from #occupy to #fortify: changing seasons

by Molly C

‘What do we want to build in the rubble of this failed system.’  That’s the conversation, not ‘what are the demands’… (Naomi Klein)

As we approach the second month of the occupation, there’s lots of talk of what happens next—a spectrum from weather-proofing encampments to reclaiming foreclosed homes.  In between, there are many emerging strategies of multiplying, moving, and decentralizing sites.  These questions about the where the occupation is (and is going), also reveal a lot about when the occupation is happening (and what it’s future could be).

When questions: If we de-link the occupation from particular central sites, do we also de-link it from particular events and activities?  What if the occupation is not confined to one location but expresses an ethic of building community and being together?  What if it does not describe an event but an ongoing project?  We know it involves democratic demands for justice; so does it fundamentally refigure ‘democracy’?  Who cares if it’s an election year, when our commitment to political community is ongoing?  Would it matter which politician is elected, if no matter who he is, he will be held accountable constantly?  How would everyday life change?  Not in our relation to things (consumer habits to which I might preach adherence) but in our relation to each other (ongoing habits of paying attention and taking care)?  Can we understand the “power of the people” not just in chains of events (of defeats and victories) but as collective sustainable energy (our bodies, friends, and environment)?

The movement will change with the seasons; that fact is both mundane and transformational.  During the Arab Spring, there was an awakening from hibernation, a rebirth of life forces within the people.  This Wall Street Fall, there has been a global conversation on reclaiming political debate, public space, and shared earth for the 99%, from the planetary death-drive of the corporate profit machine.  So what do we do in the winter?  As new climate extremes beat us down?  As the movement is worked through tough processes of antagonism and deflection?  As we learn new skills and build new relationships?  As we absorb victories and defeats?  And critically: when they tell us the movement is over?

The occupy moment is filled with spontaneous impulses, but there is nothing spontaneous about it [cf. structure of the conjuncture].  Conditions for such a mass movement have been ripening for a long time (which means all the cumulative and systemic problems on the table).  It also means remembering the series of events in the months preceding; my memory pulls together the Tar Sands action, the hunger strikes at Pelican Bay, the Spanish indignados, the London riots.  I also remember Cornell West defending his critiques of Barack Obama, discovering a home(page) at Democracynow.org, and Rupert Murdoch getting busted for hacking phones.

All (all!) was part of this moment as it was building up.  So what do we do next?

KEEP BUILDING!  We make and remake, make and remake!  We continue contributing, sharing, talking, critiquing—building relationships.  But we also start building our communities in other ways that will sustain us.  Let’s take back libraries and invest in solar energy!  Let’s pitch in at community gardens and host potlucks!  Let’s circulate community news and get behind community leaders!  I don’t mean to propose a green-granola-rainbow-unicorn utopia.  Utopia means elsewhere.  I’m talking about everyday practices here and now, the slow building and accumulation necessary to create the infrastructure, landscape, and ecology in which the people have the power, and that power is sustained and sustains us.

We take back that power from mainstream news media, mainstream politicians, big oil, big pharma, big agriculture, big money and finance, we take back that power every time and every instance we need them just a little bit less.  It’s as big and slow as the world history that got us to this moment; it’s as immediate and tangible as the everyday, the every moment.

Welcome winter and the hard times coming.

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