History is longer than your bourgeois conception of it and its movement.
(slightly revised and edited at 0750)
Convenience. That’s what I’m reading about in articles published in mainstream and alternative journals and blogs about the Occupy movement(s). The general consensus is that the movement should be more diverse, more focused, more active. I recently read an author chiding the participants of Occupy Wall Street to pay attention to history. The author titled her blog, “Keeping it Real”. No shit. We have a new social movement and it’s hope is for organic and radical transformation of capitalist culture—in other words, vague, optimistic, idealistic, unfocused—and an article in the alternative media admonishes the activists to keep it real. It can’t possibly get more white, middle class and patriarchal than that. Well, on the same site, a blog bragging about “being there” when the Occupation began was published. We already have a cred check going on.
“Pay attention to history” is not what the authors actually mean. The authors mean “Hurry up, already, we want change now.” We want demands. We want action. We want it now: each stupid things for a writer to insist for a movement as an observer. After all, showing up and participating would preclude the need to write about the movement from a disctance and as an observer. And then there would be no need to make claims about reality, history, credibility.
I suggest the hipsters step back and realize that they’ll be old by the time anything useful happens. We’re not talking armed insurrection here. Americans will not experience Greece or Egypt or Syria. Know what I mean? We’re talking old-fashioned civil disobedience inspiring slow and determined transformation of public discourse about how we live our lives and about how our government should function. That’s the Occupy movement. It’s an insistence that we talk about how to implement reform. We simply don’t know. We do know we should and are finally acting on it.
I’m an anti-capitalist, so readers will know how I feel about a movement to reform capitalism. But that doesn’t mean I can’t participate and it doesn’t mean that I should dismiss the social action because I want the system it seeks to reform to fall apart. If we were paying attention to history, we’d be ready for a multi-generational effort to radically transform the way we legislate and think about social welfare, shared goods, labor, and the exchange of economic goods and services.
But the stupid writing on Occupy, implementing a consumer’s construction of history and social movements straight out of a conservative civic’s textbook, is already bored with the movements. Fact is, the Occupy protests will dwindle as the weather grows cold and cops begin making mass arrests. At some point, we’re going to see the Occupy movement become something coordinated and more traditionally political. We’ll see a lot of action next year during the election season and the movement will struggle to keep the party’s from coopting it. If it outlasts the election, a year from now, we’ll be able to see what we have. As the movement learns to organize beyond its occupied parks and plazas, it will be able to distribute its grievances and demands in a more efficient manner to more people, but it will not look like it did last week. As the occupiers struggle to reach consensus about movement, it’s ridiculous for writers to insist movement has already occurred.
Nothing wrong with asking people what reforms they seek. To insist a movement develop, organize, educate, distribute, and reform society in three months is unfair and unreasonable. The last successful populist movement in the US worth looking at would be from the late 19th Century. It’s grievances and demands took decades to materialize as useful reforms. If we look at a more recent and smaller, less successful though infamous, populist movement, we could examine socially conservative populism. It’s been most active since the 70s, with roots in the late 50s, and didn’t find political strength until the late 80s and didn’t see real attempts at radical reform until the Contract with America in 1994. That failed. They’re still working at reform, and now they have a GOP who has attempted hundreds of times within the last several years to institute radical reforms.
We need to consider how democracy works: slowly and according to consensus. Without the mortgage crisis and the incredibly unstable economy, let’s admit it, this new movement with its opportunity for the birth of an economic justice movement would not have occurred. The bourgeois media—this includes alternative writers implementing traditional media—needs to lay off the occupiers and do its job, report the news of the events that occur within the movement. The media needs to stop insisting the movements produce results.