in Oakland, the revolutionary pilot light is always on
August 1, 2012 5:19 PM   Subscribe

Requiem for an Occupation: The New York Times visits Oakland, California, "the last refuge of radical America." Previously and previouslier.

In this context, May Day — and Occupy Oakland, more broadly — looks less like an expression of the city’s indomitable radical spirit than the last gasp of a protest movement overmatched by the encroaching forces of capitalism. Oakland is simply too geographically well positioned and financially underexploited not to absorb the creative, professional and entrepreneurial overflow from more expensive places like San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Berkeley. And as it continues to develop its own gritty-chic cachet, there’s a good chance Oakland might become more than just a default option for some of the Bay Area’s nouveau riche.

...

The utopian vision for a post-capitalist Oakland clung to by Boots Riley and the rest of the city’s revolutionaries will soon be dead. But radical Oakland will live on, awaiting its next opportunity to rise up, even as the city itself evolves. For every young tech worker moving into a downtown condominium tower or entrepreneur gobbling up cheap, deserted retail space, there’s sure to be a militant graduate student drawn to a city that has just added another chapter to its long radical history.
posted by gerryblog (47 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
You know, if you look up the word "activist" you find the most common definition is "an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, especially a political cause."

The line between being a "vigorous advocate", and vandalizing small shops is not that thin and easy to cross.

If you look up "radical" you find "a person who holds or follows strong convictions or extreme principles", there doesn't seem to be any mention of violence.

I feel that, perhaps, the NYT may not fully understand those words.
posted by HuronBob at 5:29 PM on August 1, 2012


The NYT has obviously never heard of Arcata.
posted by fshgrl at 5:37 PM on August 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


If you look up "radical" you find a person who holds or follows strong convictions or extreme principles", there doesn't seem to be an mention of violence.

It's really a lot more specific than that.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:37 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


The line between being a "vigorous advocate", and vandalizing small shops is not that thin and easy to cross.


Did you read the article? One of the radicals they interviewed says the following: “[breaking windows is] tactic that . . . immediately draws a line between you and the people.” I can understand if you didn't get that far--it's on page 2.
posted by liketitanic at 5:49 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, dictionary definitions are not proscriptive. The dictionary definition of book would have precluded an ebook a few years ago, but an ebook is certainly a book.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:51 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pretty sure the modern GOP is a big fucking stronghold of radicalism.
posted by clockzero at 5:53 PM on August 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


Not the hit piece I'd expected, but it does have a lot of weird holes in it all the same; or at least, you could, oddly, come away from it not knowing that there's a lot of left left in Oakland that isn't Boots Riley. The article somehow never even mentions the name of Ishmael Reed, despite his even having published an op-ed in the same paper on the same topic. Nor even a word about the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, despite treating the topic of Oakland as a repository of radical history — there's a lot of "old" left that the article just doesn't seem to want to mention. But this is why we can't rely on the Times as the keeper of our historical memory; it doesn't know enough to do the job well even when it's honestly trying.
posted by RogerB at 5:59 PM on August 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


“That’s perfect proof of why this movement has to exist as opposed to just art,” Riley told me as we followed the crowd around to the front of the building. “Because you can listen to my music and just still disagree with me.
posted by jacalata at 6:02 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone who was part of a livestreaming team on May Day in Oakland, I find that description of the Snow Park march really... curious. Hootin & hollerin, sure. But overturning tables? I don't remember that part. Water bottles and paint bombs flying at the cops and chemical agents coming back, that I remember.

And respect and generally like Boots as I do, there were (I think) a whole lot more people involved in OO that they could have interviewed for some perspective.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:07 PM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was down with Occupy until they personally inconvenienced me (delayed the start of SF Pride Parade), now they can kiss my ass.
posted by the theory of revolution at 6:10 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The utopian vision for a post-capitalist Oakland? You mean all those guys squatting on the sidewalk playing instruments, selling crappy patchouli handicrafts, or just asking for money?
posted by happyroach at 6:16 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


from Boots:

"In this NYT article about Occupy Oakland, the writer does his best to say that Oakland as the end of an old radical movement.
But in fact, it's the beginning of a new radical movement.

Or, more precisely, the beginning of a new phase of a radical movement.

