Essential Reading

As Kenyan public space continues to be transformed by increasing militarization–soldiers with guns roam our malls in increasing numbers, a small but telling sign; and those traveling on public transport are now subject to new screening procedures–I am keeping a close eye on “Occupy Everywhere.”

Two very compelling must-reads:

Lili Loofbourow, “The Livestream Ended: How I Got Off My Computer And Onto The Street At Occupy Oakland”

Michelle Ty, on what makes a “general strike”

From Michelle:

1) To deny the legitimacy of a movement on the grounds that it does not make (practicable) demands is to deny political praxis the right to theoretical reflection.

Such a view restricts politics to the smaller realm of practical activity, then falsely asserts their coincidence. Although the occupy movement is often ridiculed for being directionless, it would seem even more absurd to insist that people are entitled to make feasible demands, yet denied any say over what constitutes feasibility. Popular politics should be permitted to devote itself to something that is not strictly immediately practical, but would actually be able to determine what the limitations of practical activity are (an assessment of aims, means, method).

It also might be added that, as in the moment of articulation, something is lost in the very act of definition. Something is lost when the constitutive power of people is constituted in discursive prescriptions and a set of norms. The point is perhaps most easily made by appealing to that experience, which you no doubt have had, in which something is felt yet remains unspoken. That moment of bringing to words what had before only existed, spread out like a mist, does confer upon something a new reality but also robs it of what it might have been.

6 thoughts on “Essential Reading

  1. That Lili Loofbourow piece remains one of the most ordinary and compelling travel pieces I have read about. Anyone who’s interested in organising should read it, or like me read it again.

    Nice to see the mainstreaming of anarchists like Sorel too.

  2. This denying the Occupy movement legitimacy on grounds that it has no proactive agenda is something I am guilty of. I think I’ve seen far too much hysterical anger here in the West — the proverbial way in which a poll says the incumbent president has a 27% approval rating and yet s/he wins the re-election anyway. I’m referring to the sort of anger that never Act(s) (in a Lacanian sense of the “Act” as that moment when the impossible becomes possible).

    I’m cynical because I wonder if all these occupants accept the fact that for real change to happen, they (and not just the 1%) are also going to have to make sacrifices — and I know they (we?) have sacrificed enough already. What I mean here is that even though the 1% in places like the US have already given an arm and a leg, the other arm and leg they still have is sustained by both arms and legs that those in the Global South have given, so change means that “even the little they have will be taken away from them” (I am plagiarizing Jesus here) — because this little they have is from the backs of those most impoverished around the world.

    *! can’t even follow my own thought process here today*

  3. “It also might be added that, as in the moment of articulation, something is lost in the very act of definition. Something is lost when the constitutive power of people is constituted in discursive prescriptions and a set of norms. The point is perhaps most easily made by appealing to that experience, which you no doubt have had, in which something is felt yet remains unspoken. That moment of bringing to words what had before only existed, spread out like a mist, does confer upon something a new reality but also robs it of what it might have been.” ………………People don’t talk that way any more ;(

  4. Kweli, the 99% have already made and continue to make massive sacrifices: from seeing unions crushed (in Wisconsin) to having pay freezes over the past many years even as the cost of living has gone up (Maryland) to working several jobs and taking loans to pay for school. The sacrifices have been economic and affective: people have lost homes, families, friends, even the most basic luxuries of free time (not possible when one works two or three jobs and still cannot pay rent) to physical and mental health. I think it’s too easy to be cynical about the Occupy Everything. I’m with Butler on this: “if hope is an impossible demand, then we demand the impossible.”

    Ghafla, the writing is lovely, even as I’m struck by the faintly romantic slide toward that which is beyond language and the limits of language to name social reality. All true, and the remainder, the excess, must always remain within view. Still, this moment of what Raymond Williams might term “emergence,” where something is more felt than realized, has to anchor its utopian hopes on a possible realization. I’m not sure that anyone talks as they write–well, some people do.

    • *I am nodding*

      Apropos cynicism, I am reminded of a line from One Day I Will Write About This Place…something along the lines of, “I returned to Kenya to find people so beyond cynicism that they looked back on their cynical days with fondness.”

      That’s a very scary thought. Sometimes I’m there: way beyond cynicism. I’m trying to find my way back.

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