Occupy turns one year old

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture
Occupy turns one year old

Rebecca Solnit: Occupy Your Victories

Occupy is now a year old.  A year is an almost ridiculous measure of time for much of what matters: at one year old, Georgia O’Keeffe was not a great painter, and Bessie Smith wasn’t much of a singer. One year into the Civil Rights Movement, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was still in progress, catalyzed by the unknown secretary of the local NAACP chapter and a preacher from Atlanta -- by, that is, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Occupy, our bouncing baby, was born with such struggle and joy a year ago, and here we are, 12 long months later.

Occupy didn’t seem remarkable on September 17, 2011, and not a lot of people were looking at it when it was mostly young people heading for Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. But its most remarkable aspect turned out to be its staying power: it didn’t declare victory or defeat and go home. It decided it was home and settled in for two catalytic months.

Tents and general assemblies and the acts, tools, and ideas of Occupy exploded across the nation and the western world from Alaska to New Zealand, and some parts of the eastern world -- Occupy Hong Kong was going strong until last week. For a while, it was easy to see that this baby was something big, but then most, though not all, of the urban encampments were busted, and the movement became something subtler. But don’t let them tell you it went away.

The most startling question anyone asked me last year was, “What is Occupy’s 10-year plan?”

Who takes the long view? Americans have a tendency to think of activism like a slot machine, and if it doesn’t come up three jailed bankers or three clear victories fast, you’ve wasted your quarters. And yet hardly any activists ever define what victory would really look like, so who knows if we’ll ever get there?

Sometimes we do get three clear victories, but because it took a while or because no one was sure what victory consisted of, hardly anyone realizes a celebration is in order, or sometimes even notices. We get more victories than anyone imagines, but they are usually indirect, incomplete, slow to arrive, and situations where our influence can be assumed but not proven -- and yet each of them is worth counting. 

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Activist Communique: This is not an Occupy eulogy

This is not a one year Occupy anniversary piece.

This is not a reflective obituary of a short-lived movement as if I were writing about a young life tragically cut short. 

This is not a eulogy.  

Nor is this some cliché French statement: "Occupy is dead! Long live Occupy!"

It's complicated…

I know it's a struggle for some people to give up the idea that Occupy would always be around at St. James Park, the Vancouver Art Gallery or Zucotti Park.

I know some people believed that when Occupy began, that spirit would stay trapped in time, trapped in that park or in that city, forever; as if we humans could control a movement by sheer will and our fear of nostalgic guilt.

Occupy-as-encampment existed in historical and culturally specific time and place in September 2011 for the U.S. and October 2011 for Canadians.

And desperately clinging to that moment in time is like keeping it on life support and refusing to let it go -- to allow it to evolve naturally by the careful hands of time and experience.

I'm ok with that. I can let it go.


I think one problem with Occupy is that it takes people out of their milieux instead of occupying their milieux. That makes eviction easier, besides anything else.



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