There are things going on all over the world and all over the U.S. that are part of this movement- whether they're all called "Occupy" or not. It takes a lot to overlook that.

A couple of other specifics that are wrong from the article: From emails that were exposed by KTVU, we know that Jean Quan was in favor of removing the camp from Day 1, as long as it didn't make her look "heavy-handed". This before any complaints arose.

Also- money spent by police "on Occupy Oakland" is mentioned, but there is no questioning of the decision to spend that money. Like- "did they really need to spend all that money to evict Occupy Oakland? Shouldn't they have just left us alone and saved millions of dollars for the city?" It's not like sending out police in riot gear stops windows getting broken- it increases the chances of windows being broken.

The city spent millions of dollars to try to destroy a movement- not for safety, not even to "stop vandalism". It was to try to destroy a movement. That was their impetus. This is not addressed in the article."
posted by DJ Broken Record at 6:22 PM on August 1, 2012 [26 favorites]


Wow, Jonathan Mahler didn't know anything about the Bay Area before he "researched" this piece, did he? (And he didn't learn much, if he could mistake Temescal for downtown or claim the SF Financial District is 12 minutes away from Oakland. Yes, the scheduled time from the 12th Street station to Embarcadero is 12 minutes, but there is no other way to cross that distance in that time without a helicopter.)
posted by gingerest at 6:52 PM on August 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am a born and raised Oaklander, brought up to appreciate the radical pedigree of Oakland. As I watched Occupy bring Oakland into the national spotlight I was excited, because I thought maybe some people outside of Oakland might come to know it as more than 'that place where you'll get shot, yuck yuck.' But then I saw how the narrative quickly shifted to the vandals within Occupy Oakland and confrontations with police, and before you knew it we were back to 'oh look at all those criminal Oaklanders, rioting again.'

There is no doubt that there is a crime problem in Oakland, and certainly there are vandals and misguided self-proclaimed anarchists in Occupy Oakland, but neither is the defining characteristic of their whole in my opinion. The fact that the first comment to this article here was an implied dismissal of Occupy Oakland offhand for the actions of the few is just further frustration for me.

This NYT article is off, and many of my Oakland peers will probably think it's more useless garbage from the national media about our town. I think it focuses too much on the vandalism, doesn't at all capture the great community organization aspects of OO and related groups. I also agree with Boots that Oakland has the potential for a rich radical future, depending on how gentrification goes in the coming decade; there is a wave of young, radical artists, organizers and creatives moving here right now, and if they can successfully integrate with the existing communities without pricing them out of their homes, it could be great. But I just want to say thanks, NYT. Thanks for treating my city as more than the butt end of a joke about getting shot. That's more than San Franciscans will ever give me.
posted by arboles at 7:01 PM on August 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


there is no other way to cross that distance in that time without a helicopter.

So take the helicopter. What are you - some grubby little 99 percenter that... drives?!
posted by -harlequin- at 7:36 PM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm on the other side of the world, and I have friends in and around (downtown) Oakland, and the "'that place where you'll get shot" or "you have to leave early/get locked in at work because a riot has broken out" vibe is the defining one I have had from them in recent years.

It's more than out-of-towners and the NYT harshing your buzz.
posted by Mezentian at 8:19 PM on August 1, 2012


What a weird article. I lived in NYC and now in Oakland, a few short blocks from where the encampment and police crackdowns occurred. This article's tone reads to me more of the writer's own anxieties about gentrification and city life as related to New York than any insight into the situation in Oakland.

All these lazy jabs at white, stoner graduate students but no mention of the pre-Occupy Oscar Grant riots? That wasn't wannabe insurrectionists from the Midwest. Also hilarious to me that he quotes De La Fuente as some kind of law-and-order voice of reason when that particular council member accused OPD of a "conspiracy" after Jr. raped 4 women. He also mentioned that the city had to resort to creative accounting - such as selling the Kaiser Center to it's own development agency for nothing - but doesn't bother talking about how one of Occupy Oakland's major actions was to try to re-open that same building as a community center?

