It’s not me, it’s you, Occupy.
You woke up the world and changed the political and rhetorical discourse. You brought people from all walks of life together in their commonalities instead of their differences. You woke up and mobilized a generation. You have the tools of connectivity around the world that your forebears in 1968 and 1848 would’ve died for. You had every potential to change the world forever.
But you’ve fallen off the bandwagon and wandered off into the woods. Not even you know what you want anymore. I don’t believe the rhetoric that those who never felt your pull have spouted since the beginning, that you are an aimless amalgamation of smelly hippies that never had a path anyway. I know better. I was there. I saw that you had real aims, reachable goals, motivated people.
So what’s your excuse for falling apart?
I’ve seen an ugly side of you in recent weeks, a side I never saw in November when I joined you in the streets. You’ll need concrete examples, and I’ll furnish them.
You’ve begun squashing dissent within your ranks, pushing out those you and your cliques decide “isn’t ______ (revolutionary, counterculture, whatever) enough.” Exclusion is contrary to every aim that occupy espouses. But you didn’t even stop there. Members of Occupy went so far as to shove a livestreamer, Tim Pool, because he may not have been enough on their side.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, dear Occupy. This moment has caused an open schism within the Occupy Wall Street movement, because it’s become the age-old debate of violent vs. nonviolent civil disobedience. Have you forgotten, Occupy? Have you never read your history about the Civil Rights Movement, about the French Revolution, about the Arab Spring? You’re kowtowing to those who believe that BlackBloc tactics are the next step. You’re afraid of those who believe violence is the only way, and you’ve allowed your fear to drive you into their arms.
You lack self-discipline. How many times have you marched against the abuses of the system, and then gone back to trying to exploit it in your favor? People have problems with drugs, alcohol, and mental health issues. But you give them a free pass, and fail to hold each accountable for her/his own actions. You willingly bring on negative stereotypes by smoking pot in the park, and then complaining of police brutality when an officer tickets you.
You’ve been swept up in the furor of the “Fuck the Police” marches. You’ve forgotten that the police are a part of the 99 Percent. You’ve made it Us vs. Them, in everything. You’ve forgotten that it was supposed to be about all those disenfranchised by the current economic system. You let the police violence intimidate you into losing your focus. Are you so blind that you truly believe that wasn’t the aim?
You hide behind your masks and proclaim that this is freedom. Instead of humanizing the movement with the faces of real people, and being courageous enough to own your rebellion with your real name, you hide. You espouse a global revolution, but you buy your masks to symbolize your commitment to liberty from factories in China that keep their employees in slave labour. You line the pockets of those you were sworn to oppose.
I waited my whole life for this movement. At five, I was telling my kindergarten teacher that when I grew up, I wanted to be an activist. My generation’s acquiescence and anesthetization through sugary sodas and constant stimulating enraged me. I thought, Occupy…I thought we really had a chance.
And so, my dear Occupy…I’m breaking up with you.
I’m not saying it’s over. We might be able to salvage this once we’ve both taken some time to decide whether we want to. In the meantime, I have only one request.
Stop. Just stop. Stop wandering into the woods and stand there a moment. I’m not asking you to come back to the path because I can’t make that decision for you, but at least to consider it. Drop the “Vs. Them” and make this simply about “Us.” All of Us. Consider the confusion and emotion and hypocrisy, and decide what to take.
I’m going to go back to changing the world in my quiet, no-tent-required ways. I can’t wait to see where you go from here.