particularly in the context of the Western desire to appropriate, claim and ‘orientalize’ the revolutionary activities in ‘other’ countries, in order to inscribe their name upon the successful results. Egypt under Mubharak is characterized as bad and anti-American, anti-democratic, inhumane…. Egypt revolting in order to embrace democracy is appropriated, through Western discourse, as a prodigal student of Western ideals. This can be seen clearly in Hedges’ ‘white man’s artifice’ - the approbation he gives to his students, the Greeks. “Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out”, Hedges’ exhorts Greece gloatingly. Compare this to his contradictory attitude to the “cancerous” anarchists of the Black Bloc, who, it seems, follow similar tactics to those Hedges admires in Greece - though the Black Bloc of Oakland have not yet come near to the violence and chaos of Greece. Despite this, Oakland’s Black Bloc has provoked the ire of a Master who finds himself discarded and bypassed - overtaken, unwanted, and left to struggle in their wake. Hedges does not recognize the autonomous discourse the Oakland Black Bloc utilize - or perhaps he feels slighted that they abandoned the “accepted” discourse, and appropriated another, before he, the patriarchal father, gave permission. The Oakland Black Bloc is not subject to Hedges, the colonizer, does not, therefore, have “the white man’s artifice inscribed on the black man’s body”, and so is rejected and penalized by Hedges:
Random acts of violence, looting and vandalism are justified, in the jargon of the movement, as components of “feral” or “spontaneous insurrection.” These acts, the movement argues, can never be organized. Organization, in the thinking of the movement, implies hierarchy, which must always be opposed. There can be no restraints on “feral” or “spontaneous” acts of insurrection. Whoever gets hurt gets hurt. Whatever gets destroyed gets destroyed.
There is a word for this—“criminal.”
Greece: the underdogs of Europe, the European ‘other’, are allowed - even encouraged - to riot. Violence, looting and vandalism are approved when it is to cast out the Colonizer’s enemy, which could, perhaps, result in the strengthening of a new colonialist discourse, the ‘other’s’ continuing subjection to a new colonizer - that which Hedges represents. Fanon notes that “The effect consciously sought by colonialism was to drive into the natives’ heads the idea that if the settlers were to leave, they would at once fall back into barbarism, degradation and bestiality”.
We see this at play in Hedge’s dark fear-mongering of the consequences of diversity of tactics in Oakland and the “Black Bloc”:
…the Occupy movement, through its steadfast refusal to respond to police provocation, resonated across the country. Losing this moral authority, this ability to show through nonviolent protest the corruption and decadence of the corporate state, would be crippling to the movement. It would reduce us to the moral degradation of our oppressors. And that is what our oppressors want.
Yet these are the same tactics - less violent, less widespread - that Hedges applauded in Greece.
Hedges is not alone in reproducing paradoxical colonialist discourse when talking of ‘other’ countries. Frequently, self-proclaimed ‘nonviolent’ participants in the Occupy movement talk in adoring terms of those in Tahrir Square and Syria, invoking the misty-eyed myth that their struggles with state oppression and police brutality in America, are somehow comparable to their comrades’ battles in the Middle East. Again, Said’s ‘Orientalism’ is worth invoking with the central tenet that knowledge is never innocent. Knowledge is always profoundly connected with the operations of power. Holding up Gandhi and Dr Martin Luther King as fuzzy and politically correct (because brown) proponents of nonviolence, Western nonviolent pacifists conveniently slide over the white lauding of both Gandhi and MLK precisely because both these figures failed to threaten the hegemony of the ruling classes by participating in the colonialist discourse in the language of the colonizer. Both Gandhi and MLK were, in a sense, “different” in blood and color, but “western” in taste, in opinions, in morals, in intellect, and in perpetuating the moral and ethical superiority of the nonviolence both individuals had appropriated from the western discourse itself. Gandhi’s notion of nonviolence was forged as a hybrid between Emerson, Thoreau, Tolstoy and ‘Ram Rajya’. King’s was formed predominantly by Gandhi’s influence, and a trip to postcolonial India in 1957.
