Don’t Let Them Unify Us!

I will try to be brief and clear:
With the J28 battle of Oakland fresh in people’s minds, the PR battle is in full swing. Many are worried of the “radical fringe group” that threatens the “whole movement” with scaring away support and giving protesters a bad image. The media loves to frame a conflict and divide people into easy to comprehend camps: hence, peaceful/violent. This debate will not go away despite the injustice of centering the hugely ambiguous conceptual distinction on protesters instead of the state – which is the obvious perpetrator here. The conversation-controlling media won’t stop typecasting protesters as violent until they pose no threat to the established order. Since a vast majority opposes this order, we need to silence the voice of the corporate reporter/anchor and cease the biased demand to be a strictly peaceful protest while riot cops control and easily disperse us.
Though an “occupy movement” is freely spoken of, it need not be a united, whole movement. It can split and diverge without one attacking the other, one can choose actions to participate in without recourse, mass strikes can occur one day with a small band of marchers chanting ”fuck the police!” another. There is no whole movement to be put at risk of failure; the gravest danger comes from playing into the 1%’s hand by becoming a unified, peaceful (and therefore exclusionary) movement posing no challenge to those authorities in cahoots with big corporations. In short: co-option of the name/tactic ’occupy’.
As to the question of violence: peace is something all desire, at least amongst friends, but a forced adherence to the abstract principle of non-violence generates conformity: pacifism. Rooting out the vandals or the ones willing to resist police oppression in the name of “peace” is actually a more violent act than breaking windows. It would be doing the police’s job for them, and it would fulfill the wishes of corporate, divide-and-conquer news reporters. It would keep police enforcement of the interests of the 1% out of the spotlight and maintain the status quo.
Occupying is a tactic. That a movement has been built on such a brilliantly simple idea epitomizes the urgency of the multiple struggles faced across the world. Taking back public space with physical bodies utilizing virtual technologies from elite private corporations (manipulating politicians) inflicting debt-peonage: why must this be a united front with a guiding principle of non-violence? The totalized nature of capitalism today has made conventional confrontations impossible; the diversity of struggles and beliefs roughly getting along at occupy camps and events is the beginnings of a critical community. Multiple resistances are connecting together in communication, for alone none could stand against the behemoth staring at us. This is a divided revolution (as I argued here) that will only be conquered or rendered impotent if one faction tries to become the whole. We have the momentum and the resilience to survive; conversation, angry dialogue, impassioned debate can and must continue without silencing the other.
We should all be open to critique and convince each other about tactical effectiveness. But this is all to often done in the name of saving the movement as a whole from bad PR. The terrible journalism constantly attacking occupiers and siding with authorities must be countered and anticipated; but picking sides in their terms and standing against or in conflict with others due to tactical differences will take pressure off the real enemy. They want us to defeat each other: we must see this as an coordinated attack by dominant oppressive leaders. Occupy Oakland has done a terrific job of letting disagreements continue, and keep victories & defeats out of arguments. In short, respect diversity of tactics, constructive criticism, and tough love.
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4 thoughts on “Don’t Let Them Unify Us!

  1. I like what you’re doing here Bill. Your life experience is feeding your critical thinking and writing. It illuminates the shortcoming of writing, though, because with something like changing society, it takes a lot of conversations; a lot of inefficient noise to move the heart to change. And that’s what Occupy seems to be calling for – a collective change of heart (adjusting some policies would be a nice by-product).

    • Yeah, a lot of conversation is going on and it is messy, but there is a space for it. The right conversations take place here for the big problems of our era, and that space is under attack. I want to defend that space.

  2. Rooting out the vandals or the ones willing to resist police oppression in the name of “peace” is actually a more violent act than breaking windows.

    I don’t know. If rooting out means making vandalism politically unacceptable, I am all for that. I do believe in peer pressure rather than force myself. Crack, tobacco and alcohol usage in the Black community has gone way down since respected members began condemning it. We should be able to do the same thing with our misbehavior.

    • Peer pressure is one thing (they can respond no argue on their own behalf), force is another. One can condemn all they want, just don’t let the policeman in our heads take over. I’m a little concerned about “politically unacceptable” – when threat and physical force enter amongst each other we’ve lost. And the I’m sure the Black community/ crack issue is far more complicated than a simple condemnation by respected members. A can of worms not for me though.

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