May Day happened after months of violent crackdowns by the police and a major PR war against the protestors by city hall and organizations like the Downtown Business Association (which is all large corporations and banks - I think Clorox is the only local to Oakland, of course). At that point no one was left but the crazies and true believer anarchists because no one else was willing to brave yet another round of rubber bullets. This writer showed up to the party late and gives us yet another editorial about broken glass and some lol hippie shit. Why can't we all just get with the program and eat our $5 vegan donuts and wait for our neighborhoods to be as cool as Brooklyn?

He says capital abandoned Oakland a long time ago and he's right. What makes Oakland exciting and beautiful is that there is a huge history of people, communities, and artists having to figure out and create things for themselves that continues to this day. Dismissing what is going on in Oakland right now as some kind of long overdue death for the old left is so off the mark it's laughable. This guy didn't even scratch the surface of what's happening here.
posted by bradbane at 8:30 PM on August 1, 2012 [15 favorites]


I am in the SF Bay Area and found Occupy Oakland to be a pretty relaxed experience when I was there. The only (threat of) violence were the phalanxes of cops waiting in alleys, with some levity from the sight of the buff NOT AT ALL A COP crewcut and sunglasses dude off to the side recording all the marchers with a video camera on a tripod.
posted by zippy at 8:31 PM on August 1, 2012


Regardless of my feelings about OO, there are some annoyingly superior bits in that article that are helluv annoying:

Oakland is now a sprawling and diverse but segregated city of about 400,000, a real-life Monopoly board that operates on a de facto economic principle of urban design: it gets poorer and more dangerous as you descend from the eucalyptus-scented hills into the urban flatlands.

He didn't spend much time Downtown. My neighborhood is incredibly racially mixed, and that's true of a wide swathe of Oakland.

Its downtown is still lined with architectural masterpieces, decaying reminders of the city’s haute bourgeois past amid unmistakable signs of a diminished present — like grand prewar hotels that have been converted into Section 8 housing.


Yeah, there's a few empty buildings downtown. The vast majority of pre-war buildings are in fine shape and filled with people. Anyone who knows Downtown knows that the implications of this sentence are not the case on the ground.

Oakland even has its own take on the Brooklyn Flea, known as the Art Murmur, a sprawling hipster street fair, cultural bazaar and gallery-and-pub-crawl.

Yeahhh, Art Murmur started two years before the Brooklyn Flea.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:33 PM on August 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


Occupy Oakland's head-up-their-ass tactics were very divisive. They broke windows at an indie shop for local producers (The Spot). They broke windows at indie art galleries. Their tent city was getting ugly weeks before that kid was shot in the head (he died). They protested Child Protective Services! And, a lot of their political graffiti was misspelled.
posted by lamp at 8:43 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


self-proclaimed anarchists

Aren't all anarchists self-proclaimed?
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:07 PM on August 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeahhh, Art Murmur started two years before the Brooklyn Flea.

Sacramento's Midtown Art Walk, much along the same lines, started in 1992, and I'm sure it was modeled after something that was modeled after something that dates back to mid-nineteenth-century Paris. I don't know why he thinks Brooklyn hipsters invented everything in the world, but Mahler certainly took one look at Oakland and decided, "Yeah, this is Brooklyn all over again, or at least I can sell it that way to NYT readers, and they'll probably never know the difference."

Never mind that he doesn't seem to have been farther south than Jack London Square.
posted by gingerest at 9:10 PM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


...a roving carnival of keyed-up militants of every shape and size: graduate students, tenured professors, professional revolutionaries, members of the Black Bloc, dressed like ninjas, their faces obscured.

Stay classy, Gray Lady.
posted by R. Schlock at 9:11 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


no one else was willing to brave yet another round of rubber bullets

That would actually have been a hell of a poster to tag bus stops with. "I'm going, I will stand and take their rubber bullets. I will occupy. Will you stand against state oppression?"

Put in some soviet-esque shaded guys and gals and you might have something. Or nothing, I have had three doubles and am ruminating on Occupy disappointment.

