Dennis Loo

Sometimes asking for the impossible is the only realistic path

Dennis Loo

Dennis Loo
Location
Los Angeles, California,
Birthday
December 31
Title
Professor of Sociology
Company
Cal Poly Pomona
Bio
Author of Globalization and the Demolition of Society; Co-Editor/Author of Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, World Can't Wait Steering Committee Member, co-author of "Crimes Are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them" statement, dog and fruit tree lover. Published poet. Winner of the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award, Project Censored Award and the Nation Magazine's Most Valuable Campaign Award. Punahou and Harvard Honor Graduate. Ph.D. in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz. An archive of close to 500 postings of mine can be found at my blogspot blog, Dennis Loo, link below. I publish regularly at dennisloo.com, worldcantwait.net (link below) and also at OpEd News and sometimes at Counterpunch.

NOVEMBER 15, 2011 7:30PM

Occupy Wall Street: You Cannot Evict An Idea

Rate: 7 Flag

So it has come to this: concerted and no doubt co-ordinated multi-city and multi-state police violence to evict/arrest/discard/manhandle the Occupy movement in numerous cities over the last immediate period, including the flagship of them all, Occupy Wall Street. 

cant-evict-an-idea 

They think that they can end this movement that has spread so rapidly and widely nationally and internationally by using their weapons of armed might when their weapons of public opinion have failed to do it.

They are going to find out otherwise. From their perspective, the occupy movement is like weeds that they have just mowed down.

But like weeds, this movement has roots and they cannot pull it up by the roots because the soil from which this movement has sprung will continue to generate new shoots and spread further. The reasons for this popular protest and these quasi-liberated zones continue to hold true, only even more so now as the state shows its real colors and true priorities. It's amusing to hear Bloomberg, Quan, and others decry violence and violations of the law when they are part of the apparatus that has made the world know how lawlessness, corruption, and violence is their specialty. Steal trillions... get bonuses and more rewards. Pitch a tent... go to jail you criminal! 

From occupywallst.org/article/call-occupy/:

To occupy is to embody the spirit of liberation that we wish to manifest in our society. It is to exercise our freedom to assemble. We are creating space for community, values, ideas, and a level of meaningful dialogue that is absent in the present discourse.

Liberated space is breaking free of isolation, breaking down the walls that literally and figuratively separate us from one another. It is a new focus on community, trust, love and hope. We occupy to create a vision of equality, liberty and social justice onto the blank paving stones of public parks, in the silent hallways of abandoned schools, banks, and beyond. Public space plays a crucial role in this civic process and encourages open, transparent organizing in our movement. As we have seen in Liberty Square, outdoor space invites people to listen, speak, share, learn, and act.

Last night, billionaire Michael Bloomberg sent a massive police force to evict members of the public from Liberty Square—home of Occupy Wall Street for the past two months. People who were part of a dynamic civic process were beaten and pepper-sprayed, their personal property destroyed.

Supporters of this rapidly growing movement were mobilized in the middle of the night, making phone calls, taking the streets en masse, and planning next steps. Americans and people around the world are appalled at Bloomberg's treatment of people who peacefully assemble. We are appalled, but not deterred. Liberty Square was dispersed, but its spirit not defeated. Today we are stronger than we were yesterday. Tomorrow we will be stronger still. We are breaking free of the fear that constricts and confines us. We occupy to liberate.

We move forward in the grand tradition of the transformative social movements that have defined American history. We stand on the shoulders of those who have struggled before us, and we pick up where others have left off. We are creating a better society for us all.

Occupy Wall Street has renewed a sense of hope. It has revived a belief in community and awakened a revolutionary spirit too long silenced. Join us as we liberate space and build a movement. 9 a.m. Tuesday morning at Sixth Avenue and Canal we continue.

