Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Occupy: Long Range Forecast

An unusual weather occurence, here in Rain City: an inversion has settled in, trapping a layer of cold beneath a stalled high-pressure system. The result is unseasonably frigid temperatures, a welcome lack of rain, and a continuous haze of fog and hydrocarbons. Glorious toxic sunsets. Most local mammals are hibernating.

Occupy in my city is no exception. It has stored up some reservoir of  energy from its brief time in the sun. It is somewhat somnolent, drowsing and diminished. But in warm dens, its respiration continues, the heart still beats.

Understand, please, that I come to this not through any distinct ideological sympathies. It has been my pointed attempt from the beginning to remain an observer, to look at Occupy as a phenomenon, not as something I agree or disagree with, and not something I have identified with an ideological label in order to oppose or support it.

I monitor their websites, and I have talked to local campers a number of times. They will freely dispute with the good ole Seattle SWP, whose history goes back to the IWW, and the infamous Everett Massacre of 1916. They steadfastly refuse to align with them or with unions, or with Democrats. They have no discernible organizers. They operate through a sort of group consciousness committed to a few basic ideas and principles. If this is some defined ideology, I fail to see what taxonomic identification can be attached to it. The "Battle in Seattle," which I observed from several city blocks away, was anarchy, a riot. It was a crowd of disparate identity that became a mob. Occupy is not a mob, at least not yet.

On top of all that, they are very smart and very versed in the organic network we know as Hypermedia. Drawing direct analogies between this movement and the Arab Spring, or indeed a global unrest we have recently seen both in Britain and in Russia, to name just a few, is simplistic. At least one commonality, however, is the power of our now ubiquitous brain tools, which have led to a different type of organizing, one that those of us locked in our elderly bubbles are not as practiced in utilizing.

The Long Range Forecast: In Rain City, we know how to hunker for five months. But we also know that spring lies ahead. And with spring, the local mammals begin to stir. They come outside, throng the streets, and buy more sunglasses than any other city in this country.

I'm fairly certain that this seasonal expansion will be even more intense in warmer climes. There are tremendous implications for this through next summer and into the autumn, which is, I believe, the season that contains an election. I have some speculations about the tactical morphing that may occur, but that will wait for another time.


  1. "There are tremendous implications for this through next summer and into the autumn, which is, I believe, the season that contains an election."

    I'm pretty sure David Axelrod is already hard at work trying to figure out how he can translate this movement into pure gold for Obama. I watched him closely during the campaign and concluded that he had an almost uncanny understanding of American psyche and how to feed it exactly what it wanted/needed in order to get Obama elected. (Between me and myself I nicknamed him Obama's nanny, since he guarded Obama against his own foibles and slips.)

  2. Maybe this time around "The Alchemist" will be a more appropriate appellation for old Axels. He can pull it off, too.

  3. Obama expressly evoked Occupy's themes in the recent speech in Kansas--a rhetorical marvel, regardless of its lack of substance and inherent contradictions, since he is a product of the same corrupt system he therein decried. He didn't join the movement, he instead called on the broad popular support that their ideas, if not their actions, enjoy--inviting the movement and those that sympathize with its points regarding gross unfairness to join HIM, a political master stroke. He has set the tone for the political choice ahead, framing the debate as one of entrenched interests versus the People. My take on this, by the way, is analysis, not advocacy.

    While Occupy resolutely refuses a standard bearer, rightly recognizing those contradictions I mentioned earlier,Obama has cast himself in that very role.

    Since he has at least obliquely thrown in with their ideals, much will now depend on how Occupy behaves. If their tactics become broadly distasteful, he may find it difficult to disassociate himself.

    Agree or disagree, Occupy is a real phenomenon, and will have real effects. They are not going away.

  4. For background, the full text of the Kansas speech. As I said, it is a rhetorical masterpiece.

  5. I see Axelrod is already active on the scene, then :)

    I seem to remember vaguely, when negotiations between the WH and WS were taking place, Obama saying to the banking fatcats: We are the only barrier between you and the pitchforks.

  6. Occupy tactics: a small group of protesters briefly closed two piers at the Port of Seattle last night in action coordinated with other groups on the west coast. Seattle police outnumbered the protesters. "Flash-bang" grenades were deployed. One officer injured by thrown debris, nine Occupiers arrested. The local teamsters and longshoremen did not overtly support the action, which was ostensibly carried out to support Port workers; "corporate profits" were the intended target. Disruption of Port activity was minimal.

    If this is a portent of future actions, it does not bode well for Occupy. It may be difficult for many to connect "corporate profits" with the distribution of vital goods and services by workers taking home a regular paycheck. This incident was nearly under the radar, meriting only a thirty-second blurb on local news. Much more sympathy was generated by the mass bank withdrawals on 5 November--many non-occupiers joined in, having no problem equating the big banks with runaway corporate profits. If the "direct action" approach continues, many will only see disruption and feel irritation.

    What if they had a revolution, and nobody came?

  7. David Mamet:

    "The Liberal West has, for decades, indulged itself in an orgy of self-flagellation. We have enjoyed comfort and security, but these, in the absence of gratitude and patriotism, cause insecurity. This attempted cure for insecurity can be seen in protestations of our worthlessness, and the indictment of private property.

    But no one in the affluent West and no one among the various protesters of various supposed injustices is prepared to act in accordance with his protestations. The opponent of "The Corporation" is still going to use the iPhone which permits him to mass with his like. The celebrities acting out at Occupy meetings will still invest their surplus capital, and the supposed champion of the dispossessed in the Levant will not only scoff at American Indian claims to land he has come to understand as his—he will lobby the City Council to have the homeless shelter built anywhere but on his block.

    The brave preceptors who would like to end Poverty, War, Exploitation, Colonialism, Inequality and so on, stop at the proclamation. How may they synchronize their wise fervor with their inaction?"

  8. Didn't see your latest here until I posted my most recent topic, which I think addresses your comment.

  9. This passage seems to resonate with what I understand you to be saying about the occupy movement:

    "'A spectre is haunting Europe," wrote Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The Communist Manifesto, "the spectre of communism." The revolutions of 1848, which led the two men to publish their historic pamphlet, may have been defeated by the forces of the status quo, but Marx and Engels' choice of words was quite appropriate: vast movements of emancipation are often propelled by something thoroughly intangible, an overpowering spirit of change."