And while the standing against oppression thing isn't what occupy started out as being against... it really turned into that by the end. We weren't allowed to make our stand in the street, we weren't allowed to march as the tea party types did, un-molested by the authorities. To really stand against income inequality and social strata discrimination you needed to be able to well... stand. Against anything the state/city/town didn't want you standing against.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:22 PM on August 1, 2012


Slackermagee, there were manifestos, graffiti, and communiques wheatpasted all over town saying exactly that. You couldn't wait for a bus anywhere in the flatlands without reading revolutionary screeds against the state and police oppression. Soviet imagery? Here you go. The protestors brought shields to protect themselves and the media reported it as "weapons". Say whatever you want about the tactics they used, there is a lot to criticize, but lack of trying isn't one of them.

Oakland is a place where it feels like anything is possible. That's why it's awesome.
posted by bradbane at 9:33 PM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


a lot of their political graffiti was misspelled.

o metafilter never change my sweetheart.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:44 PM on August 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


a kind of Amish village of retro-radicals

!!!
posted by latkes at 10:45 PM on August 1, 2012


Huh.

I'm not really sure what central points this article is trying to make - it doesn't go anywhere clear. I think he more or less gets the history right, if some of the details wrong. These are, more or less, some of the things going on in Oakland. But the article starts off about Oakland radicalism and never goes beyond the black block and Boots. Agree with above commenter that the New Left (now old left) is still a strong influence on what goes on here politically, for example the Oakland Education Association is ideologically one of the more radical unions around, if fairly pragmatic.

(Also, his assertion that gentrification is new here is dead wrong - BART and 880 vs. 7th street and West Oakland anyone?).
posted by latkes at 11:02 PM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


[Liberals/Gay weird derail deleted, and let's try to not make this a big Occupy argument.]
posted by taz at 12:40 AM on August 2, 2012


Soviet imagery? Here you go.

Holy HELL, and people didn't turn out for that?

I guess I was born in the wrong time after all
posted by Slackermagee at 12:55 AM on August 2, 2012


Oakland aint no place to raise yer kids.
posted by zeoslap at 8:53 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


In a sense, Oakland is the last place you would expect to find the most stubbornly active outpost of the Occupy movement.

not to anyone who's ever spent any amount of time in the east bay.

In Oakland, the revolutionary pilot light is always on. At the dawn of the 20th century, the Oakland writer and social activist Jack London said this to a group of wealthy New Yorkers: “A million years ago, the cave man, without tools, with small brain, and with nothing but the strength of his body, managed to feed his wife and children, so that through him the race survived. You on the other hand, armed with all the modern means of production, multiplying the productive capacity of the cave man a million times — you are incompetents and muddlers, you are unable to secure to millions even the paltry amount of bread that would sustain their physical life. You have mismanaged the world, and it shall be taken from you.

oh, but you said it was the last place? it seemed like his thesis was that Oakland has no reason to be the heart of a national anti-capitalist revolt because it has no capitalism, but then he goes into full detail about exactly why it's the most logical place for this to be happening.

just felt like he was scare-quoting Oakland. it was an interesting read for some of the color commentary, but as a whole I'm not sure I get what the point was.
posted by ninjew at 8:57 AM on August 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The point is to keep delegitimizing the occupy movement and the left in general. Anything that is not ideologically part of the neo-liberal capitalist paradigm is a threat to the current hegemony, of which the NYT is a gatekeeper.
posted by nikoniko at 10:24 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Soviet imagery? Here you go.

Holy HELL, and people didn't turn out for that?

I guess I was born in the wrong time after all


People turned out, but a lot of people that I know that had originally been going to General Assemblies and hanging out at the camp were eventually turned off by violence and what they perceived as co-opting of the movement by people who wanted their personal issues and grudges to drive the direction of OO. From their point of view, OO squandered a lot of momentum and goodwill among the community. Oakland is all about small businesses, because many chain stores historically would not move into Oakland. When people saw smashed storefronts and local businesses losing out, they became unhappy. The shift from talking about the 1% to Fuck the Police was also not a message people I knew wanted to focus on- not that anyone involved was pro- OPD or police violence, they felt that explicit theme was going to lose them support among people who rely on policing to live and work safely in Oakland*, yet are feeling the hardship of increasing inequality. Some of the stuff I was seeing on IndyBay was also very unfocused and WTF in message, things like "don't attack small businesses, but also don't target Starbucks because they have been giving us free coffee and pastries". Then the march against Child Protective Services seemed to be more about one person's horrible custody dispute with their crazy ex, and I know that made several people I knew who had formerly gone to every march and GA throw up their hands and GTFO.


