Occupy Your Spine: #ActivismRequiresBackbone

by Adam

Mickey Z.

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it with our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories.”

– Arundhati Roy


The spine is made up of 24 bones—called vertebrae—connected by ligaments and muscles to form the spinal column, which protects the spinal cord: a pillar of nerves that connects your brain to the rest of your body.

Without a spinal cord, you could not move your body.

Without a spine, you could not stand tall and keep yourself upright.

Mic Check: I smell a metaphor brewing…

Without a healthy backbone—literally or figuratively speaking—we cannot stand up for ourselves…or others.

We are symbolically spineless.

As the folks at HealingKeys.com add: “The spine symbolizes our strength, courage, being centered and uprightness. Problems with our spine indicate feelings of weakness and fear. We have lost our centeredness and emotional integrity and are feeling overburdened.”


“When did punk rock become so safe?”




One might say that when we feel weak or overburdened, we are, in a way, spineless.

But when we’re centered and in touch with our emotional integrity, we are #occupying backbone.

For example…

Spineless is succumbing to the relentless two-party propaganda and voting for an allegedly lesser evil

Backbone is tirelessly working to create enduring, bottom-up change—via direct action

Spineless is believing the media stereotypes about Occupy

Backbone is being too busy occupying to give a shit

Spineless is splintering the movement with counterproductive and misguided attacks

Backbone is accepting that successful activism is never either/or

Spineless is living in fear of social norms, oppressive laws, and loss of reputation

Backbone is being less afraid of the State than of living on a planet without trees, without drinkable water, without arable land, without a hint of justice.

Spineless is playing it safe

Backbone is recognizing that safety is an illusion


“Early in my life, I learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.”

– Malcolm X


There’s no shortage of

  • more-radical-than-thou purists
  • activists seeking excuses to remain in-activists
  • mainstream types ever-willing to surrender their faculty for critical thought

If you rebuild and fortify your subversive spine and stand up in the name of holistic justice, all of the above (and others) will be coiled and ready to attack. It’s never easy to challenge the status quo, to stand out, to consciously opt out of groupthink…but it’s a whole lot easier with a strong and flexible spine.

No one knows how OWS will play out in 2012 but without some committed and sustained backbone from a wide range of allies, it cannot grow, evolve, and realize its potential.

If OWS does not realize its potential, well…basically…we’re fucked.


“Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.”

– Rumi



The revolutionary process requires a strong and flexible spine because it involves the nuts and bolts of daily, even hourly resistance—hard work like reaching out to those who’ve been heavily conditioned by mainstream culture.

This can be an agonizingly slow, inch-by-inch effort—but it’s crucial.

The revolutionary process requires a strong and flexible spine because it also involves broadening our scope and making wider and wider connections—aiming for holistic perspectives and thus, holistic justice across lines of gender, age, ethnicity, species, ability, sexual orientation, class, and more.

This is abstract work but no less arduous.

This choice must be made: #Occupy Spinelessness or #Occupy Backbone. The future is waiting upon your decision.

We are the 99%. Expect us. Join us…



Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.