The Mystery of the Occupation Revealed

Posted: November 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

This last weekend I visited Washington D.C., and I would have been remiss had I not checked out Occupy D.C. at McPherson Square. The below essay is my experience. Keep in mind that this is simply one data point among several. Judge for yourself as to whether this exemplifies the movement, or if it is simply a fluke which completely misrepresents the movement. For me, it confirms everything I was concerned about and allowed me to draw up a logical framework out of what appeared to be chaotic conditions.

In case you didn’t get the opportunity to visit any Occupation scene, I’ll briefly describe this one. As I entered the park I noticed that McPherson Square had four entrances starting at the corners and meeting at a circle in the center, which was accented by a monument dedicated to Major General James E. McPherson. The periphery of the square was filled with dome tents. In a clearing, there was music being played by an electric band and there were several members relaxing and enjoying the show. An aroma of burnt cannabis permeated the air on occasion. Several trashcans were spread throughout with signs that said, “Tip to Empty.” Around a black iron fence encircling the monument (and elsewhere) there were several cardboard signs expressing the ideals of the movement — my favorite was an attempted quote of Winston Churchill, “Never Give In, Never Give In, Never Give In, Except to Good Sense and Reason.” [Complete Quote can be heard here]. As I made my way around the circle reading the signs, I came across a “Teach-In” taking place at the base of McPherson statue. The subject of this particular teach-in was titled “Anti-Capitalism.” Watch the below video to see important highlights of the teach-in. (A great thanks goes out to Adam for collecting this footage and others like it).

The apparent chaos of the movement articulated by vague members throughout the occupation came into focus for me during this particular teach-in — they all agreed on a single goal: Capitalism is evil and must be destroyed. Even though several groups were represented at this teach-in — Communists, Socialists, and Anarchists — who each had their own agenda, the teach-in did have a recognizable progression: Capitalism is bad; How do we “un-plug” from capitalism when our lives depend on it… we do it by growing “ghettos” (my word) like this all over the U.S.; What do we replace Capitalism with — Communism seems to have some problems; Let’s all just agree that Capitalism has proven it’s failure in its deeds — we can figure out the details later. Observe that the cameraman/anchorman is a pro-capitalism champion; he was using reason to address the positions that the occupiers had expressed. Also observe how they treat a rational response when it challenged their basic premise. Don’t be fooled. Contrary to Churchill’s quote, they were not seeking a rational solution.

After I grew weary of the teach-in, I made my way toward the information tent, which seemed like the most likely place where information would be centralized — it wasn’t. I thought I’d be able to cut to the chase and bypass the foggy bromides broadcasted by inarticulate members. I asked these simple questions, “Why did you start this occupation in D.C., what have you accomplished, and why are you still here?” The first responder to my questions was completely paralyzed in thought by the question. (Keep in mind, these are paraphrases from memory).

1st Responder: Just to be here and to be seen.
Me: For what purpose?
1st Responder: Just to be here, that is of value isn’t it?
Me: A value to whom and for what?
1st Responder: (?)Just to be here(?). (He seemed puzzled as to why his usual script wasn’t working).
2nd Responder: For democracy, that’s what we all want.
Me: Ok, so you are advocating unlimited majority rule to replace our current system?
2nd Responder: No, it’s more of a consensus democracy.
Me: Ok, so your form of democracy doesn’t act unless you get 100% consensus?
2nd Responder: Yes…um… well no, there are these rules, you see, and if you are adamantly opposed to a proposed addition or change, then you can block it (throws up arms in an X shape) and that stops a particular change being proposed. You are basically saying, “stopping this means so much to me that I’ll leave the movement if it passes.”
Me: Is that really enough to stop the change? Does your presence mean that much to others for them to stop?
2nd Responder: (No response, and apparently confused).

And that’s where I stopped; I had reached an intellectual void. They seemed incapable of making their mind work on any rational level beyond the feelings attached to the immediate moment — destroying our current system.

The members of the occupation may not be able to see beyond the immediate moment and articulate what they hope to achieve; however, from what I witnessed I detected a logical framework at play that will inevitably produce a bad outcome. First of all, the remnants of Capitalism in our current system, which is the thing they damn the most, is what makes their ramblings possible — donations are made from those who make money from Capitalism. All the materials and supplies in support of their effort — e.g., cardboard, Face Book, Twitter, cell phones, clothes, food, tents, blankets, etc. — have been produced by a capitalist system. This support allows for anti-capitalists to leave their livelihoods and to join the movement — i.e., “unplug”. Their plan is to grow the movement and increase the organizational structure and rules to adapt to the moment, and eventually this society within the occupation will outgrow and replace our current system.

As the capitalist system withers away, it will not be able to continue its support. Very few members may be able to predict this much, but the vast majority seems content with simply overthrowing capitalism somehow and for whatever reason; they believe their participation in the movement will accomplish this. The vast majority seems mentally paralyzed (by means of their own evasions) as to what happens after they succeed in destroying capitalism — as any movement involving antithetical principles requires in order to achieve this much. Very few, if any, are able to identify the clear (life or death) principles involved — i.e., they have no idea that Peter’s ideas cannot coexist with Paul’s, and that in order for one set of principles to be realized the others will necessarily have to be snuffed out (by force). They have no idea that as the stakes become higher — i.e., as resources start to run out — tougher choices will have to be made and the structure of the movement will need to take shape in one direction or the other because they will no longer be able to afford any fence sitting. When they are appalled at the power grabs, will they throw up an X shape and risk becoming an outsider with no means of survival? Or, will they be a part of the bigger faction that is able to guide the nebulous occupation rules toward their governmental organization of choice and secure the remaining resources for themselves?

No matter the outcome, rest assured that securing any individual rights of life, liberty and/or property — which all together make up the framework for any capitalist system — will not be on the table for discussion and will not be achieved within this movement. Needless to say, I hope to God they fail.

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