Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thinking About Occupy

I have been trying to work out my response to Occupy. Of course, I am in favor of it. But what else? What is my analysis?

I am irritated by people who write essays on what Occupy should be doing. Occupy is a work in progress. The people doing the actual work in the parks and on the streets should make the decisions about what to do next. I think it takes a lot of arrogance to advise them. What I want is news about Occupy, not opinions about it.

To me Occupy looks like anarchism in action: a community with distributed power, that makes decisions collectively. I like this. I got interested in anarchists recently -- before Occupy -- because they were doing interesting things: running publishing houses and poster collectives, publishing good books, printing wonderful posters, running book fairs and even one science fiction convention. They have been alive, while the rest of the left looked asleep. (Maybe there were leftists working in places I couldn't see them... Well, I could find the anarchists.)

Occupy has shown great creativity and good humor: the tents suspended by balloons over Sproul Plaza at Berkeley were wonderful. The We Are the 99% tumblr site is fabulous. The UC Davis cop pepper spraying through time and space tumblr site is also fabulous, though not entirely nice. The cop must be feeling pretty unhappy by now. He shouldn't have done it.

We can see from the police response -- a gazillion cops with shields and helmets, like Imperial storm troopers out of Star Wars -- that Occupy is getting through to the establishment. The viral stories about dirty, violent hippies and dangerous homeless people also show how freaked the bosses and politicians are.
I have not been able to track these stories to specific events, except the Vet who killed himself in the Burlington, VT camp. That is one event in a nationwide movement. I suppose he came to camp in the hopes that it would help him with terrible depression, and it didn't. This is one event. It's tragic, but depression is tragic and happens to many people in this society, especially to vets. Our society does a really bad job of helping its troubled and vulnerable members. At least the Occupiers are trying.

I talked to Patrick about the menace of homeless people at Occupy sites. Patrick says homeless people usually keep to places they know and avoid places where they may attract police attention. It does not seem likely that they would trek in large numbers down to Wall Street. I did see one homeless guy at Occupy Minnesota. But downtown Minneapolis is small. He was not far from places that help homeless people. And he looked pretty harmless to me. Like most Minnesotans, he was looking for coffee and would be fine as long as he got it.

But the viral stories are equating Occupy with homeless people. Both threaten civilized life as we know it: people working underpaid jobs and living in underwater houses, watching their steps, afraid that they will lose what little they have.

I figure Occupy is a movement I want to watch and not analyze. They are shaking up the US. All I do is write science fiction.


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