 

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Comments

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But what's the goal? An idea can't accomplish things if it doesn't have an operational, and operationalizable goal, or set of goals. I read your post on process, and OWS needs goals, like immigration reform, maybe financial regulations, like making the Congress abide by its own laws. Or that would be my take on things, or they run out of gas, or, I just don't see a very happy ending without more of a plan as to what the point is in terms of policy or institutional specifics.
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
--upton sinclair

"One withstands the invasion of armies; one does not withstand the invasion of ideas."
--victor hugo


occupy party reaches critical mass/seismic effect--now what?
good point. occupy means occupy. and remember, long poles work very well to pry apart riot shields....

(seriously.)
Don: the movement has a goal. It expresses this in numerous ways: in the values that it honors and implements in the organization of its activities, including the camps, in its willingness to hear out people's views, in its calls for fairness and justice and equity in their own ranks and throughout society. How is this not a goal? If you want more specific operational goals, they have put these forward - e.g., tax the rich.

As I and others have said about OWS, this is not a Tea Party movement or a movement like so many others that gets its primary identity from petitioning the existing political parties and processes. It's a fundamental (or an attempt at a fundamental) rejection of the bourgeois society. Most people in the movement wouldn't use the term bourgeois or even necessarily be familiar with the term itself, but they are very intimately familiar with what the term refers to. I say it's an attempt because there is not unanimity about all things within the movement and it's an attempt because people within it and those around it who are sympathetic to it are still searching for the best answers to resolving the intractable and deepening inequities that they all see. That's why I stressed the fact that it is about process and not product.

Having said all of that, the movement needs to become and will become more unified around a common program, but you cannot force this to happen prematurely because there is an educative process underway. It's not something you can translate into a set of demands as you and others expect because the people upon whom you would be serving those demands are not going to make more than a superficial effort to pretend to implement them. The problem goes so much deeper than trying to get the existing political and economic apparatus to behave radically differently. You don't ask a poisonous snake to become non-poisonous. You can insist to the snake, you must stop stinging people, but what good is that going to do? It's just going to sting you while you're speaking to it.
Well, it has certainly occupied the media, the internet, and the airwaves!
I must agree with Don Rich. It is all very well to state that there are a handful of minor nebulously expressed “goals” but unless there is soon an overriding “main goal” established, all those who’ve been involved in these “occupys” will become disillusioned and wander away mumbling, “jeeze, everybody had all different ideas and nobody knew how to bring them about.”
So far this movement has been all about making it fully and loudly clear that a lot of folks do not, not one little bit, like how things are going vis a vis the rich against the rest of us. But “not" wanting to go to Montreal does now automatically mean wanting to go to Toronto.
Being against the present situation does not mean agreement about what situation would be acceptable. It does not mean that there is a clear goal around which people of differing hopes and desires may rally.
Pitching a bitch is fine - as far as it goes - but it doesn’t make known what it is that people are organizing to do to change the situation or even ‘if’ they are. Heck you can’t even get people to come in out of the rain unless you can point to a dry place and say, “Let’s go there.”

What is your destination? Where will we be going? What is our purpose? What end result are we trying to achieve?

.
I think that there's a gulf that the OM reveals in people's worldviews. There are those - such as Don and Skypixie in this thread - who think that the participants' lack of agreement on a short-term or long-term goal means that a) they won't have any impact or at least any lasting impact and b) they're all going to go home discouraged at the lack of said impact or because it all isn't going anywhere.

If this is your perspective then you have to wonder why so many people have been involved for so long, many of them making the physical sacrifice of camping out and coping with the admittedly frustrating at times, contradictions of trying to run a community of very diverse people, some of whom are homeless and so on who have been drawn to the camps because this society provides them no other alternatives and because it provides a sense of community. You have to wonder why people have been so supportive and why a majority a people, including in the latest poll of NY'rs, 58%, support it.

