Occupy Hardwood pt. 3: What is the Score as the Final Buzzer Sounds?

December 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m two weeks late to talk about the end of the lockout and the world wondering “what’s next” for occupy now that encampment after encampment gets evicted.

Two weeks later, we know what’s next: Fucking madness.

Thursday: On the day the Owners and the Players voted to ratify the new CBA, the small-market Hornets, a team the NBA had to purchase from its owner in a 300-million dollar bailout, were basically the shining example of the unsatisfactory economic model of the NBA and, in the owners’ perspective, why we needed a lockout in the first place. Their inability to keep Chris Paul, one of the 5 best players in the league, was a microcosm of everything this CBA was supposed to solve. Thursday, after hearing for months that Paul would not stay in New Orleans past this coming season no matter what, New Orleans decided to get what they could for him, leave themselves in a position to build for the future, and traded him. To the most successful and second-richest team in the league — the Lakers. Wuh oh.

NBA commissioner David Stern, given executive control over the Hornets by virtue of the fact that the league now owns the team, looked upon this and said, like the clucking benevolent patriarch he is, “no no no no no no no”. And he blocked it.

A few hours later in New York, the Spectacle devoured itself.

Law and Order SVU decided to do an OWS episode. Presumably because the producers have all been reading Occupy Patriarchy and decided to contribute to the discourse. To film this episode, Law and Order built an entire Occupy encampment set in Foley Square, complete with kitchen, library, and signs.

Then, the real occupiers showed up and made use of the fake encampment to stage a real protest.

I was going to quote Guy Debord here but it basically doesn’t matter. Mostly because saying you’re going to quote Guy Debord accomplishes everything you would have accomplished by actually quoting him.

Kind of like how Occupiers don’t actually have to bring more than 100 people or stay for more than an hour at the TV set to get their point across. All you really need to do is stay long enough to have your yuks over the human mic, be able to quote a police officer yelling “I NEED LAW & ORDER”, get a few dozen media hits, and call it a night.

It’s about the simulacrum superseding the original.

If you’re David Stern, this might manifest as blocking the trade that would signify the utter failure of a collective bargaining agreement for which you locked your employees out for 7 months — on the day it would be ratified — not because blocking the trade fixes the problem of a lack of competitive balance between large- and small-market franchises in your league, but simply to avoid a news story. To avoid the creeping realization that, no, this lockout was never for a moment about competitive balance, or creating a more financially successful, enjoyable league, or any of that other horseshit. The 2011 NBA lockout, like every lockout in every industry that has ever occurred before it, was about ownership looking to take money and control away from its employees.

Getting back to the original question: What comes next? For the NBA, more of the same, obvs. For occupy? Very much not.

The easy answer is, no, the movement has not gone away. Wait for springtime, when the weather warms up, when shit historically tends to happen.

And while that’s true, I don’t think it really captures the full answer. When non-organizers ask what’s next for a social movement, I get the feeling that what they really mean is, what’s this thing going to accomplish? How big is this thing getting? Are you going to win?

Leaving the UC Nuclear Free/Demil movement and through into my involvement with Think Outside the Bomb, I’ve had a preoccupation over the last few years in my organizing with winning. I’d had enough of doing activism to make me feel better about the world, or because “someone needs to do it”. If I was going to pour myself into a movement, I expected to see results. This made sense from a standpoint of prioritizing which cause to focus on, as well as a tool for self-accountability and self-challenge. In campaign-based groups, it was always easy to tell what winning was — you get the UC to end its management of the labs, or you don’t. You shut down the CMRR, or you don’t. Cut and dried. Bing bang boom.

Occupy is a different monster, and not just because it doesn’t have demands. Occupy is, to me, a revolutionary movement that does not intend to overthrow (and barely acknowledges) state power. Revolutionary in the sense that Occupy purports and exemplifies a radical re-envisioning of how people interact with one another and live together. Occupy’s principals extoll a vision of the world which is likely incompatible with the current social and political order, and yet the main action of occupy — the occupations themselves — aren’t focused on the world outside of the encampment at all, much less overthrowing the government.

Instead, Occupy creates a replacement to the existing miasma of local, state, and national governments in consensus meetings and assent to the rules within the space as well as (most of) the laws outside it. The creation of these spaces is essentially all that occupy has done. And every person who has been arrested, beaten, teargassed, pepper sprayed, or shot with a rubber bullet at an eviction of an Occupy site has been attacked as such simply for trying to exist within a separate social structure in a public space. For acting free, even though we are not.

I first called myself a revolutionary when I was 15 years old, and first discovering radical politics through punk music. Recently, though, I’d begun to shy away from that label. Out of fear. The same fear I’d felt when Bush got reelected, when I thought there was no way it could happen. The fear that the people of this country are, for the most part, fascists. That jingo, blood lust, and a love for authority and punishment had swallowed America’s deep cultural passion for freedom and verdant multiculturalism and shat them out, replacing them with empty slogans and xenophobic paranoia.

I was afraid to want a revolution because I thought that any disruption of the current political order would bring us more fascism rather than more democracy. And while I believed and still believe that revolution does not necessarily involve overthrowing or even destabilizing state power, I don’t think I really understood it the way that I feel like do now that I’ve seen Occupy.

It doesn’t mean fascism is any less big or scary in America, but it helps frame the ways we can oppose it, and install cultural changes towards democracy instead. Changing culture — that’s how we win.

When thousands of people get experience with consensus, making decisions as if what they have to say matters, with freedom and the idea that we deserve it — this is us winning. When these little semi-TAZes pop up in hundreds of cities and towns across the country, this is us winning. When the kids at UC Davis turn away the police who brutalized them using only the power of their voices, and get their first taste of victory earned through civil disobedience, this is us winning. When Stephen Colbert does twinkle fingers and Martha Stewart pepper sprays her thanksgiving turkey, this is us winning. When our tiny little Occupy Lompoc has the most beautiful goddamn Really Really Free Market I’ve ever seen, and our members as well as passers-by in the community walk away with the feeling that something is going on here, this is us winning.

Thanks to Occupy, I feel comfortable calling myself a revolutionary again. And I don’t have to give up on winning, either.


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