The translation which occurs in Western colonial discourse mythologizes these Middle-Eastern struggles as somehow equal to North American struggles, and yet different to them. Such myths either promote the idea that the Egyptian revolution has been ‘nonviolent’ and ‘non-violent’, or that the violence on the side of the oppressed in, for example, Tahrir Square, is accepted and acceptable, without acknowledging or explaining the contradiction that it is never acceptable in North America. This promotes and sustains the idea that those in Western countries are, again, the same but different. They are different because they are better. North Americans and Europeans cannot expect revolutionaries in foreign lands to adhere to the same moral and ethical superiority as themselves, the true practitioners of nonviolence and pacifism. The Egyptian revolutionaries protesting in Tahrir Square get a free pass to throw stones because they are ‘less than’ North American protestors, and it sustains North American superiority to characterize our struggle in the West as a struggle which takes place on a higher moral and ethical plain. Despite the fact police brutality is a common and everyday occurrence for many Americans, particularly those living in poverty and homelessness, middle-class educated Occupiers such as Hedges decry the notion of violence as daily routine, because it occurs mainly to uneducated, socially, economically and racially ‘inferior’ sections of the American population. Revolutions on American soil must therefore adhere to a puritanical notion of nonviolence that brings the terminology under the Hegemonic control of those privileged few such as Hedges, who manipulate the discourse to give themselves the advantage, and discredit those who are ‘other’:
This is exactly what pacifists have done in phrasing the disagreement as violence vs. nonviolence. Critics of nonviolence typically use this dichotomy, with which most of us fundamentally disagree, and push to expand the boundaries of nonviolence so that tactics we support, such as property destruction, may be supported within a nonviolent framework, indicating how disempowered and delegitimized we are. - Peter Gelderloos
This emphasis on creating clear, defined dichotomies in order to “delegitimize” thinkers is another tool favored by the colonizer to oppress. The conflation between violence and diversity of tactics is thus another method of controlling and subjugating difference through language. The colonizer creates “the other” in order to define themselves by the perceived deficiency. Hedges’ draws the Black Bloc as the “other”, using colonizing language to create a fantastical, faceless bogeyman against which he can define himself and the “good” members of the Occupy movement, not these fakers, these hooligans, these “Black” bloc anarchists. The binary opposition of black/white bad/good is never explicitly stated, but played upon through Hedge’s powerful, derogatory language. Language is power. In deliberately misappropriating the tactical term ‘black bloc’ as an adjective, and in some cases even a noun, Hedges, perhaps intentionally, creates a mythical, frightening, all-powerful and wholly evil enemy… which does not actually exist:
The Black Bloc movement bears the rigidity and dogmatism of all absolutism sects. Its adherents alone possess the truth. They alone understand. They alone arrogate the right, because they are enlightened and we are not, to dismiss and ignore competing points of view as infantile and irrelevant. They hear only their own voices. They heed only their own thoughts. They believe only their own clichés. And this makes them not only deeply intolerant but stupid.
The struggle for the power to name oneself is enacted within words - to remove that power of naming is a specifically colonial, patriarchal act. No matter to Hedges that the diversity of tactics advocated by the anarchists he quotes and praises in the article on Greece, pushes not towards the replacement of hegemonic nonviolence with an “absolutist sect”, but rather towards a coalition of thought and action which represents the broadest spectrum of thinking and action by which to challenge the structures of oppression. To Hedges, preaching the exclusion of these faceless ‘black bloc’ individuals (which he later clarifies, somewhat disparagingly, given their impressive build up, as “a handful of hooligans”) there is no apparent contradiction. All who approve of violence in Egypt / Greece / Syria by the revolting masses, cannot ever hope to introduce it into their actions in North America. To do so is tantamount to a revolution - against the white, educated face of Hedges and his reformist sect. In a patriarchal twist of breathtaking hypocrisy, Hedges justifies his bigotry by claiming to be speaking “for” segments of the Oakland activist population who apparently cannot speak for themselves, presumably, in Hedges’ eyes, because of their race:
These anarchists represent no one but themselves. Those in Oakland, although most are white and many are not from the city, arrogantly dismiss Oakland’s African-American leaders, who, along with other local community organizers, should be determining the forms of resistance.
