The Super Committee, a band of caped and masked Congressional types, was meeting to figure out whose dick was biggest, er, I mean, to sort out where the US is going to cut spending and where it’s going to raise funds so we won’t have another thoroughly embarrassing deficit ceiling deadlock, when a woman suddenly started speaking out of turn. She was dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans (there was a video, but CNN took it down before I could get the article up), and clearly not one of our Congressional superheroes. The gist of her speech was: “tax the rich and end the war.” She represented this as what the American people want, and the obvious solution to our troubles. “And all this obfuscation with percentages of GDP,” she said, “this is just trying to confuse the issue.”
She was arrested for her trouble and charged with disrupting Congress. The Super Committee then proceeded to talk a bunch of twaddle about “alternative methods to identify and count savings” for a while before deciding they’d done their bit. Huh? Do you know what happens to a family that has no income, loads of debt, and loads of monthly expenditures, and decides to consider other ways of looking at the big, scary numbers? Chapter 11, if they’re lucky. It’s like what’s happening in Greece, except China’s the only nation big enough to bail us out, and they’re our debtor. We are so screwed.
By and large, I love what the “occupy” movement is doing. I love the consensus decision making, and I think it’s actually crucial that they haven’t outlined a list of demands or a plan to fix things (which would make them just one more competing voice in the election blather rather than a counter-culture movement highlighting the fact that unless we get back to basics and do some common sense stuff, we’re in serious trouble). I also like reports I’m hearing about women and minorities playing significant roles and not being sidelined by the white dudes who have been trained all their lives to assume they’re in charge.
But I don’t think they understand the term “occupy” at all, and they need to ditch it. We’ve already linked to a great article on why the use of “occupy” in the name of the original protests was problematic because of its associations with colonialism, and the US’s complicated colonial history and the fact that, by federal recognition, we are actually occupiers of this land upon which many nations existed before us – and still exist, in a complicated way, on the soil we all now think of as “ours.” The woman who disrupted the Super Committee said, “I speak on behalf of the 99 percent who are occupied.” Occupied by whom? By the rich? By the government? That’s not what occupying means. Ask the existing native nations what occupying means.
What we are really talking about is financial oppression. The government and big business, like many an abusive spouse, are using finances to keep us stuck in place, unable to demand even the share of the pie that we have earned.
The movement needs to change its name to “The 99%.” That serves as a reminder that if there is to be class warfare in the literal sense of bloodshed, it’ll be a very skewed fight. The 1% are surrounded by the 99%. We cook their meals. We tend their children. We do their chores so they have more time to accrue wealth and power. That 99% number is daunting, even frightening. It issues a clear challenge to the 1% who control so much of the US’s resources. And the challenge gets more daunting with every day that the movement doesn’t disintegrate into internal political and ego battles. That’s what the 1% is banking on – that sooner or later, the 99% will start fighting amongst themselves.
“Occupying” doesn’t scare them. As Occupy Oakland made clear, there can be no “occupation” without the consent of city governments and police departments, which are aligned with the 1% at this point whether or not they are individually part of it. But there are still 99%, and there are many other ways for them to protest and disrupt the operations of the 1%. The movement has proved its point with demonstrations – it’s time to move beyond that, at which point even the most confused mind will see “occupy” is no longer the right term.
None of this solves the issue members of native nations have pointed out – that they are financially oppressed in special ways that don’t apply to even the rest of the 99%. And they’re not the only group who can make that argument. The 99% movement needs to acknowledge and include the many smaller forces of financial oppression within the big one as part of the movement. Otherwise the 99% isn’t going to be 99%.