Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On the "Occupy" Protests: the historical and structural meaning of Political Occupation

image is from here

In case I didn't mention it last time, I don't like the choice to call these protests, located in central parts of many cities, or in the business districts specifically, "Occupy ... " Occupation is an act of white aggression, of patriarchal violation, of domineering intrusion, and of militaristic imperialistic conquering. I don't think it describes what is happening or is an appropriate political term to communicate the politics of the protests, which is by the relatively disenfranchised, the newly disenfranchised (middle class folks, relative to the working poor who have never been enfranchised).

Not that they asked me, and not that they should ask me. But, well, this is my blog for putting forth such thoughts.

After some good discussion with a friend, I come to see, as she does, that it makes sense that the white middle class is taking un-owned leadership of this wave of social-political protests and demonstrations against various forms of tyranny. I saw unowned because the white middle class males--mostly males--who are in leadership speak of wanting an egalitarian non-hierarchical structure, without admitting that they are the most enfranchised and therefore institutionally empowered people speaking out.  Pretending we can all speak and be heard is a liberal conceit that no one who has been systematically silenced will likely fall for. I see how white men are and will continue to make their voices the most media-recognised, with great help from white male supremacist media controllers who usually and ubiquitously (if not always) consider white males "experts" on anything.

I watch how Black and Brown people, many of them women, are speaking out about economic and other injustices and how the understandings they bring to the public forum, noting how race, gender, sexuality, class, national, and immigration status effect who is heard and who policy is drafted for (at least allegedly)--by a population of elites overwhelmingly white and male.

I watch how Indigenous activists put Indigenist concerns and platforms forth, only to be de-centered by the white males with class privilege.

Let us not forget that Wall Street is on occupied land--not belonging to anyone currently protesting there. Let's consider for the moment the ways in which this history is biased and organised around the interests of white occupying men:
[In the late 17th century,] Dutch settlers had built a wall to protect themselves from Indians, priates [sic], and other dangers. The path had become a bustling commercial thoroughfare because it joined the banks of the East River with those of the Hudson River on the west. The path was named Wall Street. Early merchants built their warehouses and shops on this path, along with a city hall and a church. New York was the U.S. national capitol from 1785 until 1790 and Federal Hall was built on Wall Street. George Washington was inaugurated on the steps of this building. [source: *here*]
We can note who is determined to have needed protection from whom: white colonists from Indians. The truth of the matter is that it was Indians waging efforts at self-defence against the murderous interests of white settlers to take land and everything else by any means necessary. Those who took possession of the land that is Wall Street and NYC's central financial district, as well as the shapers of the values that make people rich, are not in any way Indigenist or democratic. Corporate capitalism is inherently and unavoidably exploitive, oppressive and murderous. The goal of the biggest and wealthiest is to sufficiently hide the blood and the bodies from the masses not being murdered. This is quite effectively done through controlling media and how stories of atrocity are[n't] told.

I recommend replacing the term "Occupy" with (Radically) "Transform". The latter term may not be masculinist enough, however, for white men who want to participate in political practice that maintains the patriarchal status quo. For more on the meaning of "occupation" please see these chapters in Intercourse, by Andrea Dworkin:

Chapter 5: Possession
Chapter 7: Occupation/Collaboration

Occupation, socially-sexually-economically-politically speaking, is an act committed by the powerful against the powerless, structurally, in real life.  To believe otherwise is to indulge in egalitarian fantasies we cannot afford to pretend currently exist. The term is routinely used, however, by callous and self-serving elites to describe "others" being in places forcibly, possessively owned by elites. So, immigrants, poor people, gay men, and women are said to occupy places they don't belong: in nation-states where their forebears once lived; in neighborhoods that were once white (that were once "occupied" by Indigenous people); in military camps presumed to be effectively murderous of Brown people; and rapist towards women, if only heterosexual; in boardrooms and offices, shops and streets where men are presumed to rule.