The word “occupy” is a transitive verb. It is never a noun. If one is not actively doing something, one can’t occupy it. Conversely, and maybe more importantly, thinking about occupying something is an act of thinking not an act of occupying.
This came to me after reading this nice diary by athena1 and this headline “Sandy Update: FEMA Sending Trailers to Victims; Occupy Sandy Asking Amazon to Waive Shipping Fees for Occupy Sandy Registry Orders” by PW. In a moment of self amused literalcy, I thought, “How does one occupy a hurricane?” That’s when it dawned on me that when “occupying” stop being an action and became a symbol, a thing, it fell, or got pushed, into the political abyss.
The word Occupy never received an utterance in this year’s campaigns or debates. Do you think the candidates might have been asked about it had the debates happened last October? By “Super Tuesday” in February, OWS and its offspring had been completely crushed. 99% became a slogan co-opted by faux progressive establishment candidates. Mittens could get caught on tape calling 47% of Americans “lazy moochers” and still get 48% of the popular vote.
OWS miscalculated when it made it easy for people to protest. When the call went out to occupy financial districts all across the country, people came out in the tens of thousands. The idea that you could be part of a larger movement with the added convenience of never having to leave the proximity of the comforts of home made participation much more appealing. It also left the movement fragmented and easy to crush one by one.
The establishment calculated correctly that aggressive tactics would drive many of the occupiers’ right back to their couches leaving only the hard core professional activists in the encampments in the smaller places like here in Pittsburgh. They also correctly calculated that aggressive tactics would keep the vast majority of people who are conflict adverse from actively joining the movement.
OWS would have found it easier to maintain its momentum had there been only one, two or three massive encampments, maybe one in NY, one in San Francisco and one in Chicago. People would have been more willing to stick it out had they traveled a long distance and had to get back home. The more you put on the line, the more likely you are to push back harder.
Not to diminish the huge sacrifice of the people who occupied through the cold winter months and took the beatings, jail time and pepper spray in order to bring income disparity to the national consciousness. However, that doesn’t change the fact that OWS still lost, and the re-election of Obama proves it. OWS is a response to Obama’s actions. Obama won another four years to pursue the same inequitable policies. It is more likely that he will more vigorously pursue austerity now that the specter of re-election is gone. Not even the most optimistic can call that a win.