The contradictions of colonialism lie in its attempt to “civilize” its “other” - in this case, the Black Bloc anarchists - and simultaneously to fix them into perpetual otherness. We see this clearly in the apparent acceptable face of Diversity of Tactics in Syria, Greece and Egypt - but it’s abhorrence in North America and Europe.
In the process of decolonization, intellectuals and activists in the immediate political fall out of the deconstruction of empire, must still fight with its continuing legacy. In order to succeed in successfully destroying the dominant definitions of race, class, language and culture, they must offer an alternative to the old colonialist discourse, a new form which establishes itself as a formidable, powerful and distinct identity. This is what Oakland’s Black Bloc, the anarchists and the radicals of the Occupy movement are doing. The fact that they face resistance from the colonizer, represented by the white, educated face of Hedges, is only evidence that they are succeeding in challenging the old hegemonic ways of thinking. In the meantime, they leave Chris Hedges and his ilk struggling with the internal contradictions faced by their role as former colonizer, striving vainly to justify and sustain their old methods of control in the face of tumultuous revolution.
Like Sisyphus, we must imagine them happy.
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OLA has always been different from the other, similar sized Occupy movements across the world. Unlike OWS, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Portland or Occupy the London Stock Exchange, OLA is passive, reactive and defensive — where they are non-violent, pro-active and aggressive. These occupations took parks. They placed their bodies in a public space, and demanded to be heard simply by their very presence. They took what was theirs: public space - simply because it was the only way they could make their grievances with this bankrupt, deaf, unrepresentative system be known. OLA, in contrast, asked the City Council’s permission for that first Pershing Square march. They notified them if it was OK to put tents up on City Hall lawn. They dutifully decamped every evening at 10pm (well, most of them), and moved their tents to the sidewalk in recognition of, and adherence to, bizarre and unfair laws designed to accommodate the homeless population in LA who have been forced out of Skid Row by the gentrification of downtown Los Angeles and the Safer Cities Initiative. OLA cheered when City Council passed a resolution, and Eric Garcetti told them: “Stay as long as you need. We’re here to support you”. The “leaders” of OLA whimpered when Occupiers refused to move their tents to accommodate the Farmers - what a terrible PR move! - and the OLA Media Team went into apologetic overdrive to appease both the council and the Farmers, failing to recognize that the Occupiers had a right to stay in their encampment, and were being used as political pawns to besmirch the very act of free speech.
Whereas other Occupy movements have been strident, bold, aggressive, confrontational, active and always nonviolent in their practice of civil disobedience, OLA immediately established itself as a reformist movement which was willing to work within the established corrupt hierarchies of power that OWS opposed. OLA was, from day one, unwilling to embrace the radical potential which other Occupy movements had set as their agenda. Barring the underwhelming N17 action, which was the only vague indication that those who had seized power within this supposedly leaderless movement had any inkling of what ‘civil disobedience’ entailed, OLA remained, by and large, a dysfunctional amorphous mass recreating external hierarchies within the internal structures of the camp.
