Spritzophrenia

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Archive for the ‘Occupy’ Category

Why Occupy Wellington Failed

Posted by spritzophrenia on March 15, 2012

It is hard for me to write the words “Occupy Wellington has failed”. Ever since the majority of campers left Civic Square in December I have been waiting and hoping that new life will spring up. Ever since Occupy New York came to my attention I have hoped we were seeing something powerful. However, I can only report what I see. Social movements are complex, hence I can’t identify one factor alone that has hamstrung the movement. I think it’s a combination of the themes below:

Youthful optimism versus harsh reality

Camping was hard. Strangely, the hardest part appeared to be living with other people in camp, not external pressure. By December a large number of the younger contingent left the Civic Squre site in frustration. I had hoped to see them return, but as at mid-March this does not appear to be occurring. One of the “originals” organised a General assembly for March the 3rd. This was rained out, and there has been no attempt to re-ignite a GA. If these original campers can no longer be bothered turning up, I think Occupy is dead in Wellington.

Personal disputes marred the camp as well. Many seasoned protesters refused to join Occupy because of the presence of one person who they did not respect. However, I do wonder whether these long-term protesters would have brought their own issues, eg an inability to let go their previous views of the world.

Lack of ordinary older people

Perhaps older and more experienced people could have brought some perspective and wisdom to the camp, and been able to mediate some of the disputes. However, there was a low percentage of those living in the camp who were over thirty. There was a lot of external support from such people in my experience, but very few were able to spend significant amounts of time with the campers. Because we sought to support the 99%, it would have balanced us to have involvement from ordinary people and families (accountants, nurses, teachers, lawyers, the fire service, retired people… ). The vast majority of the campers were students and under-employed people.

Freeloaders

The percentage of those who turned up for a free bed and food versus those who were there to achieve other goals was too high. Some of the freeloaders bought problems such as drugs and violence on site and the camp spent too much of its time on dealing with internal needs, rather than outreach to the general public.

However, there was another sort of freeloader: Those that spent much of their time participating on the internet but rarely any time physically on site. Even some admins of the various internet presences were hardly ever seen in Civic Square.

Violence

At one or two points pre-December there was violence and sexual harassment against women. This was poorly handled and pushed some people away. (Sadly, the queer caucus had already left.) The “safer spaces” methods were ignored. In the final week of the encampment after all of the original occupiers had left there were two arrests for violence. Ironically the (allegedly) self-proclaimed head of security was one of those arrested. A satisfactory way of dealing with violence was never achieved. Even though there was very little violence in the camp, violence has a way of affecting morale and trust far beyond its circle.

Lack of clear goals

Although the group did come up with clear goals, it appears they weren’t adopted by enough of the campers. There were too many people camping who had a vague idea, or no idea of what Occupy was really about.

This meant that it was easy for the camp to be co-opted by other elements. The camp began to support all protests (from 9/11 conspiracies, to the Food Bill, to anti-Fracking and more). Overseas, Occupy was fundamentally a protest against the influence of the very rich; these other protests diluted and confused the Wellington camp. In addition, there were some who had their own agenda, or who were still tied to old ways of thinking, for example Marxism.

Poor Marketing

When I was just a member of the public, my experience of the camp’s message was poor. Towards the end I heard numerous comments that the camp was actually intimidating for many people. However judgemental it might have been, the fact was that a phalanx of “scary looking” people at the entrance was not welcoming for many of the 99%.

Media Lies

Having been on “the inside” of a few stories I am now under no illusions about the mainstream media. Many reporters are extremely dishonest and partisan. Unfortunately, the general public is simply unaware of how biased most stories are. The biased reporting did have some influence on the success of the movement; perhaps if the camp had lasted longer or done more than elaborate navel-gazing the reporting would have changed over time.

Lack of action

The Occupy Wellington camp carried out a few noisy protests, talked interminably, and had a couple of people’s universities. But they really didn’t DO much. Yes, they fed people, but let’s not forget this was largely feeding themselves. Where was the assistance for those oppressed by the ultra-rich, for example the occupying of foreclosed homes or businesses? Occupy Wellington really did not seem to take on this aspect of the overseas occupations at all. It was only at the end with support for locked-out workers in Marton that they began to do any practical good for the oppressed.

So What Next?

I note that many of the above problems were also extant in Occupy Auckland, from my discussions and brief attendance of a GA up there.

Now that the camp is no more, a popular slogan is “You can’t kill an idea”. However, an idea ultimately has to have some outcome or it is meaningless. The idea was Occupy, the idea was camping. Without this protest, there is no movement.

Occupy is now reduced to pontification on the internet about “Occupy 2.0” and the suggestion of more new publications. Publications have rarely done any good, and only tie people and resources up in time-wasting efforts to speak to themselves. Marxist groups, for example, have handed out their newspapers for decades with very little to show for it. Propaganda without action is useless.

In Wellington, some Occupiers have drifted off into party politics, a fact that amazes me and suggests they never understood Occupy in the first place. (It’s also noteworthy how little interest in Occupy various Green, Mana and Labour party people have now that the elections are over. Coincidence? I think not.)

