Fair disclosure: The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent Occupy Tacoma supporters. I am a resident of Tacoma, a supporter of Occupy Tacoma, but I’m not an authorized spokesperson for Occupy Tacoma participants. ~AOS
A fellow named Scott, who runs a personal website called A Dad First, had posted several criticisms on his blog explaining his opposition to the Occupy Tacoma and the whole national Occupy Wall Street movement from a conservative point of view. So I posted some responses to these criticisms on A Dad First, which Scott was gracious enough to allow to remain.
In those responses, I suggested biased media coverage may have unfairly distorted Scott’s impression of our movement. So I proposed to Scott that he come down to Occupation Park, let me introduce him to some people, and show him around. Then, he could gather his own facts, interview some occupiers, and form his own conclusions based on his own observations. I promised Scott that occupiers would be delighted to talk with him, to explain why we protest, and how we see our movement. I assured Scott that all involved would treat him courteously and with respect, despite his having written some fairly severe criticisms of our movement.
Last Saturday, November 12, my friend Jan and I met with Scott and his pleasant young kids at Occupation Park. We introduced Scott and his children to some occupiers, whom Scott interviewed, asking them many questions, respectfully listening to us all. Scott’s daughter videotaped one of those interviews.
Scott then blogged his impressions of this encounter on A Dad First, complete with an annotated videotaped interview, which you can see by clicking here.
It is apparent to me that Scott tried to be fair to us, and I really appreciated him taking the risk of leaving his comfort zone and coming out to our encampment. He is not accustomed to people like us, and he was a bit concerned about the possibility of an unpleasantly hostile encounter at first, although he quickly enough felt quite safe.
In his blog posting describing this encounter, Scott concedes OT’s (Occupy Tacoma’s) commitment to nonviolent political action and protest. He also noted that the Occupiers kept the encampment well organized and clean and tried hard to minimize damage to plants, as well as to maintain the park itself.
However, notwithstanding Scott’s obvious attempts to be objective and fair minded, I simply don’t agree with many of his conclusions if I understood his blog posting correctly after studying it.
Scott speculates Occupy Tacoma is somehow unique in that we are quite firm in our commitment to nonviolent protest. He seems to think that violent organizations and individuals with hidden agendas have likely co-opted, to some unspecified extent, other Occupy movements in such places as Portland, Oakland, New York, and so on. He’s not had the opportunity to visit those sites of course, and so he must be relying on media accounts, which can be less than objective.
Scott worries that such subversive elements may get a toehold in our Occupy Tacoma movement and negatively affect the local Occupy Tacoma community.
What Can We Learn From Scott
You should view Scott’s latest posting and his interpretation of his visit to the Occupation Park at 21st and Pacific. You should also view Scott’s videotaped interview of an articulate and well-spoken young occupier, particularly noting the captions Scott scatters throughout this video. You can do that by by clicking here.
Scott’s reservations and fears about the OWS (Occupy Wall Street) are similar to those of a sizable minority of the 99%. We must gain that segment’s participation in OWS’s activities if we expect to win our struggle. We need to find creative ways to cut through the propaganda and misconception that we’re unruly, that we destroy property, that we are violent and lawless. Another lie to counter is that we envy the 1 percent’s wealth. Those are the kinds of lies the plutocracy wants to discredit us with, to smear us with.
These lies distracts from our actual message, which simply stated is that we 99 percenters can break the plutocracy’s undemocratic stranglehold on political power, that nonviolent mass action can return democratic rule into the hands of the 99%.
Thus we must have zero tolerance to violence and destruction of property in our meetings and our encampments.
The principle of nonviolent mass action is not just a nicy-nice thing to preach. The truth is that we must help the American public understand that together, we can take back our democracy and achieve social justice for ourselves. That’s what we’re about. That’s what our message is.
The politicians and corporations won’t give us economic justice, social justice, democracy, and our rights, no matter how much we beg. It really does not matter which capitalist politician we elect.
Instead of relying on the plutocracy’s political representatives in the Democratic and Republican hierarchies, we who are the 99% need to stand on our own two legs, to rely upon ourselves. Whimpering and begging the ruling plutocracy or their political hacks for crumbs won’t work. Electing the lesser of two evils won’t work. The capitalist politicians don’t speak for us. They speak up for the corporate ruling class.
We need to have the audacity to seize economic and social justice for ourselves, in our own name, without relying on the elected officials.
Why? Because power takes a backward step only in the face of power, and our only possible power is the power of nonviolent mass action.
Getting the rest of the 99% to understand this is quite impossible until we earn their confidence. And we’ll never be able to gain that confidence or allegiance to the Occupy movement if we engage in the stupidly futile tactics of violence or property destruction. We must not make it easy for the plutocracy and their provocateurs to discredit us. We must be good and responsible citizens of the 99%.
What we seek is self-determination for the 99% instead of plutocratic control, because simple justice, the health of our planet, the wellbeing of our children and grandchildren demand it, and nonviolent mass action is our only viable method of seizing that power over our lives.
We need to communicate to Scott and others like him that we are nonviolent, that our interests are their interests, that they are us and we are them, and that we need to act together in our own self-interest.
