Sunday, October 16, 2011


"All imaginative and creative acts, being eternal, go to build up a permanent structure, ... above time, and, when this structure is finished, [...] its scaffolding will be knocked away and man will live in it. [...] Nothing that the heroes, martyrs, prophets and poets of the past have done for it has been wasted; no anonymous and unrecognized contribution to it has been overlooked. In it is conserved all the good man has done, and in it is completed all that he hoped and intended to do." --Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake


Imagine for a moment that a group of people got together and somehow managed to open a portal to an alternate reality. Imagine also that those who opened the portal made the alternate reality available to everyone.

Hard work and determination were required in order to keep the portal open, and those who opened it did their best to nourish it even if they weren't always sure how to do so (the portal was mysterious, almost unfathomable).

Tourists and the media came to look at the portal. Some of them pointed at it and said that it was underwhelming, pointless, or even silly. And some of them -- the media especially -- couldn't even see the portal. Sure, they thought they could see it, thought they could make out some idea of what the portal was, but they saw it only through the bodies and faces of those who had opened it, as well as those who had come to help nourish it.

Others who were seemingly sympathetic to the idea of alternate realities found the portal interesting, yet they couldn't seem to stop themselves from pointing at the mysterious vortex with a puzzled look. "What is the goal of this portal?" They would ask. "What are those who opened it trying to achieve?" It never once occurred to them that the portal was an achievement unto itself.


It's no wonder the media keep insisting that Occupy Wall Street is unorganized. How else could a leaderless community be viewed within a system that has dismissed such a possibility?
adj. 1. lacking a leader; as, a leaderless mob running riot in the streets.
The Occupiers at Liberty Plaza/Zuccotti Park have their own kitchen, their own medical, media, and legal centers, their own general store and library, their own art shows and displays, their own work groups and scheduled daily events, their own form of government called the General Assembly (click to watch an excellent mini-documentary), and even their own treasury which recently allocated $3,000 to purchase cleaning supplies that were then used in a highly successful (all-volunteer) clean up effort. Yet the Occupation is continuously said to be unorganized.

The majority are having trouble seeing this movement for what it is largely because they're trapped in a paradigm that says "nothing exists except for that which we already know." To give the Occupy movement the credit it deserves would be to acknowledge the existence of a secret door -- one that has been sitting under our rug all along -- and the current ideology is unable to permit that because the concept of a door that leads to a world outside of itself is impossible. By trying to parse some simplified meaning from the Occupation movement, people are missing the whole point.

The "door to Wonderland" that inspired Lewis Carroll. The Liddell
sisters were not allowed to enter the Cathedral Garden (pictured).

As a Pakistani cab driver said in a (live streamed) conversation with some Occupiers (paraphrasing): "It's a new world now. The world started with the church, then it started again with the politicians, and now it has started with the public. People. That's it. The Public has to be everything. This is a new creation."

The implication of such a view is precisely what's meant by the slogan OCCUPY EVERYTHING!

* * *

"In April 2011, the Chinese government prohibited on TV and films and in novels all stories that contain alternate reality or time travel. This is a good sign for China. It means that people still dream about alternatives, so you have to prohibit this dream. Here we don't think of prohibition. Because the ruling system has even suppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It's easy to imagine the end of the world. An asteroid destroying all life and so on. But you cannot imagine the end of capitalism." --Zizek (from his speech in Liberty Plaza/Zuccotti Park)

Los (by William Blake), creator of consciousness and Golgonooza (the city of imagination).


Tyler said...

And the idea that OWS is "disorganized" (fuzzy, muddled, incoherent) in terms of its "message" is just plain wrong (of course I have to ignore the above post for a moment even to address this). For enemies of nuance, the message can very easily be boiled down to a single demand. Yes, individual signs call for economic justice, taxing the top 1% appropriately, better regulation, campaign finance reform, universal healthcare, taxing Wall Street trading, ending the destruction of the environment, etc., but all of those issues fall under a single, larger demand: ending the corporate coup that has slowly taken place over the past few decades.

Normally I would go into detail in the above post in order to make sure I'm not misunderstood as naively suggesting that I think society is going to magically restructure itself in a more democratic and non-hierarchical way, but I said what I wanted to say so I'll leave it at that. I also felt compelled to address what "success" means for the movement, as well as approach the portal metaphor in terms of it being a kind of door that's being (temporarily) held open (for whom?), but I don't think I'd be able to organize it all effectively anyway.

Tyler said...

Thanks to Andrew at the kinodrome for cluing me in to the excellent General Assembly mini-doc Consensus.