“They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are awakening from a dream which is turning into a nightmare. We are not destroying anything. We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself.” - Slavoj Zizek
Yesterday afternoon, while Slavoj Zizek spoke to Occupy Wall Street, I was at home sitting on my couch watching the NFL on Fox (...blah!). Admittedly, I could use the excuse I was nursing a nasty cold (which I was) but, honestly, even if I wasn’t coughing and sneezing, I’d still have insisted on watching the New York Giants play one hell of a game against the Seattle, Seahawks. Sure, the Giants didn’t win, but the sun was perfect and the air was warm. I hoped fans all across the Northeast were also enjoying this pleasant autumn afternoon with their windows wide-open and some trashy AC/DC turned way up. Rookie Victor Cruz played an amazing game (despite a fumble late in the fourth quarter that caused a turnover and, subsequent Seattle win; Cruz made some fantastic plays); moreover, Eli Manning didn’t make any big mistakes (good news for any Giant fan still shaken from last season’s many upsets). Despite the game, good food, and much needed rest, my thoughts kept floating to the protesters downtown.
Although I wasn’t physically in Zuccotti Park listening to Zizek speak, I knew I wasn't alone. After scanning over the Sunday morning headlines, I saw that people everywhere were occupying different parts of the country. Moreover, there were the tens of thousands organizing from home and watching the live streams and reading the reports coming from Zuccotti Park. Make no mistake, Occupy Wall Street has gone viral!
I suppose, I was taking a lazy short cut by “occupying” my living room. Perhaps my domestic occupation could be considered more “rebellious” than my “occupation” of our office at work? But seriously, even if I could spend time away from work, family, and class - I don’t think I’m strong enough to spend those long hours in Zuccotti Park wrapped in a tarp while sleeping on concrete. Which is why the protesters physically there, day-in and day-out, braving the elements, facing hecklers and police, eating donated food, are (as Chris Hedges recently noted), truly “The best among us.”
Occupy Wall Street is inspiring and should cause us all to reflect on how our lives are all oppressed under unfettered capitalism. Accordingly, not everyday has been spent lazily watching sports and sipping on drinks. I stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. In fact, last weekend, I stood with thousands on the Brooklyn Bridge and watched as several hundred protesters were arrested by the NYPD. Then, this Wednesday, I walked out of The New School at 4 p.m., alongside students, staff, and teaching faculty. We marched downtown toward Foley Square, chanting, clapping, and blocking traffic. As we marched, we called out to those along the sidewalks to “join us.” Many took pictures with their iPhones, others cheered us on from open windows above, and a few glared at us over designer sunglasses from boutique sidewalk cafes in SoHo. Regardless,“We are all the 99%!” We all suffer under unfettered capitalism. Unfortunately, we currently lack the language of liberation to adequately express this fact. But we must and will.
As Occupy Wall Street moves into it’s 24th day, there are rumblings of “class war” on the talk shows. Good! Bring it on. After all, the greed heads and haters playing for the banks, corporations, and purchased politicians will soon realize we’re all moving toward a post-bureaucratic society. There is no more patience for concentrated power. The gig is up. The magical mathematical manipulation machine is about to crash and when it finally does, I know what side of history I want to be standing on.
Like most, I’m not able to physically and literally occupy Wall Street everyday; however, I’m no longer making excuses. The time for honesty is NOW. We must work to build a new system that is non-violent, non-racist, and non-hierarchical.
Yesterday, Slavoj Zizek asked protesters in Zuccotti Park a good question, “What social organization can replace capitalism?” Communism and socialism often only create more brutal regimes and, arguably, anarchism is too misunderstood to gather any real traction. So what might our new world look like? Perhaps this new communal environment will look something like the model evolving daily in Zuccotti Park? Certainly, we're imaginative, innovative, and intelligent enough to create a better world. Let us begin speaking this new language. Obama is right about few things, and one is his classic talking point, "change won't come over night." Obama should not only be listening, but should also stop making excuses for the banks and capitalist cronies he is too often than not in cahoots with. The Occupy Wall Street movement may only be one step toward a new social contract, but it is a big step in the right direction.
I selfishly and foolishly wonder if there will still be football, rock-&-roll, and beer in this post-capitalist society? I suppose there will always be these things; after all, somethings are just too fun to replace! In fact, I suppose that is the real question - can we all come together and think of new ways to enjoy life outside of and beyond capitalism? I certainly hope we can. Who knows? What I do know is that I’m relieved to hear discussions like these happening. Politics is a far more interesting "sport" than any football game! The worst case scenario is that we’ll continue blundering along the same inadequate path as before - selling out.
Zizek closed his speech by warning, “The only thing I’m afraid of is that we will someday just go home and then we will meet once a year, drinking a beer, and nostalgically remembering what a nice time we had here. Promise ourselves that this will not be the case.”
History will judge. In solidarity with the 99%. Another world is possible.