View From Here

October 16, 2011

Nearly 36 hours after the Occupation Movement began its, errr, occupation of Canada, let me offer up the briefest of views of what’s happening here…

What it is ain’t exactly clear.

With nearly 50 years of historical perspective to to fall back on, we look back at the social movement of the 1960s as some sort of  monolithic event horizon that just sprang into being in one fell swoop. Boom. There was MLK reciting his I Have A Dream speech and we were off and running.

But the truth is much more complicated than that. The explosions that detonated in 1964 and 1967 and 1968 had long, long fuses and many hands holding matches. There were as many diffuse interests in the anti-establishment movement then as there are now; their demands equally as divergent.

WHAT DO THESE PEOPLE WANT?

Is the rhetorical demand of those who know the answer but just don’t want to hear it. Equality of economic opportunity and equal sharing of social responsibility. Yes, there are those among the occupiers with a desire to overthrow the capitalist system just as there are those wanting only a minor tweak of it. Different approaches for attaining similar goals. Equality of economic opportunity and equal sharing of social responsibility. It is that simple and straight forward. If you’re still asking, you’re just not listening.

TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER! WHERE IS YOUR LEADER?

This seems to be the real stumper for the traditional media and status quo maintainers. We won’t take you seriously until someone steps forward and assumes control. Someone we can focus on. Someone we can hope to discredit in order to throw the whole movement into disrepute and go back to business as usual. Where are the dirty hippies? Where are the high pitched screaming radicals?

By not delivering up a bullet point presentation of demands and a designated list of leaders, the Occupation movement is putting the old guard on notice that they should no longer see themselves in a position to be granting special dispensation or munificently bestowing concessions. This isn’t about negotiations. It’s about a redistribution of power.

This also isn’t a battle of wills waged between two, top down, hierarchical camps. It is about the 1% versus the 99%.  One side is led by the very, very few. The other, the many. Leaders are essential to the former. Leadership is multifaceted with the latter.

Occupation is not about one day or one weekend. Right now, it is a toehold, one foot in the door. It’s just the beginning. You want answers? Ask those who claim to know it all. This is about fundamental change. That takes much longer.

assuredly submitted by Acaphlegmic


A New Wave

October 15, 2011

I am too young to remember the initial impact of the social upheavals of the 1960s civil unrest. I did benefit from its reverberations in the 70s. I remain haunted by Hunter S. Thompson’s elegiac passage of the era in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and quote it whenever the opportunity arises.

Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run …but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant …

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda …. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning ….

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave ….

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark —that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

I missed out on something important. Most of my life has been lived in that empty space left behind when ‘the wave finally broke and rolled back.’ It’s been nice. Easy by anyone’s standards. But I haven’t really stood up for anything or against anyone. I’ve just followed that receding wave dutifully.

Now comes #OWS and all of its off-shoots. The cynic in me, fed by 40 years or so of absolute eye-rolling disregard of political protest, fears it will all be another flash in the pan effort, come and gone, back to business as usual. Just like all previous popular attempts to alter the status quo. Remember the Stay Out Of Iraq marches and rallies? No, wait. That worked here in Canada. Sort of. But not really.

The cock-eyed optimist in me, however, feels this one’s different. There’s something happening here. (Yes, I did use that sentence deliberately.) That there’s been enough outrageous behaviour by the upper echelons of society. There’s been enough injustices perpetrated. Enough unpunished criminality. Enough dismantling of all that was good and fair in our Just Society that this just might become something serious, something transformative.

If Thompson was right and the counter-culture wave broke and receded in the mid-60s, maybe it’s happened again in the other direction. Pick your moment. The election of George W. Bush? The war in Iraq waged under false pretenses? The economic meltdown in 2008? Maybe #OWS is riding the wave as it comes back our way.

Here’s hoping.

giddily submitted by Cityslikr