If this movement's so problematic, then how come it's gotten so popular, so soon? How come it's blown the Tea Party out of the news? How come the government (including reportedly the DOJ and Homeland Security, which according to Obama's press flack, have been providing "logistical and tactical support" which is code for "we've been giving them guidance on how to evict these occupations) has found it necessary to show their ugly hand and use violence to oust these useless displays? Why not just let the camps continue and then peter out?

What those who are impatient about the fact that the OM hasn't acted in the ways that they are familiar with don't see is that the OM is not what you want it to be and not what you're used to. You cannot expect people who are in the process of teaching themselves about how this system actually works and why it causes so much inequity to a) all arrive at the same conclusions, and b) come to those conclusions in sooner than a few weeks. The OM reflects and embodies a counter-set of values to the neoliberal/capitalist values. If your values are radically different, then you can't reasonably be expected to adopt the same strategies and tactics. (When I say that OM embodies a set of radically different values, by the way, I'm speaking in broad terms because of course I realize that there is diversity in the ranks and some who still cling by a thread to the idea that just electing someone else to replace people like Obama will fix things. But those views are in the distinct minority within the OM and don't reflect that movement's cutting edge.

I have written previously that the OM has already won in some very important respects. It's not over, by any means, and in fact, the movement's going to grow much more now, but it does face logistical challenges that have to be overcome. The OM has changed the frame from "me first" to "99% v. 1%. Were it to go away today that accomplishment would be huge. It has opened people's eyes to the fact that this world doesn't have to be this way and helped people see that they are not alone when they feel this way, that there is a vast sea of humanity who join them in those sentiments and that they have their back.
It hasn't accomplished nothing Dennis, as I wrote a piece pointing out that the waiver on student loans was clearly about OWS being thrown a bone, and yes, one can argue about taxes on the wealthy getting more of a hearing, but, concrete programs work, like Cains 9-9-9, until it either is a bad idea or not. That's the sort of thing they need, a focal point, and, to be fair, the 1 per cent thing is clever.
Don:

The 1% is more than clever. It's an organizing tool and it's accurate. That's what this is about. It's not about a reform. It's about a revolution. It's about a whole different set of values that are mutually exclusive. The values that now govern the society are extraordinarily a) wrong, b) dangerous to the people and the environment, c) self-centered and narcissistic (IT'S All ABOUT ME!). The values of the OM are to advance values of the community, of the public interest, of empathy and concern for others including the environment, of sustainability rather than pillage and profit. These are mutually exclusive value systems. One or the other triumphs. That is why the OM isn't about trying to negotiate with the existing power structure. And if you think it is then you don't really get what it's about.

You can say that they have accomplished nothing only if you think that this movement is about reforms. (Though even that's not really true as the movement has been instrumental in changing the political atmosphere worldwide and one of the results of that so far has been the defeat of reactionary measures in Ohio and Mississippi, so there have been in fact practical results due to the OM.)

But you're talking apples and I'm talking oranges.
You can't evict an idea, because an idea can't sign a lease or own a house. You also can't evict a bug or fungus.

Let's make a list of stuff you can't evict!

It could probably pass for "political discourse."
it's enough to evict the people holding the idea. particularly since, while they are from the 99%, they are not even 1% of the 99%. put even 10% on the street and they might become the subject of conversation in government. so far, it's just a "sargent, deal with it" situation. the red army, it ain't. not even the japanese red army.
The folks in this thread who are so skeptical about the Occupy Movement should go directly to the Occupy WS website and to Yes! magazine and read about this themselves. Don't pass Go. Don't go to jail. Just go to those sites and read it directly. Then, you'll find out the answers to your questions, if your mind is open to it. Jacob, on the other hand, probably won't find anything but something else to ridicule since this seems to be his preferred modality.
More stuff you can't evict:

Acne.

Mind-waves from the CIA.

Lint.
Jacob:

Have you any idea, even the least, about the nature of social insurgencies? Do you think that your juvenile ridicule means anything to them? You might as well say: "Something else you can't evict: sexism and racism. Ha! Ha! See how smart I am?"