Sifting through far too many ideas, opinions, tactics, and traditions of thought than I can possibly handle, I can’t help but notice a weird parallel between my mind and the occupied encampments wherever they happen to be. All these various groups and voices vying for attention, shouting so loud and debating each other, are never turned away but none can get to the top. Thanks to a rejection of leaders and speaking for others, there is no top or bottom in this place – only side to side and a surface to spread out on. The only thing to do with all this energy is expand. Have we/I spread out too thin? And to counter that concern: must we/I hang together at all?
The rage against capitalism’s latest crisis is growing as large as the global “free” market’s hold, but we only have so much space inside these camps/my mind. If I/we are going to survive without being torn apart and becoming just another chink in the 1%’s armor, then we/I had better keep pushing new tactics, ideas and art – as well as defending our occupations against raids while setting up new ones. Our creativity sets each of us out on different paths like media, kitchen, facilitation, etc. but a state of mind keeps us together – thinking territorially.
The significance of the phrase “occupy your mind” for me is immense: “you do not possess your mind, you must now occupy it.” These thought patterns you have grown so comfortable with and the experiences you have collected are not your own – unless together they are occupied. To occupy something that is already possessed is to question ownership; a mind cannot be occupied without the actor undergoing a transformation in the process. A radical self-reflection is required here, the current hobbies, the daily routines, the characters you play are not owned by you; take it over, occupy and re-occupy your mind.
To occupy something people believe they already have possession of is to question that belief. This goes not just for your and my mind, but the physical ground on which we stand. Who could own public space but the general public? Private ownership has crept into our culture to such an extent that people are prevented from providing basic human needs in a common ground. Sharing food and shelter in these spaces, as we’ve seen, is met with hostility from the officials supposedly serving and representing the people. The contentiousness of these skirmishes between protesters and police for public space attests to the ambiguity of who actually owns this space. Even the whole idea of ownership is questioned in these radically new, untamed spaces: could property itself be an illusion of our minds?
This is a dangerous idea from the position of those with political power in a capitalist system. With the historic amounts of cash tied up in lobbying “our” politicians (since, you know, corporations are people too), to challenge the very concept of owning physical space by occupying it without pay was always going to be met with unilateral repression. Holding a space with the value of passionate physical bodies instead of the quantified value of money cuts off the ever-shrinking elite’s method for maintaining their vice-grip. We got the edge on bodies, they have the edge on resources; occupying territory plays to our strength, but with the power of money (and obedient minions) they can meet us on this proving ground.
Reclaiming public space is a tactic that threatens those who depend on the value of their money by subverting their power to direct our activity into wage labor. A radical questioning of who owns your mind can lead to an opening for a new way of living that resists restricting norms, and builds friendships in a new community. Once you’ve spent a few nights under threat of police raids and faced the line of stormtroopers that want to kick your ass, relationships build up quickly. The question posed by philosophers and activists “what do we do?” suddenly takes on a more urgent meaning. “Can we defend this space?” “How do we stay together?” “What will keep this movement moving?” These questions become a matter of tactics in context.
An occupied mind keeps both mass injustice and survival at the forefront together; we’ve seen the change we want to enact in the world and we’re trying to hold on to it.