How do we explain the wave of rebellion occurring around the world since the financial crisis of 2008? In his typically brilliant recent article "Trouble in Paradise" (London Review of Books, July 18, 2013), the social theorist Slavoj Žižek notes that analysis of the demonstrations occurring around the globe face both an epistemological and an ontological dilemma. First, it is not obvious how to interpret the mobilizations. Second, and the second leads to the first, the marchers themselves are not entirely clear on what unifies them.
I can't help but compare the Occupy Wall Street protests to the movements that sprang up against corporate globalization at the end of the 1990s, most visibly at the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle. Like today's protests, those demonstrations were also marked by innovative coalitions among students, trade unions and environmentalists.
Here are the things I think today's activists are doing better than we did back then. We chose summits as our targets: the WTO, the International Monetary Fund, the G-8. Summits are transient by nature, and that made us transient too. We'd appear, grab world headlines, then disappear. After the 9/11 attacks, it was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in North America.
I was honoured to be invited to speak at Occupy Wall Street on Thursday night. Since amplification is (disgracefully) banned, and everything I said had to be repeated by hundreds of people so others could hear (a.k.a. "the human microphone"), what I actually said at Liberty Plaza had to be very short. With that in mind, here is the longer, uncut version of the speech.
I love you.
And I didn't just say that so that hundreds of you would shout "I love you" back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone. Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.
What happened in Toronto and why do we need to fundraise?