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Occupy Wall Street

Carry on Camping

by Brandon Edmonds / 14.10.2011

In a blog post about the Wall Street Occupation, historian McKenzie Wark, author of a great book on the Situationists, walks through Zuccotti Park, where all manner of people are still heroically camped in a month-long globally-proliferating protest against, well, we’ll get to that. She’d gone quite selfishly since she lives nearby and it’s where her children play (“I wanted to make sure our Park was still there”) and finds a ‘sort of fugue state’ enticingly beyond the frozen consumer-entertainment desert of capitalist reality.

She visited at night after the smaller protests (the walk down billionaire’s row 5th Avenue, the Brooklyn Bridge round-up, celebrity speeches by Zizek and Michael Moore, and solidarity performances by Lupe Fiasco and Talib Kweli) within the ongoing larger Protest event were all done for the day. Even the cops were relaxed after weeks of Youtube pepper spray incidents, harassment and intimidation, mass arrests, barricades and the pervasive documenting of participants. There was chanting and a drum circle. Inevitably. Exhausted citizens asleep in sleeping bags. A thrumming generator enabled connectivity and the all-important knock-on effects of social media. Plus a lot of very busy food carts.

Occupy Wall Street

“It wasn’t obvious what one should be doing,” she writes of the lull. “It isn’t work; it isn’t leisure. There’s nothing to buy. If you wanted to make the moment intelligible to yourself, you had to find your own way to do it. There was an unanswerable question in the air, or so it seemed to me, about what forms of life are possible.”

It is the only real question before us. A question that can’t be avoided anymore. Avoided, I mean, by the professional avoiders, the profiteers and cheerleaders of the status quo. Politicians, manipulators of financial capital, elites and mainstream media. The ecology that sustains us demands it. The billions mired in global inequality deserve it. The joy and fulfillment of collective existence depends on it. Part of the logic of the occupation, informing the way it understands itself, informing how it operates, insisting on direct democracy, inclusivity and openness and debate, is a willingness to confront this question, to take it up, to test it out, to formulate it properly, convincingly, and comprehensively: what forms of life are possible?

Occupy Wall Street

The integrity of the occupation lies in keeping this question before us. It refuses a life bound by the increasingly punishing limits of the present system and suspends belief in it. It reveals that history hasn’t ended with capitalist democracy as the sole survivor. After all a growing series of occupations and protests, in Britain, in Wisconsin, in Egypt and Spain, Israel, and Greece, where the demos first experienced the public power of assembly, decry it.

This is a Crisis for the powers that be. Beyond the very real loss of value, the billions in equity erased in 2008, consequent unemployment, unyielding recession, and legitimacy-threatening bailouts, this is a crisis at the level of perception. An unmooring of the ideological underpinnings of the neo-liberal economic order. And in an idea-driven informational economy, a crisis of perception can impact the bottom line as much as overproduction and flagging demand. More and more regular people are thinking about the guillotine. Disgusted at the luxury at the top. Outraged that a decent quality of life is out of the question as things stand. Wired young people, abandoned to the swelling ranks of a standing reserve army of the unwanted, are gathering to discuss alternatives. And all kinds of people want to join in.

Occupy Wall Street

Though the Occupations haven’t impacted the snaking networks of capital accumulation just yet, the season of dissent is taking hold as surely as winter will come to the North. A stone’s throw from the financial centre of the world capitalist system, ordinary people have made camp and are, as you read this, with as much patience, intelligence and hope as they can muster, discussing how best to live today. Asking what forms of economy work best to allocate resources equally. Asking each other what ought to matter most to the State, private profit or the common good? Questions far more pressing than Ashton Kutcher’s adultery (Dude, where’s your karma?) and Beyonce’s swollen middle. Questions with the kind of universal applicability that ignites relationships of international solidarity, nurturing networks and counter-publics where freedom reigns.

Locally, occupations – Operation Ubuntu – will begin this Saturday (October 15th) in Exchange Square in Sandton, at the Durban City Hall, the Grahamstown Cathedral, in East London, and in the Parliament Gardens in Cape Town. As a banner read at one of the university occupations protesting fee hikes and budget cuts in London last year: THIS HAS JUST BEGUN.

*Today the City of New York and the owners of Zuccotti Park are working together to evict the occupation. Get involved here.

Occupy Wall Street

*All poster images © Adbusters.

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RESPONSES (26)
  1. Mick says:

    Grandly done.

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  2. mara louw says:

    Why are people crying in the third picture?

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  3. Anonymous says:

    small steps toward removing the misinformed stigma surrounding anarchy

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  4. Andy says:

    Mara it’s called teargas you should try it sometime… they’re kind of a hip hop kwaito crossover thing 😉

    Edmonds, meanwhile, has been listening to a lot of Rage Against the Machine…

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  5. Stylin says:

    “The joy and fulfillment of collective existence depends on it.” – 100 million or so murdered, starved and counting. You sound like you spent 10 years in a re-education camp – that would make you a Phd?

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  6. Blah Blah says:

    Took an interest in the article (movement?) until I read the paragraph about Michael Moore talking. Anything he approves gets my disapproval.

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  7. alexd says:

    Stirringly put, Brendon. If you’ve been listening to a lot of Rage Against the Machine (as per comment above), keep listening. It’s working.

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  8. brandon says:

    Could you be a little more specific, @Stylin? You sound like you spent 10 years in an underground silo with nothing but a copy of Atlas Shrugged for company.