Within the movement, the seeds of radicalism were present within the impoverished, the dispossessed, the homeless and those of us who had seen what OWS had seen: that working within a corrupted system was ultimately futile, that disrupting the system was the only way to change it. But these seeds of ‘radicalism’ - as the LA reformists like to label those who advocate working outside the system - the seeds which had flowered into a global movement, failed to ever take hold in OLA while it existed as an encampment, mainly because of the strong, paternalistic, obstructive attitude of those controlling OLA through their stronghold on committees, and the secretive liaisons made “on their behalf” with corrupt authorities such as the police and City Council. These liaisons were initiated by a group of individuals led by the controversial and unpopular Mario Brito, a career Trade Unionist, who epitomizes the failings of the impotent Liberal Center / Left. Mario’s desire to be “a leader”, despite the repeated requests to the contrary of the people of OLA movement, aptly demonstrate the Reformist-Liberal tendency towards paternalism: the “we know what’s best” attitude. The “You may not like it, but it’s good for you”, response of the current political system, which directly contravenes the fundamental ideal of the Occupy movement as outlined in The Principles of Solidarity: direct, transparent, participatory democracy. A movement where every voice is heard, acknowledged and involved in collective decision making. Nowhere was this seen more clearly than when Occupy LA found out, by a chance slip in an email on the listserve, that the City Liaisons committee, led by Mario Brito, Jim Lafferty, Marty Berg and Scott Schuster, had negotiated a deal with the City in exchange for relinquishing the City Hall encampment. The reaction of the movement was to roundly reject such ‘bribery’ - clearly indicating that the people of OLA want to work outside the system, and value civil disobedience as an effective method for enacting change. Using civil disobedience to negotiate for personal, material gain was - and still is - anathema to the movement, and yet the Reformist Liberals could not understand this.
The day after the N30 raid, a group of 500 occupiers marched from Pershing Square back to City Hall, now surrounded by large concrete barriers and a ten foot chain link fence. Finding the gate open, some occupiers poured in to reclaim public space in a symbolic act of defiance. Many had been radicalized by their first encounter with a police state. The oppression of the authorities, the mistreatment they had suffered from the LAPD during the raid, the unlawful arrests made, the hypocrisy of a council and Mayor that had at first welcomed them, then tried to bribe them away from public space and assist in turning them into a feeble Democratic party offshoot, a foundation controlled non-profit, that worked limply within the broken system - this was all too apparent to many who had previously welcome the cautious Reformist approach. As these newly-radicalized Occupiers pushed open the gates, which were not locked, several unknown strangers slammed these same gates back on their bodies, slashing open one woman’s hand and physically hurting them, in their efforts to oppose this act of spontaneous civil disobedience.
This coercive and violent resistance to Occupiers attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights, is not only eerily similar to the LAPD’s systems of oppression, but is symbolic of the mental coercion of the LA Liberals attempting to impede OLA’s progress as a movement attempting to work outside a broken system. Occupy movements across the world have reiterated that they work outside the system, in recognition that to work within it, would be to validate the corruption inherent in that system - to be complicit with it. As Boots Riley points out, “None of the major progressive changes that have come about in the last 100 years have come due to electing the right person into office.” The New Deal, the Civil Rights Act, Labor Laws, the weekend, the eight hour work day, Affirmative Action - these all came about because of strikes, civil unrest, shutdowns, civil disobedience, physical battles between the people and authorities, targeted militant actions. Working outside the system exerted unbearable pressure on politicians who had to cave and acknowledge the words of the people, words spoken through direct action. Votes are simply not enough.
When people ask: “Why do Occupiers oppose Liberals?” consider the acts of those working against Occupy LA, alongside the fundamental lack of impact Reformist Liberals, as a political party and a political ideology, have had on this country and this world. The right wing are too lunatic for us to waste our time on: fueled by righteous hatred and betrayal, they have been led astray by the Republican party into a frenzy of indiscriminate righteousness which is, in part, completely understandable. They have been betrayed by this country, by its leaders, and by worldwide political and economic systems which reinforce the corruption. Sadly, their ire has been misdirected away from the perpetrators, and manipulated into a mobilizing force for the Republican Party. One need only look at the very real, valid and sympathetic grievances of the Tea Party movement before it became co-opted by the Republicans to see this at play.
Liberals are an altogether more complex breed. Usually educated and able to comprehend and process complex arguments, they are predominantly concerned with losing what they possess. Reformist Liberals hence cling onto established systems of power, usually because those systems have afforded them a degree of respect or recognition: privilege. As Chris Hedges so aptly phrases it: “The liberal class wants to inhabit a political center to remain morally and politically disengaged…. If the liberal class concedes that power has been wrested from us it will be forced, if it wants to act, to build movements outside the political system. This would require the liberal class to demand acts of resistance, including civil disobedience, to attempt to salvage what is left of our anemic democratic state. But this type of political activity, as costly as it is difficult, is too unpalatable to a bankrupt liberal establishment that has sold its soul to corporate interests.”