Some Occupiers have moved back to various Marxist or Anarchist groups. The latter have never produced anything of note in New Zealand. Marxism hasn’t produced a new idea in the last century and is irrelevant. Occupy was a chance to leave behind these political dinosaurs and attempt to come up with something new.

For myself, I would like to take action. I don’t pretend that I have the answers or desire to be a leader. However, if there were just a few others who were willing I would be camping on public land tonight. Specifically I would like to begin a new camp whose aim would be twofold: 1.To take practical, visible action in support of the 99% and against the 1% and 2. To outreach, explain our purpose and invite others to join.

However, at present it appears I would have to find a completely new group who would be willing to work together, as the former Occupiers appear to have completely lost their interest. I hope I am wrong. But I don’t have the energy or ability to do it by myself. At present I am just another person sitting back, waiting for someone else to do something. And hence, Occupy will die. You can’t kill an idea that has already died, and the idea of Occupy – in Wellington – is dead.

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Trust and Occupy

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 23, 2011

In my years of on-again and mostly off-again activism I’ve met a lot of people. It saddens me that so many of those I meet, even in supposedly honest movements, display a basic lack of honesty and lack of trust. I suppose for some it’s understandable. They’ve had Police invade their homes, they’ve had people let them down, they’ve had people with hidden agendas hijack something which was dear to them. They don’t know me, so why should they trust me?

I remember the time many years back when I attended a planning meeting after the national Anarchist conference in New Zealand. I couldn’t figure out why one woman in particular didn’t seem to want my help or allow me to be part of much. Turns out that she assumed I was a Police spy. But she never asked me about it, or told me her concerns.

What annoys me most in these situations is that very few people ever have the honesty to talk to the person they have a problem with about their concerns. Instead they spread gossip and malcontent, much of which could have been cleared up with a simple conversation.

trust

This issue has reared its head again for me recently. I’m trying hard to work with our local Occupy people. I support the international movement and its basic call to limit the economic and political domination of a very small number of people (the “1%”). However, it’s hard to do much when people don’t trust me, and don’t talk to me about their lack of trust. I’ve got so much to offer, I’m 42 and have a helluva lot of life experience and resources. I’ve worked raising money for the CMP workers. I’ve protested. I’ve camped in Civic Square. I’ve talked to everyone I can about their vision for Occupy. I’ve also made mistakes. But I am open to correction, and will fully admit when I’m wrong.

Right now I’m kinda discouraged. I get the need to be cautious. But there’s a difference between caution and petty childishness. Talk to me, people. Find out where I’m coming from. Check me out. And then, if you’re satisfied, use my resources. And don’t forget that at the same time I’m also checking you out, and I won’t be shy about reporting what I find.

If there isn’t a little more maturity, openness and trust, I might just report back to the rest of the 99% that this is yet another idealistic movement that has come aground on its own ignorance and navel-gazing. And the many boring middle class people like me, who have time and resources, will choose to spend them elsewhere.

My previous posts on Occupy are here and here. For balance, here is a nice article by Anne about the same occupation, which sums up the positive side I find in Occupy.

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I don’t think you trust in my self-righteous suicide…

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Encouraged By #Occupy – Again

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 5, 2011

If you read my last post you will know I’ve been checking out my local “Occupy Wall Street” movement. I can now report that my initial misgivings were both well-founded, and completely wrong. Unfortunately I can’t explain more at the moment – otherwise I would have to kill you 😉

I have returned from four days and nights camping on site, doing some investigation of my own, and talking to as many different people there as I could about why they are there and what is happening with the movement. In brief, it was a challenging and highly rewarding time.

I do have more blog material written on paper while I was there. I hope to share it with you soon, I think it’s a beautiful wonderful story. But for now, take a look at how our city’s mainstream media reported on us while I was there. Then have a read of my comments below.


An unbiased article? Factual thoroughly verified investigative journalism?

Not the real occupy

OK. If you have read the above link, you have probably formed a particular opinion about who and what Occupy is all about. I can assure you that almost the only truly accurate thing in this so-called “journalism” is the title. I know. I was there.

For example, this reporter — who has been to the site repeatedly for stories, and who works for one of the biggest Corporate media organisations in this part of the world — did not report one word of a half hour interview he conducted the same day. That interview was with a friend of mine who truly represents what Occupy is trying to do.

Instead, the reporter Blair Ensor tried to find known controversial-looking and sounding figures, and report on them. Let me add one more thing. “Bad Touch Santa”, which is our nickname for the “street evangelist” is NOT part of our movement, never has been, and has now been firmly removed from at least two “Occupy” sites including ours. If Blair had asked us about him, he would have known that. Unfortunately he was in too much of a hurry to find some controversy and reach his deadline than to pause and check his facts.

Folks, I know it’s a cliche, but don’t believe everything you read. Check your facts. Be sceptical. Especially when the source is owned by people who have vested interests in misreporting the truth.

I look forward to sharing some more Citizen Journalism with you soon. Kia Kaha 99%

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The Magnetic Fields | I Don’t Believe You

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