Dispatches from the Occupation: A History of Change
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Dispatches from the Occupation opens with a meditation on the Occupy movement and its place in the history of recent social movements. Strategies, tactics, and the experiments with participatory democracy and direct action are carefully parsed and explained. How a movement for social, economic, and political change emerges, and how it might be sustained, are at the heart of this exploration.
Comprising the second section of the book is a series of “dispatches” from the day-to-day unfolding of the occupation in Vancouver’s city centre as the author witnessed it – and participated in it – first hand: short manifestos, theoretical musings, and utopian proposals. The global Occupy movement has only just begun, and as such this book presents an important first report from the frontlines.
Finally, Dispatches from the Occupation closes with a reflection on the city of Rome, written in the shadows of the Pantheon (the oldest continually-in-use building in the world). In something of a long prose-poem, Collis traces the trope of Rome as the “eternal (unchanging?) city,” from its imperial past (as one of the “cradles of civilization”) to the rebirth of Roman republicanism during the French Revolution and the era of modern social movements – right up to the explosive riots of October 2011. Woven throughout is the story of the idea of change as it moves through intellectual history.
What a different political and economic system it would be if we would truly work from and through this idea! Capitalism is built on self-interest, competition, a lack of ongoing connection between social actors, and a seemingly “valueless” bottom line (profit and growth above all else). The intersecting economic, ecological, and political crises now shaking capitalism have the same root: greed, the pathological idea of unlimited growth, and the tendency not to see someone else’s problem as our own – the idea whose time has come holds first and foremost that the days of apathy and not caring are over.
And we can’t depend upon our “leaders. ” Enough is enough. Start today by gathering at the center of our cities, by essentially “going on strike from one’s culture. ”26 We all know what’s not working: the regime. Let’s call for its end – now (not when the next election rolls around – we know what a con that is, for a change of government is not a change of regime under capitalism). This is how we make a revolution now, in the Western world we live in. It is interesting that we had to learn this from the East – that resistance to “dictatorships” can teach a new way of resisting the ossification of “democracies.
Like a shark, it dies if it doesn’t keep moving. Or better, like cancer, it only knows growth, regardless of the �consequences for its “host. ” As long as GDPs keep rising, it doesn’t matter how unequally distributed that wealth is, how badly �people suffer, or what happens to the environment. So our �economics ignore and surpass all limits. But our ecologies are all about limits – each ecosystem is limited (by climate, geography, �resources, etc. ), and the ultimate limit is the earth itself, the entire biosphere.
He then called for the immediate removal of the occupation. Robertson’s willingness to jump to conclusions, when the VPD spokesperson would not, highlights the difference between a �politician and a civil servant. For the politician, in the midst of a �re-election campaign, this tragedy can be used to achieve political ends: the removal of the encampment, and thus the satisfaction of a vocal part of his constituency (revealed in recent polls – also a factor in the mayor’s willingness to move toward confrontation, no doubt).
Second, in terms of the Occupy movement itself, resistance and civil disobedience are similarly taking on decentered, “federated” structures where tactics and resources are shared and expressions of intercity solidarity are as important as intracity ones. This is, in part, to say that if civic governments and police forces can “federate” to coordinate their activities (however centralized such coordination may be, behind closed doors), then so can and do the various occupations – both of them, note, appearing to operate outside the sphere of the normal centralized State apparatus.