That’s why provocateurs acting on behalf of the 1% infiltrate us. They try to get the less thoughtful OWS supporters to do stupid things. Or they try to get us arguing about whether or not to throw a rock at a bank window. Internet forum trolls try to get us fighting amongst ourselves or responding to their crudely vulgar, insulting forum messages and smears.
Although the principle of nonviolent protest has a considerable moral appeal for most of us (including me), nonviolent mass action also has an absolutely necessary, and practical strategic dimension. We simply cannot win the mass support necessary to achieve our aims any other way!
Here’s a concrete example
For over 20 years, Al Qaeda tried to overthrow the brutal Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt and failed spectacularly. Why? Because it relied almost exclusively on small bands carrying out isolated, if spectacular, acts of violence and terror. Such criminal behavior never did, nor could it ever, help Al Qaeda win over any significant support among the majority of ordinary Egyptians, whether they be Muslims, Christians, or Jews. The average Egyptian, as ordinary citizens, as ordinary human beings with normal healthy human sentiments, actually abhors Al Qaeda’s strategy of violence and terrorism as much as we American civilians do.
Compare how much more effective nonviolent mass protest was in toppling the Mubarak regime earlier this year. In a matter of just a few weeks, culminating in a rally of millions in Tahrir Square on Feb 4, 2011, a revolutionary nonviolent mass movement overthrow the Mubarak dictatorship and his phony democracy, something Al Qaeda could not even begin to do after 20 years of bitter struggle.
And the Egyptian masses made their revolution without breaking a single bank window, without throwing a single stone at cops, or setting a single trash-can on fire, and they did it in a matter of days! Can you imagine how those people in Tahrir Square would have related to people who counterposed the “militancy” of breaking a window or tossing a firecracker under a police car instead of going to Tahrir Square on February 4? How militant would that have been? The events at Tahrir Square were actually the final revolutionary blow against Mubarak and a fine example of the power of nonviolent mass action!
In fact, the Mubarak regime had used suppression of Al Qaeda cells in Egypt for years to bolster its legitimacy among the Egyptian masses. Those are the same masses who later overthrew Mubarak. It actually could be argued that Al Qaeda’s strategy of violence and terror was not only ineffective, it was reactionary because it delayed the Egyptian revolution.
Even more than in Egyptian society, nonviolent mass action is our only hope for victory in our struggle to take political power from the corporations and to empower the 99%. Factors that make it so are the history of nonviolent reform movements in the United States, this country’s well-armed military and police forces, this country’s media monopoly, as well as America’s advanced technology. Nonviolence is a core value in the historic consciousness of American protest movements, from the early abolitionists and Henry David Thoreau’s 1849 book “Civil Disobedience” which protested taxes to support the Mexican-American war, to Martin Luther King, who fought racial discrimination and opposed the Vietnam war, to the women’s rights and gay rights movements. These movements have all met with success insofar as they engaged in nonviolent mass action.
The videos and pictures of those brave young nonviolent Occupy activists camping out in the cold, getting evicted, and returning again and again in the face of police attacks and even police riots show us today’s true American heroes. Police may try to disburse the camps and break our spirits, but our ideas alone are stronger than all their armed might. They can evict people from parks, but they can’t evict the spirit of rebellion sweeping today’s youth.
Though their hired police and thugs may force occupiers out of their encampments and disburse our marches, we will occupy their minds.
Though the rains of their smears may fall all around us, we will shelter in the tent of truth, to shield us from their bitter lies.
Though the icy blizzard of slanders and hailstorms of distortion pelt down all around us, we will wear our foul-weather coat of nonviolent resistance.
We will occupy everywhere while holding the shield of resistance in our strong and determined hand to protect us against the sword of greed, of ignorance, of obscurantism, of slander, of bigotry, of endless wars, of homelessness, of exploitation of children.
We will commit the ultimate act of rebellion: the act of educating ourselves about our true situation, how we can mount effective resistance to authority.
Self-education becomes the ultimate revolutionary deed as soon as the plutocracy strive to to dull our imaginations and keep us in ignorance of our power.
The 1% ultimately can’t defeat us if we remain united in resistance, though the battle will be long and hard, and many will suffer.
And so to the troublemakers and provocateurs who would torpedo our movement with such ineffective tactics as breaking windows, street fighting cops, setting fires, or intimidating people who come to counter-picket our encampments, and so on, we say this in the spirit of the hacktivist group Anonymous:
We are the 99%.
Knowledge is free
We know who you are.
We are Legion.
We are united.
We are everywhere.
We are nonviolent
We do mass action
We occupy everywhere
We do not forget.
We do not forgive.
Today, right now, we’re witnessing the beginning winds of change blowing in the top of the trees, the winds that come before the storm that blows down the forest.
We are participating in the most profound and momentous political events of the past half century, events that will shake our world to its very foundations. What we do today, right now, will affect the this country for decades, perhaps even centuries.
Today, the fate of humanity literally rests on our shoulders, because America is at the belly of the corporate beast. Do we have what it takes to follow this struggle through to its conclusion. Are we going to peter out, lose interest, and fail?
Only you have the answer to that question!
In a later post, I’ll try to analyze and answer Scott’s objections to our movement, why his objections are mistaken, and what we can do to counter negative propaganda and thwart agents provocateurs.
The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living — Socrates
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