Monday, October 10, 2011

Our One Demand: *Everything*

Revolution is ballet on the back of a bull.

It's been far too long, and it is far too late past our naivete to presume we can make some totalitarian summary of what has occurred since the Arab Spring.

With no more or less than that hesitation, the pause of someone who has not commented on the game despite watching closely for a summer - and most of an autumn - I turn my analysis towards Occupy Wall Street, the populist movement that has grown from a dozen protesters in Zuccotti Park to a swarm of tens of thousands in New York and thousands more in over 70 cities in the nation and the world.

It is, of course, a direct employment of the same tactics used to bring down Ben Ali and Mubarak, the same tactics leveled in the tilt against (a medievally entrenched) Gadhaffi, against the tyrants of Bahrain and Syria and Yemen and Iran. For different reasons, not all of them have "succeeded," at least as far as having their demands met.

And a lot of U.S. critics are especially derisive of #OWS because their demands seem nebulous, without realizing that this is a manifested symptom of how terribly fucked up this country has become. There are at least a dozen strong demands among the protesters, and countless other intelligent, thoughtful, and creative ideas coursing through its collective veins. A lot of people come out waving a sign about their "pet issue," but see others with different issues and think to themselves, or say aloud, "Right on!"

It is a conglomeration of decades of unmet demands.

And as such, it neither can nor needs to articulate "clear" demands. We the occupation as a whole have little faith that such demands would even be met, and even if they were the Democratic spirit of "bipartisanship" and the Republican ideal of "obstructionism" would only leave us further dissatisfied.

This is the next stage of the global populist uprising, what protesters and commentators are very rightly calling the "American Fall." Government as it has existed in this country for the last sixty years, ruled by oligarchical cash, cannot continue. Nor can it facilitate its own further evolution. The very social forces that gave rise to the state have changed into the anathema of the state. Its products have made it obsolete. The institutions of tradition are bankrupt, having spent the last 150 years careening through a menagerie of manifestations: monarchy, bourgeois republic, state socialism, Stalinism, fascism, authoritarianism. With the internet and all of human history now at our fingertips, we see through every cynical maneuver the ruling elite take to re-establish their rule of profit.

I'm faintly amused whenever I hear one side or another take up a debate about whether or not #OWS "wants" the "end of capitalism." Is it "anticapitalist"? Certainly one key demand is "the end of corporate personhood," a cornerstone of capitalist structure. But you can no more call for the "end" of capitalism than you can call for the end of the west wind.

Social forces are material forces, governed by social and material causes. No matter to what degree the protesters are aware of the fact, capitalism has run into one of its greatest impasses in unprecedented ways. Socially, ideologically, even physically - even the Earth itself has slid past the brink of ruin without any clear way back. The protesters from #OWS are only evidence that more folks feel the crush and the worry and the lack of alternatives than ever before.

The bottom is falling out. Some are losing their fear. Others will follow.

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