*It's complicated. People don't trust OPD but there's lots of crime here. The police are needed, but the department has long-time issues with corruption and brutality. A friend got a huge payout from the city from the Riders scandal over 10 years ago. The department still hasn't solved the problems associated with that, and may be going into federal receivership (which is likely to cost Oakland even more taxpayer money).
posted by oneirodynia at 12:00 PM on August 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find myself nostalgic for the (mythical) good old days when reporters did things like ask follow-up questions and do research. I mean, this part:
Quan is not on the best of terms with her own Police Department. She was herself named in a police report shortly before she took office in January 2011 for her conduct at a police-brutality protest, and the police union spent thousands of dollars backing one of her opponents. “The theory among some of my left friends and among some members of my family was that I was set up,” she said. “You know, I was out of town, they closed down the camp a day early and then overreacted. Certain people in the police had tried to set me up before. I mean, my car got booted right after the election.”

“Why?” I asked.

“To send the message that they can do what they want,” Quan said. “That I better watch out.”
The first question that comes to mind is "is that true or was it a legitimate booting?" Did she have a stack of unpaid parking tickets? Was her vehicle parked illegally at the time? Surely that's the kind of thing that could be discovered with a little work.

Also:
a demoralized force, only 15 percent of whose officers actually live in Oakland, according to Quan
That's double the "only 7% of OPD live in Oakland" figure that's usually quoted.

Going through this article I keep finding detail after detail that's inaccurate or wrong. Manifesto "is" in DTO? No, they had a popup storefront in Old Oakland, but it was temporary (which the NYT should know) and is no longer there. The word "manifesto" means "anti-capitalist tract"? No. "Governor Brown just eliminated the state’s economic redevelopment agencies"? No, the California Supreme Court did.
It is, in a word, gentrification, and what’s most striking about its arrival in Oakland is that it’s just now getting there
AH HA HA HA HA! BWAH HA HA HA HA *snerk* hee hee hee! *wipes eyes* Oh, that's a good one.
Oakland is simply too geographically well positioned and financially underexploited not to absorb the creative, professional and entrepreneurial overflow from more expensive places like San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Berkeley.
Like we did during the dot-com bubble? Funny how that didn't result in the "bigger tax base that can help improve city services and maybe even create a more effective police force" the article predicts.
In an Occupy Oakland twist on the “Soul Brother” signs that shopkeepers used during the race riots of the 1960s, Awaken, an upscale cafe and art gallery, had plastered its windows with signs reading: “We are Oakland. We are the 99%.”
Yeah… the downtown businesses put signs like that up long before OO showed up. I remember the "LOVE NOT BLOOD" signs that went up during the turmoil over the Oscar Grant shooting and the Mehserle verdict.

And describing Scott Olsen as looking "less like an ex-Marine than a stoned, skinny teenager who had gotten lost on his way to the skate park" is a cheap shot, not to mention irrelevant.
posted by Lexica at 2:17 PM on August 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I went from thinking "this seems a little more interesting than the usual Occupy Oakland story, let's see how it goes" to realizing this person clearly has a line they are selling: Oakland is a shitty, decaying town that gets the activists it deserves. Disappointing.

The first question that comes to mind is "is that true or was it a legitimate booting?" Did she have a stack of unpaid parking tickets? Was her vehicle parked illegally at the time? Surely that's the kind of thing that could be discovered with a little work.

She had over a thousand bucks of unpaid tickets when she was booted. I'm surprised the reporter didn't dig that up to make Oakland sound even more dysfunctional but I guess it would have squashed the drama of Quan vs. OPD.

The article's comment section is a mess, too. If I had a dollar for every time someone from somewhere else suggests bulldozing, bombing, or burning down my home city I'd be the 1%.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:15 PM on August 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I went from being a Quan booster to really resenting and disliking her during her terrible handling of Occupy, and she's completely embarrassed herself over the 100 Blocks crime plan, and I certainly won't vote for her again, but the booting was more than just tickets.

Yes she had a thousand bucks in parking tickets, but she also parked her prius in the same damn spot behind City Hall every other day of every year forever and they picked right after the election was decided in her favor to boot her.

