The American social theorist Cornel West describes the Occupy Movement as a “democratic awakening” yet it is difficult to see any form of democratic awakening coming through the collective tent slumber of its participants.
I am sympathetic to certain features of the Occupy Movement namely that Persons should come before profit but I remain perplexed as to how the leaders of this movement plan to change the world by setting up tents in public parks or protesting in front of various City Halls. One should expect more from a group that seeks the total transformation of Western Civilization. Wearing a Che Guevera T-shirt bought at the GAP while using Blackberries and IPhones and then claiming that corporations are the root of all evil is a little more than ironic.
No real coherent message has emerged from this movement, other than we should all wear Guy Fawkes mask to safeguard our anonymity while marching under signs that read, “One Love and “We are the 99%”. It goes without saying, that most of the revolutionaries I studied did something “revolutionary”. The Occupy Movement through its very name reveals its inertia. It does not seek revolution, it can only “occupy”. The movement sets up camp in publicly funded spaces and then is bewildered when the police oust them from their self-declared cities and sites of “participatory democracy”. It is clear that the movement thrives when it enacts confrontation with the police. As such, it has no chance of moving past this model.
Some protestors see the movement as a “class war” between the rich and the poor. This idea struck me last week when I was pumping gas. I was approached by a youth who said he had just returned from Occupy Toronto and needed money to get back toLondon. If the young man was an exemplar of the movement then it was clear that the movement was a reactionary circus going nowhere.
The movement rises in popularity only when their encampments were at risk of being taken down by the police. This shows, among other things, that the movement has no real power for positive change. The movement lacks ideological coherence unless chanting, drumming and playing guitar has become a secret weapon against the forces of capitalism. The concentration of money and power at the top does endanger democracy. But this is nothing new. Spartacus lead a revolt against theRomanRepublicin 72BCE.
The movement has never openly declared its objectives. Yes, it opposes corporate excess and income inequality but it has not issued a clearly stated manifesto that outlines an alternative model of organizing our social, political and cultural space. This manifesto will never arrive because the movement lacks a foundation. Fighting corporate greed while vandalizing small businesses does not change the mindset of the 1%
Rather than camp out in tents we could ask and answer the difficult questions such as how do we hold oil companies, big agribusinesses, military contractors, and the pharmaceutical industry who reap billions of dollars of government subsidies and special tax breaks accountable? How do we change our accounting so that poverty and homelessness and other social issues can finally be solved? Can governments begin to cater to the interests of its citizens rather than the interests of transnational capital?
Should we believe that those who march the streets to incite global change, have left their jobs and professions, their schools and residences, have risked it all for the greater good? Or does the evidence point to the fact that these protestors are looking for a free ride while not willing or wanting to contribute anything of value to the society that they hold in such contempt? It would seem that with some exceptions, that the Canadian model is exemplary and on the right path.