Enigmatic Zeitgeist: A reflection on the Occupy Movement

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I feel we’re not that different you and I, at least I hope not.

We’re both here, so there must be something that unites us.

And even if it is difficult to pinpoint what precisely brought us here, perhaps that’s only an indication of just how grave the situation truly is. A uniting force we can’t yet properly define is braiding together diverse yet inter-related interests into a solid bond. And yet, all I can see for the moment are individual fibres, weak, limp, useless by themselves.

I’ve been reflecting. Haven’t come up with much – nothing but an endless series of questions whose answers elude me.

I’m writing this having spent several days in mock isolation watching countless videos of police brutality. We’ve all seen the videos I’m referring to. The incident at UC Davis, crackdowns in Syria, Tahrir Square – it’s all starting to look alike.

I’ve spent parts of the last few days engaged in an endless argument with an individual purporting to be a representative of the interests of the Occupy Movement. I’m perturbed not only by the images of police brutality, but also the lackadaisical and highly individualistic responses of people caught in the melee.

The individual with whom I’ve been arguing was advocating that the Occupy Movement must remain a peaceful one (which of course cannot be debated) and was cautioning readers against pursuing anything but complete non-violent protest. But does this mean we can’t take measures to defend ourselves against brutality? And what do the many egregious cases of police brutality say about the Occupy Movement in the first place?

Time and time again (and this has subsequently been reinforced through leaked NYPD internal memos and the fact that the Department of Homeland Security orchestrated a nation-wide simultaneous crackdown in the US) I see so-called law enforcement working together, presenting a solid and united front, acting as a team. They are trained to do so. Perhaps you may feel they do so blindly, and certainly, for all those speaking out against those lambasting all police for the actions of a few, I can understand the desire not to paint the aggressor with a wide brush. But on the flip-side, it is also clear the police are not using the same restraint exhibited by the demonstrators. They are the source of aggression, they are clearly to blame for all instances of violence.

Despite this, the police are getting away with it. Why? Because, as far as their portrayal in the Mainstream Media is concerned, the police look like they’re working together. The same cannot be said about demonstrators, who more often than not appear either to be willing to submit to brutality or, when confronted with brutality, work independently and achieve nothing. How do you think this translates through the media’s biased lens?

I’m not advocating to use of violence to achieve political goals. However, we can defend each other non-violently. Every time I see an abusive cop grab a helpless protestor, I wonder why all the other protestors don’t pull that person back, don’t put themselves between the victim and the cop. We have the mass, we have the advantage in numbers, we have all the reason in the world to demonstrate and protest – we are in the right, our world has been fucked by the elites who rule over us.

The very tenets of our democracy are threatened, perhaps more now than ever in the history of Canada or the United States, and similarly, like no time in our past, the foundation of our progressive society is being hacked-away at by the apparently representative governments of our nations. Yet despite the motivation behind the movement, in no way is the movement coming across as a united front that will not rest until change has been affected.

As long as we operate like individuals our cause is hopeless. True solidarity can only be created when individual men and women decide to shed their individualism for the sake of society. Solidarity occurs when you are willing to put yourself in between naked aggression and your fellow man, to defend a stranger as though they were your brother or sister.

When this happens, the media will show something very different to the viewing public – they will show the progressive microcosm, standing together to prevent the destruction of our society. Then, and only then, when we conduct ourselves as brothers and sisters united in a struggle, will we be able to effectively communicate our wants and desires. Until then, the protestors will be subject to abuse and near-total misrepresentation by media.

Perhaps it is time to back off and re-group. The problems we’re dealing with are not going to disappear between now and the spring, but we need to face an unfortunate climatic and geographic reality. For whatever reason, political and economic power in the US and Canada is concentrated in areas subject to the adverse temperatures of winter, and we can’t sustain large-scale occupations without building proper shelters, not to mention using stoves, which are in turn considered a fire hazard.

Moreover, there is additional problem that the Occupy sites have attracted drug addicts and homeless in nearly every major city. The Occupy Movement is in no position to deal with this reality, and the homeless and drug-addled have more a right to protest their condition and the failures of society than someone sporting the latest in high-tech camping gear.

Communications has been spotty and, again, lacks unity (both internally and between cities). The media can prey on stoned protestors for sound bytes inasmuch as the police can prey on unsuspecting victims to serve as a release valve for pent-up First World frustrations. Our lack of organization is no benefit to our cause, though I can understand the appeal of wanting to completely stand against the grain. The point is, if we wish to demonstrate effectively, we need organization, because societies are voluntarily organized out of solidarity.

Final point. Consider this; in the States, next year is a federal election year. If the Occupy Movement were to stand-down (disappear from the media’s radar completely) and spend the next few months organizing, we could return in the spring with larger numbers, more effective protest, and perhaps even play a role in determining not only the outcome in said election, but perhaps even steer the conversation and shape the dialogue from the outset.

The GOP has spent thirty years pushing the centreline of American politics off into the netherworld of populist, theocratic and fundamentally dishonest conservatism – it’s time for the pendulum to swing back to reality. Now, in my humble and honest opinion, is the ideal time to plan, to organize and to ensure, moving forward, we will be listened to and abuse against the people will stop.

The Spring of 2011 belonged to our Arab brothers and sisters, the Spring of 2012 could belong to us.

* Montreal photo Chris Zacchia, NYC photo Kamee Abrahimian, UC Davis photo pjlighthouse.com

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