On “occupy” and strategy

November 14th, 2011 | Category: Uncategorized

Since far too many people have been asking what I think of “occupy”, here’s some of what I put on my (private) facebook:

At what point do the 99% finally realize we are not the occupiers, but the occupied?

I was asked to clarify, this is a rough first impression of what I wrote in response:

Primarily, what I meant is that the 99% are “occupied” in their own homes (if they are fortunate enough to still have such) and in their own land/country by many of those who are quite clearly a miniscule minority, yet firmly retaining control and day to day power.

Rather than viewing this as a matter of going into the public square and viewing that act as going onto the oppressor’s turf, a more realistic assessment is to understand how the oppressor has already invaded and more often than not been invited into our own spaces.

De-colonizing what little turf the 99% stands upon and withdrawing support for those structures that we all end up supporting in our day to day lives is one starting place to begin to starve the occupiers of their own supply lines. Divestment and reappropriating what resources we have from those out to damage us, towards those who stand with us (such as moving from corporate banks towards local credit unions) is of many possible such examples.

To quote Abbie Hoffman, “The ground you’re standing on is liberated territory. Defend it.

Our opponents have long understood how moving resources out of the hands of those those oppose into their own supply chains works to their advantage.

The ‘good guys’ meanwhile, do precious little in their day to day consumer decision making to attempt to short circuit that process, and more often than not, try to take resources out of other ‘good guys’ rather than trying to extract resources out of our opponents to build our supply chains.

No, it’s not always possible, but whenever possible, rather than extracting resources from our own community we need to be focused on extracting resources out of our opponents.

As for “occupy” at my core, of course I agree with the motivations, but tactically, I feel it’s often focused upon false notions that those external to it have empathy that can be relied upon to force change and an (all too often christian) notion of personal martyrdom/collective suffering as a means by which it attempts to move its targets.

Any notion akin to Offspring’s sarcastic:

“The more you suffer
The more it shows you really care
Right? Yeah yeah yeah”

is rooted in ideals of empathy within those external to the movement, which sadly, at this point is becomes more an article of “faith” that such still exists.

It also relies upon particular re-tellings of history and social change, such as the idea that images of protesters being hosed or attacked by dogs in the civil rights movement caused fundamental shifts in the external cultures’ perceptions of the movement (again, perhaps falsely rooted in empathy.)

Some of us who have spent years studying social change movements, don’t necessarily agree that this mythos and those images are what led to actual change.

At it’s core, the object for many of us is not to make “the good guys” endure and exhibit personal sacrifice, but rather to make the oppressor genuinely feel consequence for their actions.

While there are many things “occupy” has accomplished (And yes, there are many quibbles some of us have with everything from process to tactics) the real question remains, to what extent has it forced the oppressors to actually in day to day life feel and endure its effects?

I.E. has “occupy” hit ‘em where they live hard enough to force them to change their behavior?

As many have noted, power (and territory) is never willingly ceded by oppressors, such must be wrested from their grip.


As I said weeks ago, you wanna occupy something in winter, go occupy their country clubs, enjoy their fireplaces while sipping on their stashes of good scotch.

A friend noted that banks paid attention as consumers moved their money to credit unions. I replied:

Naturally, they’re paying attention, it finally hit them somewhere that mattered to their bottom line.

The point is to “make them feel it” everything else is internal organizing and educating within one’s own movement and spaces.

The point at which it begins to actually matter is when it moves beyond the group development into actually making the beast notice that its tail just got bit- then go for the leg.

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