Liberals advocate moderation and ‘niceness’ in all things, and avoid heated discussions, instead preferring to censor debates, with the excuse that they don’t want to offend. One need only look at the recent hysterical furor whipped up by the Reformist Liberal arm of OLA regarding a proposal to rewrite the Statement of Nonviolence, to see this in action within our very movement. The initial Statement of Nonviolence was written by a minority. There is confusion over whether it was consented upon at a General Assembly, as no records currently exist of this proposal. It simply appeared one day, and was amended and rewritten numerous times, without GA approval, by this same minority. When the people of OLA raised objections to the wording of a proposal they had not authored, these objections were classified as the work of a “dangerous political faction” (the wording is taken from an email authored by Scott Schuster) who advocated mass destruction and antisocial, violent behavior. The recipients of the email were urged to attend General Assembly, not to participate in discussion and to try and build consensus, but to “hard block” a proposal they had not even heard. The questions posed by the people - How can we be against property destruction, when we have engaged in it at both OLA and as a worldwide movement? How can we equate property destruction with the much greater crime of violence against humans? - were deliberately misinterpreted in order to suppress debate which might counter the intentions of the Reformist Liberals who have controlled the LA movement for so long.
What are the intentions of the Liberals? It is to capitalize on the Occupy movement in order to perpetuate their own privilege without sacrificing their ego-driven ethical codes, in the same manner as they have capitalized upon the commodification of “organic”, “eco” and “green”, of yoga, of spirituality, of third world countries — bleeding from the continued oppression, control and destruction of their political and economic structures by the West. The Liberals want to commodify Occupy with coffee cups (made in America), t-shirts (hemp), bumper stickers (recycled) and a Public Relations float in a family Rose Parade (sponsored by Wells Fargo) organized by a political party candidate with Union funding, who, again, does not work within the General Assembly. Liberals want to turn Occupy into another organization like moveon.org - an organization which they will lead, this time with a salary, title and 401k to compensate them for the tireless hours they put in to save the world. The Liberals want, merely, recognition of their martyrdom. They scoff at any idea they might be privileged. As Joan Didion writes in her most recent memoir, Blue Nights: “Privilege” is a judgment. “Privilege” is an opinion. “Privilege” is an accusation. “Privilege” remains an area to which - when I consider what came later - I will not easily cop.
The Liberal will not easily cop to the idea of privilege. Privilege: the unearned social power that comes along with skin color, nationality, access to education, family wealth, charisma, testosterone, healthcare, facial features, the body you genetically inherit. The Liberal “will not easily cop” to the fact that all these, and more, are in any way a deciding factor in who has a voice in this world, who is singled out for arrest and oppression, who gets an easier ride. Natural human suffering: heartbreak, loneliness, death, disease, financial loss - this is all evidence, to the Liberal, that man is equal, and if they are not, inherent inequality is evidence of an individual’s deficiency, and why they must be spoken for. Privilege is the motivating factor behind the Liberal desire for control of the Occupy movement. Fear is why they favor a moderate approach which is ultimately futile. To quote Chris Hedges again: “Wall Street’s looting of the Treasury, the curtailing of our civil liberties, the millions of fraudulent foreclosures, the long-term unemployment, the bankruptcies from medical bills, the endless wars in the Middle East and the amassing of trillions in debt that can never be repaid are pushing us toward a Hobbesian world of internal collapse. Being nice and moderate will not help.”
The Liberal class is a class based on fear: fear of what will happen should everyone really have a voice, fear of what might occur should they relinquish their leadership role, their position of privilege, their megaphone to the world. Fear of what they might be required to do, should they concede that the moderation they advocate has achieved nothing, and instead only aided the building of the imperialist monopoly of the Capitalist world state.
