Occupy Sandy has been lauded as more American than FEMA. Strike Debt, an Occupy offshoot, is pioneering the "Rolling Jubilee" of debt forgiveness to the adoration of publications like Business Insider. While popular in some circles, these initiatives have also led to bitter divisions that ultimately surround the narrative of the Occupy movement.
Some say Occupy died long ago and that these imitations are attempting to export an unperfected product. Some argue further that these Occupy offshoots are destructive, misusing terms like "mutual aid" (masking the actual lack of community) and providing recovery efforts of the status quo (simply replacing government support with charity), distancing Occupy further from its true nature of rupture. Others counter that Occupy has transformed, or perhaps self-immolated, disposing of its clunky general body to make use of its network, carrying out revolutionary work in more agile campaigns. They argue that these campaigns are in the spirit of the movement by promoting neighborliness, self-reliance and community infrastructure over mass institutions.
This is not just a question of credit or labeling; the debate calls for an etymological investigation of the definition of Occupy Wall Street in pursuit of its revolutionary potential. After well over a year, can we make useful statements about what Occupy really was - or is?
I think we can. Occupy is a movement that has brought about revolutionary personal growth for thousands through a dialectical process. It crammed the contradictions of our modern hierarchical society - a diverse group of people - into small parks, creating a horizontal "safe space," in which under-represented folks could share their perspective of these hierarchies. It enacted systems of communal facilitation to use the emergent conflict as fuel for the decolonization of each individual's internalized oppressions. Through this process, it produced people who are committed to inter-relating horizontally (and therefore anti-oppressively) - a cultural idea so counter to the logic of capital as to be revolutionary.
Displacing the State Through Autonomous Conflict Resolution
No doubt, Occupy did more than create horizontal anti-oppressive spaces, and many would claim that reclaiming public space, reviving participatory democracy and redirecting the public narrative around inequality are more central aspects of the movement. However, as Occupy was forced to change contexts, Occupy's anti-oppression and conflict resolution processes seemed to be the most essential characteristics of the movement in terms of what made it transformative for so many people. If activists occupied public space without enacting radically horizontal anti-oppressive relations in the space, it could not be Occupy. But if a movement enacts anti-oppressive spaces in other places besides public parks, it can still be "Occupy," in that it contains the same kernel of revolutionary potential.
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