This is classic OPD bullshit. And as the article points out, the police union put their muscle solidly behind Don "Federal Corruption Charges" Perata. Anthony Batts was pretty upfront about his discomfort with the mayor and city government generally. It's no secret.
posted by latkes at 8:01 PM on August 2, 2012


Quan is now distancing herself from those statements about the police. She also says the reporter had an angle going into it and "kept trying to make [her] say things" that supported the story he wanted to tell.
posted by Lexica at 11:20 AM on August 3, 2012


There is no doubt that there is a crime problem in Oakland, and certainly there are vandals and misguided self-proclaimed anarchists in Occupy Oakland, but neither is the defining characteristic of their whole in my opinion.

If Occupy Oakland wanted to separate itself from vandals and Black Bloc anarchists, maybe they should have passed that resolution against violence, but instead people decided it was more important to embrace a "diversity of tactics."
posted by corb at 1:10 PM on August 3, 2012


Yes she had a thousand bucks in parking tickets, but she also parked her prius in the same damn spot behind City Hall every other day of every year forever and they picked right after the election was decided in her favor to boot her.

This is classic OPD bullshit.


Maybe so, but at the same time if you haven't paid 1000 in parking tickets you deserve to get booted, even more so than if you are not the mayor of Oakland. For petesakes, she was a city council member. She should have been paying her tickets especially because she worked for the city, parked in the same place every day, and managed to annoy the police pretty regularly.

At any rate, parking enforcement is is run by the Finance and Management Agency, which is a privately contracted company, not the police.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:52 PM on August 3, 2012


I'm Boots Riley it's a pleasure to meet you
Never let they punk asses ever defeat you
They got us on the corner 
Wearin pleather and see through
All y'all's gold mines 
They wanna deplete you

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:13 PM on August 3, 2012


Oh, I totally agree that parking laws should apply equally to elected officials. Just think the coincidence of the timing is too coincidental to be a coincidence. I don't have inside info about this, but I think it's safe to assume a cop can ensure that your car gets booted if he or she cares to.
posted by latkes at 10:25 PM on August 3, 2012


Anti-Occupy Law: Freedom of Speech, Just Watch What You Say
posted by homunculus at 12:10 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Billboards Feature Suit-Clad Dummies in Nooses: "Hope You're Happy Wall St.," "Dying for Work"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:53 AM on August 12, 2012


The FBI's Vendetta Against Berkeley
posted by homunculus at 5:20 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Occupy Wall Street, Flash Movements, and American Politics
Now—in August 2012—debates about its future occur via left websites, meetings, and networks. Occupy has occasionally been able to produce crowds in 2012, but it is off the front pages. Occupy Wall Street members promised a strong return and even an escalation in the spring centered on a May Day “general strike,” but there was no general strike. Occupy activists sought to establish new occupations in Manhattan and elsewhere, but these efforts have not approached the scale and impact of the initial round of occupations nor found a new course. Perhaps there will be an Occupy presence at demonstrations at one of the national party conventions, but that is not likely to command much national attention.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:26 AM on August 15, 2012


Chatting with Chomsky
The social movement of the day camps at public spaces and calls itself Occupy. You've called it the first major popular response to 30 years of class war in the United States. What do you think has Occupy achieved so far?

It achieved a lot, in two aspects. It very significantly affected public sensibility and public discourse. The imagery of the one percent versus the 99 percent, that’s spread over right through the mainstream, that’s now standard discourse. And that’s not insignificant. It brings to public attention the massive inequality and the striking maldistribution of power. There are also specific policy proposals that make a lot of sense. Efforts to try to return the electoral system to something approximating the democratic process and not just being bought by major corporations and the super rich, proposals about a financial transaction tax, ending foreclosures of kicking people out of their homes, concern for the environment and so on.

And the second aspect?

The Occupy movement spontaneously created communities of mutual support, mutual aid. The common kitchen, the libraries. These are maybe even more important. The U.S. is a very atomized society. People feel helpless and alone. Your worth as a human being depends on the number of commodities you can amass, which is one of the reasons for the debt crisis, and it's just driven into people's heads from infancy through massive propaganda and public relations. So people don’t have much social interaction.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:48 AM on August 17, 2012


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