“The secret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not. The cure is occupation.”
- GB Shaw
Scenario #1: Let’s say you’re a handy man/woman/person and you get hired for a job. I’m guessing you’d bring your full toolbox to the worksite. After all, you can never be sure what’ll pop up and what tools you might need. In other words, if you have a job to do, it would be self-defeating to decide beforehand that certain tools are off limits, no matter what. Keep all your tools at your disposal—even if some remain permanently untouched—just in case.
Scenario #2: Let’s say you find yourself in a fight with a dangerous opponent. Would you rather have a hand grenade or a knife? Before you jump at the chance to blow someone to smithereens, contemplate the possibility that this fight could be happening in an elevator or on a crowded dance floor. Again, the situation dictates the tactics so it pays to be prepared and open-minded.
“Don’t be obsessed with tactics but with purpose. Tactics have a half life.”
Scenario #3: Let’s say you’re watching High Noon.
For me, the most powerful moment in the film is when Amy, the converted Quaker wife (played by Grace Kelly) of Marshal Kane (Gary Cooper) shoots and kills a man to save her husband’s life.
Earlier in the film, Amy declares: “My father and my brother were killed by guns. They were on the right side but that didn’t help them any when the shooting started. My brother was nineteen. I watched him die. That’s when I became a Quaker. I don’t care who’s right or who’s wrong. There’s got to be some better way for people to live.”
However, Amy not only ends up shooting a man, she also aggressively fights off the main villain, which allows Marshal Kane to finish him off. If Amy had decided beforehand that under no circumstances would she resort to violence—even in self-defense—both she and her husband would have certainly been killed.
Before you run and tell Gandhi on me, please note that I’m not advocating violence. Then again, I’m not advocating non-violence. The only thing I’m advocating in this article is that members of the 99% maintain a big picture purpose, holistic solidarity, and a commitment to a wide range of sustained actions.
“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”
At your local Occupation, you’ll find strange bedfellows indeed. Some are vegan but most are not. You’ll meet those passionately committed to non-violence and others just as fervent about militant direct action.
Every Occupation contains anarchists, socialists, communists, etc. but perhaps the largest contingent is made up of folks who have never contemplated such a label and for now, seek reforms in the current capitalist system (again: for now).
Under an umbrella as big as the 99% concept, all these groups intertwine and peacefully co-exist where you’d least expect it. This is why OWS continues to grow and why it needs all of us to bring our voices and our open minds into the mix.
It needs all of us “striking at the root.”
Single-issue activism, litmus tests, and in-fighting are three regrettable yet durable Leftist ingredients. They have paved the path of failure time and time again. Unless we de-occupy our personal list of movement prerequisites, OWS will be doomed to the same fate.
Considering the state of global affairs, if OWS is doomed, so are we.
Caveat: For the zillionth time, the above sentiment is not meant to suggest that anyone be silenced or march in lockstep. Rather, as I witness many lefties disparage OWS for not embracing their pet issue with sufficient fervor, I feel the perpetual need to urge us all to perform a daily ego-check and focus on the tasks at hand.
“Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch. Kick when you have to kick.”
Successful activism is never either/or. When allies bicker over tactics, you can be certain vanity is ruling the day. Whether you want to sign petitions or engage underground direct action, go right ahead—but please understand that diversity of tactics advances the cause.
Please also understand that deriding others for not adhering to your finely tuned sense of purity (violent, non-violent, or whatever) is more about your sense of self than about creating the changes we all seek.
I’ve used this example before, but it bears repeating: There was a time when human slavery was believed too deeply entrenched in American culture to ever be abolished. But the movement to end this “peculiar institution” was made up of individuals willing to recognize that some things in life are bigger than any of us.
Whether they literally risked their lives by rescuing slaves and running the Underground Railroad or played a role by sewing clothes or blankets for escaped slaves or lending financial support or handing out pamphlets or even writing books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the effort needed every single one of these brave humans doing their part—small or large—in solidarity.
“Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.”
#OccupyYerToolboxes…but let each occupant decide which implement best suits her or his style. Remember, there are more than enough tools and more than enough work to go around. So please, stop worrying about what everyone else is or isn’t doing.
Just get busy and stay busy. There’s a long—and exhilarating—road ahead.
We are the 99%. Expect us. Join us…
#De-OccupyEither/Or. #OccupySolidarity. #OccupyProcessOverPurity.