In Occupy LA, we are besieged by liberals who think the 99% means white and middle class. They want to concentrate on agendas which affect this class directly - corporate personhood, NDAA, tax, Federal Reserve, foreclosures, healthcare. The movement as a whole wants to work on these issues - but not exclusively, to the detriment of those who are worst off in our society, and have been for a far longer time than the middle classes who are only now starting to feel the same pinch that the poorest of our society have suffered for decades. Some Liberals want to go further, attaching the Occupy movement to a political candidate and / or party, failing to recognize that, as Obama has aptly demonstrated, issues are merely platforms for that party’s own insidious agenda: winning an election, being bought out by corporations. Once that election has been won, support is no longer needed. The Occupy movement would be discarded and ignored, having garnered support for yet another politician to renege upon his campaign promises, as Obama has done continually.
The Radicals fear is that once these predominantly middle-class issues are addressed, the issues affecting the poor, the homeless, the addicted, the alcoholic, the uninsured, the diseased, the African-American, the Hispanic - they will continue unchecked in a Capitalist society. The Liberal is still unconsciously set in the Milton Friedman / Reagonomics ‘trickle down’ mindset: once the middle classes are fed and prosperous, the poor will follow by default. Poverty and homelessness is thus a disease of the undeserving, in the Liberal’s mind. A Liberal hates to look at their own privilege - unearned social power, such as the color of one’s skin - because they hate the idea that everything they have in life, they did not earn through merit. They hate the idea that life can be more unfair to certain groups of people, than to themselves. They close down debates on issues like racism and property damage and the difference between pacifism and nonviolence, because they fear opinions that are different to their own. They fear disturbance, controversy and even simple discussion. This is apparent from continual attempts made at Los Angeles’ General Assemblies to have adult, rational discussions about contentious topics which are very real threats - such as cooptation, or adopting the same diversity of tactics advocated by the Black Panthers and the Civil Rights movement.
The Liberals have a paternalistic idea that they know best, and they must lead, because allowing others to self govern, or listening to suppressed voices and dissent, will give rise to chaos. The Liberals loathe the idea of autonomous action: that actions can occur without a General Assembly’s, or their own, sanction. Spontaneity terrifies them. On New Year’s Eve, the surprise taking of Zuccotti Park inspired the Radicals in OLA to arrange a solidarity march at midnight. The Liberals spent that evening tweeting their followers, warning them that this “was not a GA-approved action”, deterring people from joining in. ‘We do not advocate property destruction’ hit the Twitterverse before a single crazy Radical got within a mile of Solidarity Park’s fence: a fence which had been erected around public property after the eviction of OLA in order to keep Occupiers out. The Radicals had their solidarity march that evening: they took police tape and tied it outside police headquarters. Hardly subversive, nor violent, tactics.
With their iron grip on certain key elements of the OLA movement: the twitter feed, the website, Union contacts - the Liberal Reformists refuse to engage with the masses aside from remotely, and yet insist that they are able to represent voices they do not listen to nor engage with. Knowing that everything they do is with a motive to control or gain personal, material benefits (a recent OLA tweet was ‘I need a 4G mobile hotspot. Please email me money for donations’) they think everyone in the movement is like them, and thus regard them with suspicion. They hate the the Radicals, because they advocate leaderlessness without suggesting that natural leaders do not emerge. They do, but those leaders use their earned and unearned social power responsibly, to empower others who will then take their place, because the system is such that dependence on one person is abhorred and decried.
The Liberals could be radical, if they weren’t so afraid. One wonders how many more batons, tear gassing and rubber bullets will it take before they realize the futility of their agenda. Sadly, the Reformist Liberals of OLA shy away from the civil disobedience of the other Occupy movements, and ensure their commodified, digestible actions never put them at any real risk - and nor do they put them in any real position to effect change. Meanwhile, the Liberals continue to embrace fear and perpetuate it, in much the same way as Bush’s Post 9/11 America did - because fear, and the construction of an imaginary bogeyman, justifies the exertion of power and oppression.