By DB Scott – @occcavalry
My support for Occupy Wall Street and, more specifically Occupy Oakland runs deep. I am a card carrying Occupist, through and through. Over the years, I’ve quite vocally let people know my thoughts on what seemed like the slow death of ideals and principals of what, I thought, America is all about. Unfortunately, my heart bleeds and somewhere along the way, I lost faith. In recent years, I’ve gone so far as adopting the mantra, “This is not the country I grew up in.”
Seriously considering expatriation, I was told by a friend, “If you hate it so much, do something to change it.” This is surprisingly different than the usual American response of, “If you don’t like it, get the hell out.”
Change it. Unfortunately these words seemed impossible, particularly after our long stretch with Bush Jr., two wars we should have ended years ago, and the American nightmare: The Patriot Act. (Recently made to look like a parking ticket next to The National Defense Authorization Act.) This country had become mean, frightening and indifferent and my response was to withdraw from “the grid” and refuse to be a part of the game. Then came Occupy Wall Street. At first it seemed like a few like-minded people clawing at the floor as we’re dragged one final time into a world of militarized conformity and corpo-feudal serfdom. All in the name of National Security. “For our own good.” Again, this didn’t seem like the country I grew up in. Maybe I feel safer against “terrorists”, I don’t know. I’ve never actually had one foreclose on my house, deny me health care or take away my habeas corpus rights while they continue to become exorbitantly wealthy by stealing my tax dollars and avoiding prosecution.
But I digress. 911 scared us all into doing what we were told to do at the expense of the very rights we were defending from “them”. I fully expected Occupy Wall Street, like most actual meaningful issues in America, to fade away and disappear in an ocean of sales at Walmart and Kardashian boredom. But it didn’t. It grew and gained support like nothing I’ve ever witnessed. It let me know that there are Americans, and World Citizens, that are listening, sharing, thinking, questioning, educating and DOING SOMETHING about the very problems I’d been lamenting over most of my life. It wasn’t a campaign slogan that restored my faith in change and justice, it was “We The People.” A LOT of people. Occupy began to spread at incredible speed, popping up in every major—and dozens of smaller cities—around the world. To date, the movement has been joined by 951 cities in 82 countries. That’s a lot of unemployed, unclear, dirty, drum circles. By January of 2012, Occupy groups had organized no fewer than two major General Strikes, shut down The Port of Oakland twice, prevented multiple foreclosures, facilitated mass migration of an estimated 650,000 people from major banks to credit unions, and forever changed national dialog. The list continues.
This all seems idyllic except for one minor detail. Generally when you push someone, eventually, they push back. And when the ones pushing back are wealthy beyond imagination and have nearly every politician on the payroll thus effectively controlling national resources, law enforcement and, in a not-a-stretch theory—the military—you get pushed hard. 6,846 arrests, bogus charges, tear gas, rubber bullets, projectile bean bags, batons, media misinformation and misrepresentation, and property destruction on an overwhelmingly non-violent population. What are “they” afraid of? As far as I can figure out, the fear is that “we” are on to them and to “them”, the threat of knowledge among the masses is a far greater threat than any commandeered jet liner or I.E.D. The threat is not property damage, loss of life or some Sharia take-over of our Homeland. Pure and simple—this being a capitalist society—it’s money. To pretend the motives of Capitalists are freedom and democracy is laughable. By it’s very nature, Capitalism capitalizes on whatever it can. It’s designed to make money at any cost. The conservative move towards less regulation is a clear indication of this. They don’t care about YOU, they care about how to make more money OFF YOU.
All of this and a lot more, has me fighting for the success of this movement. You and I have a vested interest in its success, unless you make a few million a year. I want this movement to work. But how?
“Diversity of tactics” is a phrase being used particularly here in Oakland that refers to an “other than non-violent” response (or is it reaction?) to issues being faced by Occupy. My knowledge as to the reasoning behind it is limited, so please feel free to correct me if I’m off. “Smashy smashy” is the term used for, you guessed it, smashing things generally associated with the focus of one’s disdain with the intent to “get things fired up”. The spark, so to speak, that ignites the flames of change. After all, it’s easier to burn a house down and build a new one than it is to remake a half burnt house. Problem is, this appears to scare the shit out of Joe Public and he then supports further repression of the movement. Support and understanding gets lost. Like I said, my understanding of the tactic is limited but if I’m having a hard time with it, then I can almost guarantee, the vast majority of people out there are too. It is, at least on some level, harming the cause. That’s a fact.
Non-violent resistance. According to Wiki, it is: “The practice of achieving goals through symbolic protests, civil disobedience, economic or political noncooperation, and other methods, without using violence.” It’s the stuff of our moms and dads. Gandhi’s struggle, Vietnam war protests, civil rights protests. All examples of non-violent civil disobedience. All examples of it working. However, in recent years, mere protest hasn’t been enough. During the start of the Iraq war, it seemed the entire world marched in protest. Never had the world seen those numbers come together in protest for a common cause. It seemed “they” would have no choice but to rethink their actions and stop the invasion. It didn’t happen. Marches become less frequent and visible support dwindled to nothing. Just marching with signs, though it serves to unite and shows a very tangible example of support base, isn’t enough anymore. Even civil disobedience has waned. I’ve personally taken hits and sampled the fine bouquet of CS in the refusal to disperse from “unlawful assemblies” and though it did expose a very different view of law enforcement to the public, its sting has quickly numbed. Let a kid watch enough slasher movies and after a while seeing someone have a pair of scissors implanted in their gut becomes old news.
Which brings me to the third part of non-violent resistance. Economic and political non-cooperation. Capitalism feeds on money. No money, no capital. No capital, no Capitalism. So far, our efforts in this area have proven fruitful. Banks have been hit through monetary migration from big banks to credit unions, port shut downs have cost corporations millions, boycotts and education efforts as to who’s doing what with our money has changed national conversation and the bill for police overtime has our “leaders” sweating. Money. Its misuse, its vicious pursuit and the massive imbalance of its distribution is what this movement is focused on. Hit them where it hurts most. The wallet. Unfortunately even tactics within this strategy have become derailed. My personal take on move-ins is that a great deal of energy and resources are being concentrated on something that will never happen for more than a day or two. While it feels phenomenal each time a building is liberated, my second thought is, “I’ll give it a day, tops.” This isn’t defeatist, it’s just reality. Unless permission is given by the owners of the building, we will be evicted, arrested, and defeated. It’s an ongoing battle that, I’m afraid, can’t be won.
So what’s the answer here? If the question is to concentrate efforts on what works and what will help the movement flourish, the answer seems simple. Organize on a wider scale to hit them where it hurts and where it scares them the most: MONEY, public awareness and greater numbers. Taking buildings isn’t hurting them. Smashing windows isn’t hurting them. Just marching isn’t hurting them.
May 1st we have another opportunity to do this. To spread awareness, to educate, to bolster numbers, and to hit them where it hurts most…their bottom line. Be there and do something. Or as a wise friend used to tell me; “You don’t have to do everything, just do something.”