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  9. alexd says:

    Ai, ai, where’s the damn delete and correct button? Brendon — eeek! Of course, I meant BrAndon. I had just been writing about Brendon Dickerson’s fire sculpture being ignited at Michaelis tonight, so my brain was momentarily hijacked on the spelling of your name… Apologies.

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  10. Yedeus says:

    And locally the Occupy takes place at the JSE gardens in Gauteng for a World Occupy day in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy sites across the USA. Who will be there??

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  11. ling-ling says:

    Do I have to be at occupy cape town to show that I really care or can I just occupy my mind. I just dont have a cent to rub together and I have to work, damit man.

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  12. Yedeus says:

    It takes place tomorrow 15 October at the JSE!

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  13. Sarah Dee says:

    I just watched the live feed on the Avaaz petition. I was really moved.

    It’s so wonderful to feel as though for the first time in so many years, in my whole lifetime, that have permission to acknowledge to ourselves that things might be able to work differently. Like Zizek said to the occupiers, the real dreamers are the ones who think that things can go on indefinitely as they have been. The occupiers are rousing the world from a nightmare that felt like it would never end. It feels like being told they’ve discovered a cure for a fatal disease with which you had already reconciled yourself.

    There might be an end to the abominable inequality, rampant destruction and vacuous, hysterical culture that unbridled capital causes. At least one that doesn’t involve the outright end of the habitability of our planet.

    Rousing piece.

    Some people have been upset by the broad sentimental overstatedness of the revolutionary rhetoric around OWS. But personally I think they should go to hell. Subtlety is the most effective mechanism of the control society, the tool of advertisers and politicians. Now is the time for saying Fuck No! as plainly and loudly and emotionally as possible.

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  14. Sarah Dee says:

    And here’s a nicely illustrated piece about why the global economy is definitely going to collapse unavoidably.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afEqMX9YGCY&feature=related

    However, the video does point out a way to avoid it, but immediately rules it out. Uncle Sam should put up with the riots of the 1%, and tax the fuck out of them. It’s only the 1%, and they wouldn’t know how to riot if they tried.

    And, as we can see, riots are going to happen anyway! But by the much bigger group of people who have every right to do so.

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  15. Stylin says:

    This link is a fresh look Brandon. You have originality of expression, but not of thought, unfortunately:
    http://www.thecactusland.com/2011/10/revolution-or-disengagement.html

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  16. mud-debunker says:

    Brandon if i were stuck in a silo for 10 years it would make perfect sense to have a copy of Atlas Shrugged for company; especially a nice, cheap, second-hand copy with soft pages

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  17. brandon says:

    @Stylin that link leads you to a paranoid-libertarian rant and big ups Ron Paul, a libertarian kook who once wrote bizarre racist newsletters that peddled anti-semitic banker cartel Illuminati conspiracy theories…I’m going to go ahead and hand you this business card with the words NO THANKS on both sides.

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  18. observer says:

    I was privileged enough to visit Zuccotti Park a few days ago. It is a very small space with a lot of very dedicated people crammed into its limits – while Wall Street’s elite enjoy a large space that has been firmly reclaimed by local police. The most poignant thing for me was the posters on the ground quoting the likes of Abraham Lincoln, who expressed fear centuries ago at the prospect of a republic being undone by the power of enterprise and self interest.

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  19. observer says:

    @mara – because they had just been pepper-sprayed by police for no reason at all.

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  20. Stylin says:

    Shame dude. Is that an exhibition of your critical thinking skills? Name Calling 101? And ant-semitic bankers? WTF? If you pin bankers you’re an anti-semite because many of the banksters are Jewish?

    It’s never to late, even for you: start your journey into the basic principles of logic here: Affirming the consequent, argumentum ad hominem, argumentum ad ignorantiam. But then.. formal logic is probably a capitalist conspiracy. Poor child 🙁

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  21. Anonymous says:

    Hey Cape Town. Saw your ‘Occupation’ in the gardens this weekend. You all looked great on those iPhone pictures you were taking of yourselves for facebook. Hope your white suburban skins didn’t get too sun kissed, make sure to moisturize.
    Your chants of ‘we are the 99%’ were very cheery and seemed self aware, like you were in on the joke but didn’t want to break character.

    SA could be split into lots of different percentages. 99% of them you are not.

    This is no revolution in SA, protest has been used as a medium enough for it to be integrated into our society by now, it’s just an excuse for the white kids to hop on a ride down the street on the bandwagon.

    The ideals of the occupy movement would need to be specified in a context of south africa to make it relevant. the kids on the streets are not the ones who should be protesting. they’re just the ones who want to be seen doing it. Make an actual change, not a popular one.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    Also: Brandon, if that’s your most recent opinion of Ron Paul, you need to revise your research. A quick skim of wiki to debunk when required puts you in the same park as those others doing the same on a bigger scale. Don’t be what you criticize.

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  23. brandon says:

    Uurgh what noxious little twerps you both are.

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  24. Stylin says:

    Those who see their lives as spoiled and wasted crave equality and fraternity more than they do freedom. If they clamor for freedom, it is but freedom to establish equality and uniformity. The passion for equality is partly a passion for anonymity: to be one thread of the many which make up a tunic; one thread not distinguishable from the others. No one can then point us out, measure us against others and expose our inferiority.~ Eric Hoffer

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  25. Anonymous says:

    Opinion differs from Brandon’s gospel. Must be noxious twerps about.

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  26. brandon says:

    That’s better. Great quote.

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